‘With just a few months to live, how would you change your life?’ George Barnes on happiness
This article is part of a series related to International Men’s Day (19th November 2020).
We often hear about people who, on their death bed, look back over their lives and assess what they did right, what they did wrong and, if they had their time again, how they would do things differently. Well, why do we wait until our final hours to make this important life assessment? Surely this is too late, surely we need to stop, take time and re-structure when we have time in front of us to facilitate such change. This is what I did!
I was a typical male in my early thirties: no wife, no children and a perfect career which unfortunately only existed in my daydreams. I was coasting through life, and I couldn’t believe that I had got to this age and nothing that I had set my sights on as a young sixteen year old had materialised. Where had the last fifteen years gone? Through bad decision making, I was in a job which I simply didn’t enjoy and I found myself wishing the weeks away, which lead to non-descript weekends which, of course, passed by in seconds. I was depressed at how my life was turning out, but most of all, I was depressed at my lack of success.
Unfortunately, many males between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five are experiencing high levels of depression, as a result of a self-critical appraisal of their own success in life to date. Males are inherently programmed to be the hunter gatherer, the bread winner and “the man of the house”, but, in our modern day society, this is a pressure which is accentuated by the success or perceived success portrayed by others on social media. This pressure is leading the UK into unprecedented levels of suicide, particularly amongst men, a total waste of young life which leaves devastating large holes in the lives of the families and friends who are left behind. This needs to change!
We have seen a massive shift in dealing with mental health problems, and thankfully it is not seen in the same light as it was just a short time ago. It is not something to be ashamed of, but something that must be discussed. Never more so has an old saying been so relevant: “A problem shared is a problem halved”. Unfortunately though, I feel that in the UK we tend to deal with the cure instead of the preventative. Instead of dealing with the effects of depression, let’s try and stop it from happening in the first place.
So, back to the beginning, if you were given just a few months to live, how would you change your life? How would you re-prioritise what is important? When I started to consider these questions, my first thoughts were about my family, my loving parents who have always supported me in whatever I wanted to do, my friends were next, and then, my career!
It made me realise that I had spent so much of my time wishing for more than I had, and as a result, I had missed out on so many opportunities to enjoy life with family and friends. I had also not had the confidence to follow my own path, because I was worried that I was going against external expectations and this re-evaluation taught me that, you need to stay true to who you are, and not what society wants you to be.
The whole process was liberating and made me feel much more positive towards my future, so much so, that I decided to write my thoughts down and record them over a piece of music that I had written. I called it ‘32’!
‘32’ is written as a message to the wider public to take the time out of their busy email-filled lives, and to consider what is most important to them. Hopefully, it will help people who are feeling that the pressure of life is getting a little too high and enable them to take a step back, take a breath, and therefore think about making a change. Of course, this change doesn’t have to be dramatic, I’m not suggesting that everyone should hand in their notice and head-off around the world, because a small change can have a massive effect too.
Writing ‘32’ definitely helped me to see more clearly, and it allowed me to concentrate on what made me and my family happy. I am now married, and we have a beautiful baby boy, and I feel that this might not have been possible before I decided to take some action. So, give it a go, grab a pen and a piece of paper, and think of the ways to get a little bit more out of life, and therefore to enjoy what we have been given. As it says in the song: “Have a Blast!!!”
George (from Tilehouse Productions) can also be contacted on LinkedIn.