Whilst there must be volumes he handed down in my childhood and teenage years, somehow they are lost to me; either lying hastily discarded, as is the wont of all teenagers, or all too readily assimilated, moulded into my character without any awareness of its source.
At the age of 26 it seemed rather shocking, coming as it did from a man who worked the same piece of land for nigh on 45 years. I had never imagined him vulnerable or discontent with the life that he had carved out for himself. Did these words, simple enough, conceal an inner life richer than I had hereto imagined? Doubts? Regrets? Or were these the words of a man, more than happy with the choices that he had made through the years, merely giving succour to a son obviously wracked with insecurity and an overwhelming inability to see beyond the example of 45 years continuous service sitting before him?
It would be all of 15 years later that the truth of the matter would come to light, as he was able to confide things much more easily with my wife than he ever felt he could with any of his immediate family. The untimely death of his father, resulting in the need to become the breadwinner at 14, put all his childhood plans on hold. These, I was surprised to learn, included emigrating to Australia. By the time his baby sister was ready to leave the house, he found himself lumbered with a wife of his own and 2 kids to boot.
Looking back, there were times when he had obviously had enough. In need of a really long holiday, completely away from the place. Yet he never took one that amounted to more than a long weekend. His bosses (please don’t let them be reading this) were cursed high and low on many an occassion, but he never once wavered in doing his absolute best every single day of his working life. The people pained him, but the work, which he so obviously loved, never did.
His advice? Oh, yes:
If you are not happy with where you are, with what you are doing, you can just change it, you know. There is no point in being miserable. Find something you love doing. You will be doing it for a very long time, so you might as well enjoy it.
Coming up to the anniversary of that discussion. I take the opportunity, as many do at this time of year, to re-evaluate where I am, what I am doing. Most of us probably half heartedly list the good and the bad. Some of us may even come up with resolutions intended to redress the balance, eliminate bad habits, form new good ones.
This year, just ask yourself one question: “Am I happy?”
If the answer is in the negative, take my father’s advice. You have the power to change that; you really do! Promise yourself a truly, genuinely, happy, new year. It’s the least you deserve.