Monday, 28 September 2009

Carpe Diem

"Seize the day", as the famous quotation from Horace's Odes goes.

Maybe it's my age, maybe it's a philosophical moment that grabs most of us occasionally, but this quotation has been prevalent in my life for quite some time now.

A while back I recall watching Billy Connolly on TV, and during one routine he said the following (abridged); "My wife Pam keeps telling me to eat healthily. And I try. She tells me that I'll live longer. Well, maybe that's true that if I eat broccoli, lettuce and other green stuff and cut out meat I'll get another five years. The problem is you get those five years later when your talking gibberish and smelling of pee! I want them NOW!"
Interspersed with the occasional F-word, you get the idea. So I took this on board. How often have we heard, or actually said ourselves; "I'll do that when I retire". All well and good, if you can. My concern is that I'm not going to be as physically fit when I'm seventy as I am now. I'm not going to have the energy, etc to do all the things I'm looking forward to.

There will be certain things I'll be doing, and I am looking forward to a few of them that you can only get away with at a certain age. Buying a pint of milk at a local shop and counting out the amount in the smallest denomination of coin possible, one at a time. Oh, and I'll have two purses with different coins in each!

My career allows me the very fortunate position of having a work-life balance to be envied.
True it is now at the stage of not knowing what a weekend is, and often I ask someone close to me what day of the week it is! But I also don't suffer from Monday morning blues, or keep a close eye on the minute hand as it rotates excruciatingly slowly toward five thirty. I regularly start early and work well into the night, taking breaks and doing other things whenever I feel like it. I want a day off? I take it.

But, there is a compromise to all this. A big one. To go freelance and enjoy, if that is the right word, this lifestyle I have had to "cut my cloth to suit" as they say. Financially this lifestyle is difficult, and at times very stressful. I am not married (offers on a postcard please!) nor do I have children, and I wonder at times how I would cope with those responsibilities. My friends are probably right though; I would find a way.

But I digress a bit. On two occasions in the past ten years I have been very lucky to have travelled abroad for a six-month period at a time, backpacking. At "my age" it is not that easy to do, due to the responsibilities we amass along the way, and on the first occasion I was running a retail business. Emotionally things were tough and I suppose I "ran away". I was 36 at the time. The result? Best thing I ever did. I returned to enormous debt and all sorts of business headaches, but within one year I had turned the business around in a way I could never have done had I not gone away. I cannot explain it to you here, but to coin a cliche; it was a life-changing experience. I did the whole thing on my own, which is no big deal, but at the point of departure I had never been anywhere for longer than two weeks before. And here I was heading off for six months. I'm not ashamed to say I cried as the plane lifted off from Edinburgh airport.

On my return I noticed one thing instantly; nothing had changed. Some didn't even know I had been away! But I was different. More relaxed. A different view on life. I guess I could say finally that I was alive and aware of my own presence. That sounds very pompous to say that here, but that was the feeling.

My point is I could have waited until I was seventy. Maybe by then I would never have done it. But I would never have had the benefit that the experience gave me and which became so valuable over the last ten years.
As a direct result of that experience I launched myself full-time into the film industry and I've never looked back. It was always a passion and something I longed to do. I definitely knew I didn't want to look back and think "what if". The experience and gamble paid off, albeit a slow progression in this chosen career. But the crucial point here is; I "chose" to do this type of work. All my life I had fallen into every job, and mostly hated them all. This was a big change.

Sure, it's not easy, but what is in life? Our own circumstances at times conspire against us. But it doesn't have to be a big change, or a big event. It could be something as simple as writing a letter to a long-lost friend, taking a gamble to change your career, or going back to study. You just have to do it. That feeling you get of having achieved, of having actually had the courage to face up against the criticism of others, and there are always many, and pull it off. That feeling money can't buy. But it goes beyond that. It certainly boosts your self-confidence, but it also brings alive a great spirit within you, a drive to solve and cope with any problem that comes your way.

So, when the sun next rises, as it surely will, seize the day, do it now, not tomorrow, before you end up smelling of pee!

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