I'd met a couple of old friends who live in London now. What I gathered from my 3 hours sitting in a pub in a particularly groovy area of the city (Borough Market - it's like Temple Bar if it was any good) was that their lives were amazing and my life was incredibly tedious. From such things columns are made.
Several years ago, I called myself an actor, which is a lot like calling a television a fridge, but it kept me happy. I like to refer that period as my ‘lost years’, or, ‘when I was completely insane’, or even ‘that time I claim never happened in job interviews, claiming instead that I had been kidnapped by an international wig-making gang, on account of my lustrous auburn locks’. My wife prefers to refer to it with dark looks, to which I tend to respond with: ‘At least I’m not one of those emotionally needy types anymore, consumed by my own ego.’ Usually, that’s enough to cause a coughing fit, which I call a victory.
Ultimately, I stopped doing it, mainly (I tell people) because I was ready to move on and do other things, like pay mortgages and eat. Other friends of mine continue to travel that road, with wildly varying degrees of success, and I met two of them on my thirtieth birthday. If there is an important life lesson that I as a columnist can impart to you, person stuck in a waiting room, it’s this: never talk to people who are successful at something you stopped doing. Especially not when you’ve been drinking. Definitely not when you are turning thirty. After four hours of beer and constant laughter, I was convinced that a career in film or stand-up comedy lay in my future. My wife is no stranger to such sudden road to Damascus moments in my life, and so I thought I should word my revelation carefully.
‘I think I want to be an actor again,’ I said. ‘Or a comedian.’
What followed was the silence that only someone who has heard me announce my impending stand-up career after every gig I’ve ever been to, even my children’s Christmas plays, could understand.
‘Also, I think I want us to move to London.’
‘Got a spare £5 million handy, do you?’
This is all part of the joy of getting older. Another one, I have lately discovered, is home redecoration. Sitting in the debris of IKEA flatpacks, you really get a sense of what sort of a person you are. In my case, you discover that you are the sort of person who will never get a job at IKEA. I was building shelves because the most important thing I have learnt over the past month is that the path to true happiness is paved with Inspector Morse DVD box sets, bottles of whiskey and a sensible filing system. For books: I can’t file anything else. Usually, I think of categorization in much the same way as a monkey thinks about the sub-prime mortgage crisis: it may well lead to a necessary correction in the market, but where are the bananas? So most of the time, things get stacked. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve passed this habit onto my children, who, when asked to tidy their room, adopt the ‘cover any available flat surfaces rapidly and completely’ strategy. They’re quite good at it. I haven’t seen their desk in months. In fact, I may need to ask them for some filing tips.
Meeting old friends is like finding a mirror that only shows you when you were ten years younger. All the small shifts that shuffle you towards where you are now suddenly become a truck jackknifing on a motorway. Inevitably, your friends zoom past in a convertible powered by their success and you sit in your truck wondering what exactly happened and if you should really have taken that left turn several years ago. At least, that’s what you do if you choose to ignore the now and live instead in the ‘what if?’ Socrates said that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. The comedian Demetri Martin suggests we add ‘ – man’ to the end of it. I humbly suggest a variant: ‘the examined life, peered at too closely, is not worth living either. Man.’
Breakfast of Champions, Adam Hillman
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