Four Zero

I have made it to forty.

Long-term planning was once a real fad. Everyone was devising their 5, 10 or even 15 year plans and engineering the steps they would need to follow to get there. Unsurprisingly this created  for many an equal-and-opposite reaction – in the form of “The Universe”, which was an omnipotent, benevolent – but capricious – force that was responsible for all events and futures and to which one was required to surrender. In the end I’ve not really been that great at future planning (though as an aquarian, I do spend an inordinate amount of my time contemplating it) and I simply don’t have the constitution for capitulating to a ‘greater power’ without knowing his name. So if anything I think I’ve been an existentialist.

I have largely evaluated my success or failure by assessing my present. Am I fulfilled? Am I making a contribution? Am I connected to people? Do I make a difference? Am I the kind of man I would have stand in front of the young men of tomorrow and say “Follow me, Gentlemen”?

Before addressing these questions, I think I need to get one matter out of the way. It is something that may be conspicuously, at least to some, absent from this list – Happiness. I haven’t forgotten to ask myself whether I am happy, but I have over time felt less and less inclined to regard the pursuit of happiness as particularly important. In fact, the more I contemplate this, the more I feel that the whole notion of pursuing happiness is beside the point. Much like using the measure of the circumference of a person’s head to determine their intellectual potential. If happiness exists for me at all, I think it is as a side-effect of being fully engaged in my life and with the people around me. Possibly in combination with feeling challenged and as if my faculties are being put to good use.

It feels more true to me to find myself surprised by happiness. Turning a corner and catching a scent and smiling and thinking (to quote Cilla McQueen) “The world is holding me up very well. Today.” Happiness is my mischievous friend.

I genuinely don’t regard the happiness scale a useful indicator of whether I’m living the best life I am able. I could even go so far as to say that for me one of the most delicious and valuable emotional states is one much closer to melancholy. I love that quiet twilight feeling of gentle awe. I like a sense of anticipation. Of the ineffable. I don’t want things to be completed, signed, sealed. I don’t necessarily always want to know where I’m going – and as I say, I have grave doubts as to whether manufacturing a prediction for the future is of any use whatsoever in generating a sense that things are going to be ok.

Having spent forty years on this planet – and thus executed about half of my term here – I think I’ve got a bit of a responsibility to take stock. So here goes.

This journal, and my ongoing online photo galleries (usercode and password are both: friend) – do a reasonable job of collecting together the important fragments of my early life. I was born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand, and had what was to all intents and purposes a conventional up-bringing. My being unconventionally, but incontrovertibly a gay guy certainly complicated that experience for me – but in the end this has also propelled me to live my life with much greater conviction and purpose than I ever would have otherwise. It has been a blessing.

Now I live in London. Europe’s biggest city; 8 Million citizens fueling an incredibly diverse, vibrant and almost pathologically paradoxical culture. Sounds like home. I work in an inner London boys’ school; it’s wild and passionate and tough and optimistic. I think I’m okay at it too. I’m connected with people as friends and a man as something even deeper than that. A student asked me today “Sir, I hope this doesn’t sound like an insult… but, are you gay?” My response, “Yes”. Their reply, “There’s nothing wrong with that, Sir.” – “I know.”

Yeah, it’s half-time and so far, the game is going very well. The result? Too soon to call it.

I’ll keep you posted.

2 thoughts on “Four Zero

  1. Gilles says:

    Happy to read some news from you. Love that melancholic state of yours. It suits you well.
    Take car my friend, and never forget how much you are loved by so many different people all over the planet.

  2. Just Eleanor says:

    I second the bit about love from all over the planet. I add that if extra terrestrial life is out there, no doubt it would love you too. Happy Valentines day and happy belated birthday: http://eleanormerton.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/valentines-day/

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