The London I moved to was very different from the London I live in now.
Or was it? How do you even measure difference in an entire city? Back in 2012 people told me I should have moved to London in 2008, except the ones who put the flag in 1991, and never mind those who said I’d missed the good London by at least 40 years.
And so it goes. You are always arriving late to the party when the party is a heaving mass of cultural significance with 8 million other partygoers.
I was told the same thing about my first agency. Yeah, it's good now but you should have been here five years ago! Then it was mad clown jugglers on fire in the lobby. We did drugs off tables made out of other drugs! Clients flew us to Morocco and we'd expense bottles of holy water just to pour them out into the streets.
It's rare to ever arrive at the beginning of something, even a relationship. By the time you understand a relationship is happening you've probably been in one for months. Then you try and retrofit it to an acceptable timeline for when people ask questions. When'd you get together? What was your first date? Who made a move on who?
How did it all begin?
You should have done it tomorrow already
We say “hindsight is 20/20” so much it should be paying rent in all our mouths, and it’s not remotely true. Hindsight is so blinkeredly myopic we might as well be viewing the past through a telescope marked “THIS HAPPENS IN THE FUTURE”. Of course we know now what we should have done then. That’s not 20/20. That’s looking at the first line of an optician’s chart and saying, “It’s the alphabet, right? Like, eventually it’s just the whole alphabet?”
A popular thing to do in 2007 was to calculate what would have happened if back in 2003, instead of buying an Apple product, you’d invested the same amount of money in Apple stock. Well, I bought an iBook in 2003 before going to law school, and that would have netted me $300k by 2007. Now? I’d be a millionaire many times over.
Except I wouldn’t, would I? Because that’s not how time works. By that rationale I would still be married, twice, because at some point in the past I got married (twice). Follow any straight line of progression and you’re dancing along a crooked back. Nothing goes the way we think it will and it’s always the wrong time to do anything.
You know who doesn’t worry about the right time to do things? Really rich people.
Money has a way of making you look like a genius
When this is over, and it will someday be over in one form or another, there’ll be a plethora of articles on all the “clever” people who saw OPPORTUNITIES and took advantage of them.
These articles are going to pretend some of those people were able to Mentok the Mindtaker their way through a global pandemic right to the sweet, profitable truth at its centre. And it will be so much bullshit, because they didn’t know how it will turn out. None of us do. They just have enough resources that not knowing didn’t matter.
Here’s a banal statement that is nonetheless kind of useful: there are things we can control and things we can’t. It’s banal because, well, duh, but useful (no, really) in that there are a loooooot of people who will claim you can control way more than you can. And you may find yourself nodding along with those people—if only I’d bought that stock, moved a year earlier, left my job—and dreaming of what might have been.
For example, almost everyone agrees now is probably a bad time to be born. And yet, guess what? Babies! Top of the list of things you can’t control is which era-defining moment you’re born into.
Hey everybody who tried to make money during the next global recession - why’d you do that?
You did your best, you have always done your best
This is true because it has to be true, and I say it without reservation and without knowing you. Whenever you’ve done something you’ve done it to the best of your ability at that time. Even if, at the time, you paused before doing it and said, “I am not trying my best at all and frankly it’s not even close,” you still did the best you could do. Because whatever you did WAS your best.
Could you have done more? Yes. More isn’t the same as best. Whatever you did and however it was mitigated, constrained by your thoughts or desire or ambition or resources, was what was available for you to do. That’s how time works. We do what we do when we do it, and then, and here’s the best part, here’s the part that takes all those clever people mentioned earlier and just shoots them out into fucking space, then we can decide the next time whether we want to do more.
Money means it’s always the right time to do anything. Money means you get to say you tried your best.
But I’m guessing you, like me, don’t have temporal distortion money. And when our effort is assessed, even by us, it’ll often be found wanting. “Did I do enough?” is the awful question at the heart of almost every mental health issue I’ve ever had.
Should I have tried harder? Borrowed money?
Been a different person entirely?
Wanting to have done something better is human and leads to progress. Thinking you could always have done something better is shitty and the kind of mythology pushed on us by people who’ve never owned a calendar. These Hermione-Time-Turner-from-birth pieces of filth just keep failing upward until they’re the President of the United States.
Tread lightly over your past and go boldly into the future. You’re doing your best. We’re all doing our best.*
*Except Trump and Boris Johnson, who continue to do the absolute worst.