There’s a lot to be said for having freedom and means, being able to decide what to do depending entirely on how the spirit moves you. Unless you are massively wealthy and unable to become bored by a life without routine and work, the life of leisure can’t last forever. But my mood since finding out that I had got the job in Brussels and would start there on the seventh of October, has been different to the one that prevailed for a week or two after returning, empty-handed and jobless, from Ethiopia. Free of job worries and anxious contemplation of how I could support myself without the dreaded return to teaching, I could instead content myself with making the most of three weeks’ free time. I’ve been able to do things on a whim, get out of bed when I like, make a priority of catching up with friends I’ve not seen for a long time, hop on a coach and mooch around Paris for a few days, head into London to catch some excellent stand-up, potter through Hoxton looking at old churches, and generally to move as the spirit moved me.
All of this seems a long way from the rigid routine and joyless boredom that prevailed during the last few months of my old life. It was a number of things: a job that combined non-enjoyment with long hours; life in a small town without much to do; a relationship that was going nowhere (though I couldn’t see it); too much time thinking about houses, mortgages, finances, weddings, and other responsible things. More than anything there was too little room for fun and enjoyment. The weird thing was that for a long time I thought it was not a problem that my partner and I weren’t really into the same books, didn’t like the same music, never quite agreed about which film to watch, and so on. Now this seems like a particularly delusional idea; what fun is a relationship if it’s no fun? If all it gives you is a solid base from which to perform the automaton-like functions of your working life, then you basically have nothing at all.
How I can be realising most of this for what seems like the first time at the age of 29 is beyond me. Though I won’t have my life of leisure when I start working again, and my free time and disposable income will be less than they have been, there’s got to be a balance to be found between fun and responsibility. The having of proper amounts of fun will be a priority, alongside the work, career-building and networking that I’m hoping to get out of it. It’s all very well wanting to do the best job you can and make a difference in your own little corner of the world. But if you can only do so at the cost of your own happiness, then it’s a pyrrhic victory for sure.