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Letter from the Den #2

November 22, 2010

I’ve not heard from you. I’m not complaining. I’m not surprised. It was probably a little too much to take in the one I sent you before.

You’re a parent. You’re different from me. You don’t have limitless amounts of energy reserved for all the things you want to do. You’ve had to compromise. Your priority is your children. You come second.

I’ve been thinking that all the way back from my late afternoon meeting. An alarm call ringing from reality, penetrating my dream world. Unwelcome. Irritating. Timely.

Unusually I took the bus back from Broadcasting House to Charing Cross. Oxford Street tube was closed. The crowds shuffled disapprovingly in front of the shuttered entrances. A nightmare. I hadn’t got any patience for that.

And I’ve hurt my foot today. Tripped up the stairs at White City tube, desperate to get to the toilet. Ended up spraining my ankle. Didn’t hurt at first. Throbbed with pain by the time I got to my 5 ‘o clock. Had to take a couple of Ibruprofen during the meeting. The pain only just began to reduce when we both got up from the table, wished each other luck and parted with the inevitable “See you soon.” and “Keep in touch.” I saw the queues outside the tube as I hobbled down Regent Street. I wasn’t ready for jostling. There was no way I was going to wait for the crowd to subside.

The slow crawl the bus I was on followed forced me to pick over the aftermath of the meeting.

One question rang around my head, in part because it made me snigger …

“With all this blogging and stuff Jon, you’ve succeeded in getting a reasonably high profile. You say you’re doing it all to get a job in radio, but to me it seems like it’s a whole lot more than a means to an end. You don’t do all this internet stuff just to get a job in radio. It’s more than that, isn’t it?”

I laughed, quickly following up with my usual trick of paraphrasing the question with a tired dose of self-deprecation. “That sounds a little bit like ‘maybe you should be happy with what you’ve achieved Jon and be done with it.”

He laughed nervously. I continued in a bid to reassure him. “It’s not like it hasn’t be asked before .. considerably more disgenously … like .. ‘When is all of this extra-stuff going to stop?’ ”

That’s what I do now. I run over the conversation I’ve had during the day, checking over it for hidden meaning. Annotating it. Condensing it. Reducing it. Extracting the top-line and formulating a plan based on that. Foolish huh?

Only right now, with this conversation I find myself stopping at that paraphrased question. ‘When is all of this going to stop?’

That’s when I start thinking about you. I think about what you’re doing with your life. Your family. Your commitments. Your priorities. And how your life has been for as long as it has. I’d always reckoned that you having children was your goal. That you’d achieved what you’d wanted. I’d always rather envied you for that. That and knowing early on that you wanted to be a parent. I never knew what else it was you wanted to do. Is there anything else? Or do you relinquish any residual dreams when you commit to becoming a parent? I don’t know. I’ll never be one. I don’t want to be one.

I only really knew what I wanted to do five years ago. I don’t understand why it was it took so long. So many others back at school seemed to know what they were going to do when they were doing their A-Levels. I thought I did. But I just seemed to float from one thing to another, finding plenty of things I couldn’t do or didn’t like or wasn’t paid enough for, precious few real things which I could identify with. Things which might help identify me.

Then five years back – seven years after I’d moved to London and made that grand statement – well, that’s when I knew. I’d done a course in radio production. The tutor was complimentary. I got a rush of adrenaline. I reckoned I could do it. This. This could be the thing. I could do this. It felt right. I’d do this. I’d pursue this until I got that.

It all seemed to make sense in that moment, you see. There was a goal. There was a path to follow. I identified, confronted and embraced determination. It felt good. It felt like the charge of electricity you get from poorly wired Christmas lights. And just as some of the potent childhood daydreams had in time turned out to be true, so I reckoned this might just be possible. It was worth giving it my best shot.

I wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t have moved to London. It’s not that life is better in the capital. It’s not like it’s the ‘bright lights’ here. Never think of it like that. I’m not making a judgment over your considerably more satisfying, less noisy, more wholesome life in the country. It’s just London helps keep those of us who flounder buoyant. The city with its opportunities is more forgiving than the pressures of rural economies. Changing your mind is OK in the capital. It feels like its unforgivable in the country. Is it?

But now that question. “When is all of this going to stop?” My mental notes have already glossed over the salient fact that it was me paraphrasing a colleague which has led me to stop and think whether this journey is – fundamentally – at an end. And that maybe, by killing dead the possibility that the dream might happen, I might then be able to be slightly less self-obsessed about all of this. That’s got to be better for us, hasn’t it? The media is built upon the conceit of overnight successes and – clearly – I must have slept through mine. So maybe it’s better to throw in the towel, isn’t it?

Or maybe you don’t think so. Maybe you’ve got a different take. Maybe things look different from the countryside.

Write to me if you have a spare moment. Tell me how it looks looking in.

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From → Naval Gazing

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