One of the greatest delights about living by the sea is going for a walk in the morning. Today was misty but the sun filtered through and the sea shone and glittered. Our beach was an unknown terrain today — last night’s storm had thrown boulders and rocks along the length of the sand where usually there are none. New lagoons and rivulets and rocky outcrops mapped new worlds. But the sand and the sea themselves were flat — calm and innocent,
“Rocks? Nothing to do with me,” the sea shrugged, having turned its back and headed out towards Norway.
Our lighthouse was just visible and a couple of seals poked their heads up far out in the water, looking inland and watching us, just as we were tracking them. Meanwhile on the beach the dogs and their walkers explored the new landscape, dogs’ tails wagging excitedly, owners greeting each other, smiling, delighted to be out on a beach uncovering new worlds and not in an office, at a desk.
And shouldn’t life be like this for everyone? With time and space to explore, to discover, to enjoy?
I think of the poor beggars I used to work with in London — commuting to the office five days a week; racing to beat the next person to a seat on the train (the first little victory to make it a good day); buying their medium decaff latte or skinny cappuccino from the same shop each morning en route from station to desk; hanging up their identical black coats in the wardrobe, firing up the pc, scanning through emails, settling down for eight hours’ work. And I remember one lunchtime — a rare one in that someone looked up from their shop-bought sandwich, and spoke — when one said to another,
“What are we doing here?”
But I don’t recall the answer — just some general sighing and commiserating and shaking of heads. And yet they’re still there now, five years later. Poor beggars? Yes. Not in terms of money. They’re finance professionals, higher rate tax payers — they have two or three foreign holidays a year in their allotted five weeks annual leave. They also have nice houses, expensive cars, private schools, dinner parties, au pairs and pension pots. But they work 47 weeks a year to be able to afford the beach walk, the downtime, the freedom. They work for thirty or forty years to earn what they think is enough money to be able to quit; dreaming of the day they can afford to sit on that beach, play their guitar, write a book. Dreaming of the day they can escape.
And I feel rich, lucky, privileged — whatever the right adjective is — to have that freedom, and that beach, here on my doorstep, right in front of me, every day of my life. I escaped. Made my getaway. I settled for less money, less stuff and more freedom. Part-time work and time to myself. With just enough to get by. Je ne regrette rien. It’s not everyone’s dream. But it’s up to you to find yours and make it happen. That’s what’s important.
Life is made up of choices — not for everyone in the world, I know that; for some it’s grinding poverty and limited horizons and a fight to survive.
But doesn’t that fact make it all the more important that those of us who do have choices should stop for a minute and think? Realise that we don’t have to continue in the rat-run we fell into? Know that we can assess our lives and our wants and our needs; take control, decide what to do.
Don’t wait forty years until you’re old and grey, because the future isn’t ours, and it isn’t certain. All we have for sure is today and we should be out there, living it.
Start now. Follow your dream.