Authors and actors and artists and such
Never know nothing, and never know much.
Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
Playwrights and poets and such horses’ necks
Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
Diarists, critics, and similar roe
Never say nothing, and never say no.
People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
God, for a man that solicits insurance!
[‘Bohemia’ by Dorothy Parker, published in ‘Sunset Gun’ 1928]
It seems increasingly difficult to find people who do ‘regular’ jobs. Gone are the days when the people you met were likely to have good, solid, jobs like builders, salesmen, bankers, accountants. These days all the people I meet have quite interesting occupations: musicians, authors, actors, or they’re doing praiseworthy things like working with orphans or children abroad.
I’m not complaining; it certainly makes conversations more interesting (“what did you do today?” “oh, nothing much, just taught a one-armed child to juggle”), but it makes me wonder if perhaps these people are setting standards that the rest of us are going to end up trying to live up to. Are we going to end up nursing enormous inferiority complexes?
A case in point: I met up with a friend a few days ago and we spent the day catching up. In the last eight months she’s been to Madrid, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago. During that time she’s been, to name but a few things, snorkelling, up the Amazon, and has watched baby sea turtles hatch on a beach somewhere. Oh, and she’s managed to do all this because of her job. In the last eight months I’ve been to Brighton and the Midlands, and I’ve pruned a lot of plants and designed a couple of gardens.
It doesn’t really compare, does it?
It’s strange though, my friend’s adventures interest me – hey, I’d love to do some of the things she’s done – but in an oddly detached way. I think she’s incredibly lucky to have done the things she’s done, but I’m not burning with the desire to go off and emulate her. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’m not jealous, and I don’t feel as though her exciting life belittles mine at all.
Maybe it’s because I’m comfortable with where I am in life, because I’m confident that, at some point, I will have time to go and do all the exciting things I want to. Or perhaps it’s because I love my friends that I don’t resent them their achievements – would I feel the same if it were a stranger telling me all about their travels? I think I would, because at the end of the day we’re all different, we’re all driven by different things – if we were all off gallivanting around the world, who would take care of the mundane tasks that make things run?
Perhaps there is hope for the quiet life after all.