Last weekend, I went to see 49 UP – a fascinating documentary made in Britain that has filmed people every seven years from the age of 7. I first saw the series when it was 28 UP – which makes me feel old itself, but it didn’t have quite as big an impact on me this time.
The people are about 10 years older than me, but when I’ve seen it previously, it’s been a few years since the filming, so I’ve seen it when they were only five or so years ahead of me. I’ve always found it a powerful impetus to pause and reflect on my own life; if someone were to come and ask me what I’ve been doing for the past seven years, would I be happy with my answers?
This time, as well as the age being further away from my own, less seems to have changed in the subjects’ lives. If I was closer to that age, that might seem a bit depressing, except that on balance, the subjects seem more content with their lives than they have previously.
They were all asked if they had any regrets, and it was interesting that it seemed to take a very secure person with their lives to admit to regrets. A couple of things that resonated with me – Andrew (the lawyer) expressed that old cliche that he wishes he’d spent more time with his children than in the office. It seemed much more powerful in such an intimate and reflective setting. And Neil, who was homeless and seemed mentally ill at 28, seemed to have made his peace with life. When asked how he’d got there, he said something like, “well in the end, life is pretty short, you only get one, and you have to make the best of it”.