I think I can say with absolute certainty that Stevie Wonder did not write this incredible song with me in mind. Therefore I’m not going to mention it, I’m just going to use the lyric as a starting point for yet more middle-class-angst-ridden musings.
Most of us live day to day – thinking about what’s for dinner or what’s on tele before we think about what we want to do with our lives, what we want to achieve. We might fantasise about our future for 10 minutes during lunch break but we soon get distracted by a text about so and so’s birthday drinks at the weekend or Mum ‘just calling for a chat’. After all, we’re essentially just trying to keep our head’s above water and pay the rent or, if we’re ‘lucky’, mortgage. How then, does anyone ever achieve anything, see the bigger picture, look forward to future accomplishments? The athletes we have seen recently at both the Olympics and Paralympic games are examples of people who have seen beyond the mundane day to day and set their sights on achieving a goal and dedicated their lives to it – these incredible people are not living just enough, they are living more than enough. Even though they have had to sacrifice many of the things (like nights out/nandos – delete as appropriate) which we (I) hold as so important to a happy life. Of course you have to be a particular type of person to commit yourself in this way, and have a certain type of talent, and drive, but surely what they end up achieving is all any of us really want to do – to make our mark on this world, to leave a legacy, to make some impact and achieve their goal… so why don’t we all just try a bit harder? Since many of us have the capacity and the opportunities now, why don’t we all live more than ‘just enough’?
This frustration is compounded by the realisation that I remember about 40% of my life. Most of my working life has been forgotten – those moments of pure stress when the world is going to fall apart if you don’t get that callsheet out – gone. In addition, unless there were pictures taken, many nights out have been confined to my mental trash can, as have, I’m ashamed to say, many of the hook ups. I’ve always known that I don’t want to live a forgettable life, but I’m finally realising it is up to no-one but me to make it memorable.
I’m really not complaining as I already have an amazing life. Great family, friends, career, I couldn’t be any luckier but I don’t do anything ‘useful’. I don’t hear any legacy or sustainability department sitting round the conference table in my head, and it’s time I put them to work.
The other night while watching ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ with my Mum, I learnt something new. All of my grandparents died before I was born but I’m told my Grandpa, Andrew, was a grocer and I remember being told once that he was an air raid warden during the war, on account of his bad eyesight. Anyway, during this programme my Mum mentioned that in actual fact, he was conscripted and went to Normandy. “Not on the first day mind you, on the second.” Now, I know the first day was when all the action happened, but still, it’s pretty impressive. It turns out my Grandpa worked his way up and achieved the highest civilian ranking. As Kevin Arnold once said, “Some men pursue greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them”… or was it Shakespeare?
Anyway, if I want to have any impact (and truthfully, who doesn’t?) I better get to work – thankfully I don’t think I’m going to be conscripted any time soon so it’s up to no-one but me.
We can only improve the future and live better lives than our ancestors if we fully understand the past so I’m gonna start questioning my mother to see if any other relatives were involved in world-defining moments. Maybe it will provide the inspiration live more than ‘just enough’ and hopefully remember some of it too.