Can you pinpoint the moment your life took the turn that brought you to where you are today? Good or bad. Maybe you came from a well off family of high achievers, had a good education and now at forty you are living in a third floor walk-up and flipping burgers. Or maybe your mother was an addict and you basically raised yourself, running wild on the streets and now at forty you are running a multi-million dollar company that you built from the ground up.
Years ago I had two close friends, Margaret and Geoffrey. We did everything together. On Friday nights they would come over with their two kids. Their two and my two would be sent to the living room to watch videos and the three of us would stay in the kitchen where I made homemade pizza in the old turf fired range. Best pizzas I ever ate. So we would eat pizza and consume a lot of wine and play Trivial Pursuit – to the death as Margaret put it. Geoffrey and I took the game very seriously. We yelled, screamed, jumped up and down, pounded our fists and got red in the face. Margaret was convinced one or the other of us was going to have a heart attack and die one Friday night. Sometimes we were more amusing than the video and the kids would come and watch us.
Between the questions and the yelling and pounding of fists, we had wonderful chats. We did everything together, there was almost no day we didn’t see each other. Yet in spite of that, we never ran out of things to talk about. From planning the next art show Geoffrey and I would exhibit in to planning ways to actually earn money to support our art until we became rich and famous to discussing the meaning of life. Did I mention there was a lot of wine? Well, for me and Geoffrey anyway. On Trivial Pursuit nights Margaret didn’t drink because when we travelled around the country to our art openings, Geoffrey didn’t drink. The openings are a tale for another post. But I digress.
Geoffrey was a self educated man. I forget how old he was before he learned to read but he became a voracious reader. He was a happy man, loved his family and knew they loved him, comfortable in his own skin. Hard worker. Talented artist. He didn’t resent his lack of education or his poor background but sometimes he got irritated, I think, when he saw people who were born with a silver spoon – or what he thought was a silver spoon – if not toss it away, at least not take advantage of it.
One Friday night he turned to me and said, “You come from a good family. You were well brought up. You had a good education. You had every advantage. You had a great career. What I am wondering is, can you pinpoint it? Can you look back and see it? Can you say that was the precise moment I completely fucked up?”
I was floored. I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. Me and my two kids on the farm with our chickens and donkeys and dogs and cats. Painting my pictures. Sunning myself down at the lough with my girlfriends in the summer. Dodging the Gardaí because I couldn’t afford the tax shield for my car. I was happy.
But a couple of years later I went to ‘Amer-i–kay’ and did Geoffrey proud. I was a big success in business. But with the incredible highs came incredible lows. And I never felt the same happiness I did when I was back on the farm, me and my kids. And now years later I am unemployed but writing. And sometimes I think of Geoffrey and ask myself when was the moment…
Maybe there is no moment.