Why we turned our back on green grass.
*Spoiler* I’m not sure.
It’s October 2018. I’m in buoyant mood. I stop with the kinetic energy for just long enough to pause, look meaningfully at J and pronounce “I know what’s important. I know what makes for a meaningful life”.
J is less bouncy.
He politely returns my manic glare with a look of 1 part mild interest and 2 parts here-we-go-again. Undeterred, I take his understated eye contact as a clear indication that he is enthralled as to what I have discovered. I continue with enthusiasm.
I explain that I have found the 3 pivotal elements around which, if we all revolve, we will achieve a life full of contentment and happiness.
I coyly acknowledge that my discovery may not quite constitute the Meaning of Life. But (I glance down, to show I remain humble in the light of my genius) I am, I believe, finally at one with what makes my life matter to me.
J is not an eye-roller, but, if he was, at this point eyes would have rolled: arms aloft, I rejoiced in my recital of the three things that enrich my otherwise futile existence…
Number 1. Eating toast (very hot, slightly too much lurpack, a little marmite, sliced white). I may have mimed eating toast to illustrate my point.
Number 2. Working hard in paid employment (any paid employment, so long as you see value in your work and your boss is not an idiot). I’m sure I mimed typing at a keyboard and jovially answering a telephone.
Number 3. Sharing a tipple with friends (A nice, reasonably priced tipple. True friends). I know I reached out an imaginary glass to ‘clink’ it with J as a means of underlining my discovery. I’ll leave it to you to decide if he reciprocated.
By this time, I was nigh on drunk with my discoveries and my imaginary Prosecco, and I became further animated as I gushed as to what could be more glorious, more uplifting, more inner-peace inducing than not only realising what makes you happy but realising that you already have it.
I was 42. I was content. I had everything I needed.
A little tired now (toast and tipples is not a recipe for stamina), I sat, paused, and reflected smugly on my good fortune. And then, life being the Pied Pipe that it is, immediately had I reached my peace with it, it raised its flute and tempted us to follow.
No more than 2 weeks after my life-affirming revelation, J got the job offer that would take us from the UK to an entirely different continent.
Despite my belief that the UAE was not awash with sliced white and marmite, I agreed we should move.
Despite my knowing that adventures, and tales, and scrapes and japes make great conversation but do not necessarily mean contentment, we moved.
Despite my knowing that the constant pursuit of something better — better opportunities, better schools, better bank balances — is rarely the path to happiness, we moved.
I know the grass is unlikely to be greener on the other side, especially when the ‘other side’ is in the desert. But we still moved.
We had a slice of toast in one hand, a jar of marmite in the other and we were surrounded by people we loved.
Regardless, we followed the music of opportunity like rats from Hamlin, convinced it will turn out better for us than it did for them.
We’ll keep an ear out for false notes — whether or not we will hear them, only time will tell.