I had occasion the other day to take the bus into be detailed by someone who knows what they are doing as opposed to detailers employed by car yards, who all seem to be 16 years with no a clue as to how to use a buffer. My detailer is not that far from my home so I decided just to waddle home. My journey took me past the local bus stop and the local train station, both of which seemed to be populated with people who seemed to be in a state of miserable torpor that seemed only to be briefly improved by staring at their phone. No doubt they were imagining a life that was totally different from the one they were suffering through.
Wandering past these half life creatures I was struck by a memory that I had not had for decades. Memory is a fascinating thing, fluid, often unreliable but paradoxically at times all too efficient at taking you to places you dont want to go. I was thrust back to sitting a class room as a teenager and when a teacher appeared at the door and called out one of my class mates. The student who had been called out was not the sort who this usually happened to – he like the rest of us was largely anonymous within the confines of a large private school. So this was an unusual event and like teenage boys we were excited to hear about what transgression he had performed upon his return. I should add that transgressing school rules was not all the hard since the school diary you were given at the beginning of the year consisted of a tiny date calendar followed by what seemed to be an inordinate number of school rules that dwarfed the Australasian constitution. Apparently it took fewer rules to run a country than it did to run a boys school.
What was intriguing was that our classmate never returned. We only found out much later what had occurred. His father was a farmer and was out that day looking for rabbits when he climbed through a fence. He did something he had no doubt done since he was a teenager he rested the shotgun he was using on the wire of the fence. The shotgun slipped, discharged and killed him instantly. Our friend left school at the age of 16 to run the family farm whilst the rest of us continued with our school career of being semi professional dickheads, which is the calling of all teenage boys.
I have reflected upon this odd memory for a few days trying to work out why it decided then and there to reappear after all this time. In no way do I posit that I understand the workings of the human mind since I struggle to understand how my toaster works. The only theory I can come up with is that my subconscious was making me aware of the profound good fortune I have enjoyed, much of which has occurred by simple happenstance. I was not forced to leave school as a teenager to work the family farm, nor was I forced to catch public transport surrounded by the great unwashed to a job I obviously dislike. Unlike a lot of others in my position I am well aware of the role luck plays in success. Simple single events can change the trajectory of your life enormously and often these events are well outside your control. For example I would not have met LB if I had not given into to the constant nagging of the ATAA to speak at one of their functions. I had not control over who else was there that evening, only circumstance dictated that she would also be speaking. Luck and not intent dictated our meeting.
However, there is a counterpoint to this. I have often been told by friends how much they envy my lifestyle and my response to them is to simply start. All it takes is starting and there might be innumerable false starts but surely these false starts are better than the life many endure and not enjoy. But all of them fail to start – it takes no luck to start. My theory is that success lies somewhere at the junction of luck and persistence. We all seem to enjoy a little bit of luck at some stage but not all seem to have the capacity to persist.