Reunions can be awkward things. Meeting people you went to school with forty years after you went to school with them can be disconcerting, triggering feelings of painful nostalgia, envy and jealousy, or even smugness, that at least I didn’t turn out like them. 😊 Lacking the particular brand of adventurous, or masochistic, spirit required, I’ve avoided them. Except once.
It was a forty-year reunion at a large boys’ school I’d attended. Timidly I entered the assembly hall. Memories flooded back. The assembled group all seemed to eye me suspiciously, questions rising in their faces to match the ones on mine, sheepish smiles, more memories flooding.
It was a pleasant enough evening as we milled around clutching our stubbies (we didn’t use glasses in ’69 and we didn’t want anyone to think we did now) and the revelations revealed in every conversation were revealing, and stimulating. It dawned on me that few of my peers seemed happy. Some had separated; some were onto their third marriages; some had lost employment; some, not present, had even lost their lives. Some had become extremely successful – and rich – but seemed discontented – even despondent. John was a thoracic surgeon of repute, but rued his station and regretted that he’d never “gone out on his own”, into business; Dave had his own business, but regretted he’d never been properly ‘employed’, never had a dependable salary.
Many of them swore, told cringey jokes and seemed to value the same puerile things we’d valued as seventeen-year-olds.
What an enlightening evening it was.
How rich, how successful do we need to be? Many young people I’ve asked, what are your goals after leaving school? have replied they want to be rich. Some have said, with precision, I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m thirty. I inwardly shake my head. (Huh, picture that.)
Richness and wealth are sirens. Seductive. Potentially luring us onto rocks. As a goal, riches is a deceiver.
I counsel pursuing work you can love. If wealth follows, great, but it’s incidental and happily consequential (sometimes). I’ve had jobs where, shaking my head (outwardly), I’ve thought, Wow, do I really get paid for this? That’s the job you want!
Warren Buffet (oft quoted billionaire investor) says, “In the world of business, the people who are most successful are those who are doing what they love.” Also “It’s only when the tide goes out that you discover who’s been swimming naked.” (Think about it!)
Of course, we all need money, and we all want to ‘get ahead’, but those needn’t be ends in themselves. Better to strive to be the best we can be, and let success take care of itself. And on the question of income, my prayer has always been, Lord, give me enough. That’s all any of us need, eh? Enough. Enough to be truly content … and it doesn’t take a million dollars.
Once home from the reunion, a few days later, I was sharing my experience with a friend. He listened patiently, as he does when I rave on, and when he got a chance he said, “It’s true. I’ve noticed this. People spend their whole lives climbing ladders, trying to get to the top, and when they get there, and look over the fence, they realise … there’s nothing there!”