You get up after an internal battle. You leave the house. You survive the day. You go home. You go to bed and the whole thing starts again.
Like doped white mice in the college lab as Del Amitri once noted. An inbuilt Pavlovian response to life leaves us running everywhere but getting nowhere as we submit and conform – for what? Money to pay for all the things we don’t need and everything else that we want. A quick glance at the bank balance reminds us we are hostages to the system and until those numbers disappear that are anchoring us down this experiment will continue.
Why? When did we all sign up for this? It’s almost cruel to give children hope and ask them what they want to do when they grow up because it’s the same for 99% of us – up, out, work, home, bed. Very few end up in a position where the work part allows anything else, or even better you reach the point that you only work if you choose to rather than have to.
I had ambitions. I distinctly remember writing things in my jotter in Primary 3 about what I wanted to do when I grew up…where does that go? Some people still have it but more often than not it’s driven by a need for money to pay the debts, or a greed for money because there is never a big enough amount to satiate them. Now I don’t really have any dreams or goals. I look at my mortgage and know that with the new pension age coming in, I’ll either die before I retire or just after – save a huge lottery win.
Add the mundane daily routine to a brain that is so fucked up at times it scares its owner and you end up with someone like me. You find yourself searching round for the ejector seat, trapdoor or escape pod constantly because life just gets on top of you. The waves of depression replaced by just as unproductive mania and nothing gets done. You’re stuck to the spot with your legs rooted to the ground and that’s when you feel life passing you by.
Will I ever get the chance to move at the same pace the world around me does? It sounds twee but I think you get to a point (probably the very source of the mid-life crisis) when you hit this wall and realise none of the things you thought you needed matter. You look at your family and realise that is all you ever needed and all the other stuff is superfluous, but you’re so far in by then that climbing out is impossible – you’re stuck.
I stopped playing the lottery at the start of the year because I had never won more than £100 in the 24 years of playing it. The sad thing was that I missed the narrowest glimmer of hope that it gave me. I’m not stupid – I know that Lotto is forty-five million to one to hit the jackpot but in my drab deja vu view it gives me a positive thought twice a week – even when I’m at my lowest it cheers me up. Think I’ve had one £25 win since I restarted – is it worth it? Yes, unfortunately.
Now as a parent you look at your own kids and hope that they manage to break out of this monotonous conveyor belt of eat, work, sleep. That their ideas filled jotters are not just consigned to a recycling bin – that they actually do something they are going to love. That they don’t just end up here.
There are so many vomit worthy quotes about hope and destiny and optimism but I do like the one from writer Patricia Cornwell: “Survival was my only hope, success my only revenge”. That makes sense – the best revenge on the beige existence is to succeed despite the demons and limitations we find ourselves in.
I’d love to be an optimist, and at heart I am, but then you realise you’re just dreaming. You wake up and realise that internal battle to force yourself out of bed is back – only for the cycle to begin again.