Changing Prejudices

‘If you can’t do what you love, love what you do’. The first bit of real sense I’ve heard from a banker in a long time. It was his 50’s birthday. A garden party in the grounds behind his beautiful house to celebrate early retirement. On one side a tennis court, on the other a swimming pool, and in between a small but thriving apple orchard.

I’ve never really spent much time with people like this before. ‘Like this’ meaning people who truly have, in a modern sense, ’succeeded’. They’ve worked hard in The City, be them bankers, venture capitalists, directors of multinationals, and senior figures in the civil service. And having always been extremely sceptical of the lifestyle I believed them to live, I assumed, in a Tom Hodkinson sort of a way, that to live frugally and to shun the monetary side of life was a far more reliable way to secure contentment.

But now having spent time talking to those on ‘the other side’- the careerist side- my agnosticism’s been awakened. Previously, I’ve always had this idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. To control my own destiny. Only recently, I’ve started to- as some people may put it- ‘grow up’. Law and journalism have really made my ears prick up, but a conversation I had last night made me question journalism for the first time. ‘We’re not in careers for life. We work damn hard to stand out so we could be like Mike there, retiring at 50 so you can enjoy the rest of your life. Those in careers like journalism get to Mike’s age, and become disillusioned when they realise they’ve got another 20 years to go and very little money in the bank for when it’s all over’.

Now, combine this idea, with the statement ‘if you can’t do what you love, love what you do’, and as another person last night said, ‘it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you’ve got a good, solid group of friends around you’, then I think that’s a pretty sound recipe for what some might call a ‘life of contentment’.  Maybe not a ‘good life’ as in a moral life, but certainly a life you can enjoy and be happy with.

That’s not to say I’m going in to banking. No no no no no. I can’t think of anything more mind-numbing personally. But law, or working in the civil service is a way I believe one could, if one wanted, combine this idea with a more moral way of living. Of making a real, positive difference. Of course money isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s definitely a major constituent in today’s world that leads to one’s being contented. No doubt one could be extremely contented without such monetary assets, but I believe this is relative.

For me, the lifestyle I believe would truly make me content is one where I could afford to visit those places I’ve longed to see for a long time. To get those experiences I’ve always wanted to have. To achieve things outside of work and family. To have a nice home, and a close group of friends, and to keep those close to me in relative comfort, and this just isn’t a lifestyle I believe I could have to the degree I want without having money. And so long as I can earn this money in a way that I truly love, then for the first time in my life, I see no contradictions with on the one hand working hard, and developing a career through what I see as the best years of my life, along side a solid, true group of friends and an active social life, and on the other, a way of living a truly happy life day in, day out.

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