You ended up working for people you hated, and you found the massive inflow of cash thrilling but completely unrewarding. You felt like you had pissed away years of your life building some inconsequential piece of software that would never see the light of day anyway. You felt an urge to actually do things for people, to do something that might leave a mark of some kind on someone. On anyone. Something that felt real, or at least realer than the corporate office-politics circle jerk that had turned your sense of work as play into a daily grind as your friends quit, or were made redundant, or just gave up and waited for the foundering ship to finally sink. Endurance counts the most, Bukowski always said, but you were just too damn tired of spinning your wheels 80 hours a week, and getting shunted to the sidelines by incompetent technocrats who felt threatened by you. So you left your freakishly high-paying job, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. People thought you had taken leave of your senses.
And you went back to a place you had publicly reviled, a place you’d spent hours (days? weeks? months?) complaining about, a place in which the swarming multitude of infuriating details that assaulted your senses on a daily basis had driven you to drink for all the wrong reasons, a place where in weaker moments you felt sure that you’d had some of the life drained out of you, unrecoverable, into the smoggy night. But to a job teaching again, chasing the noble dream again, at a university, poorly-paid, yes, but where you could make a difference, you thought, where you might see in the eyes of your students that your labours were appreciated, that you would, at least by a few, be remembered. Where much of your time would be your own, and you could stretch out, grow your mind, cultivate your soul.
Dreamer. Pretty soon, predictably, you grew weary of that, too, and wondered what the hell would ever make you content.
And now, there’s an offer on the table to go back, reverse the clock, and join the racing rats once again. You’re sorely tempted, and you are annoyed with yourself for being so easily led. And afraid that if you don’t grab the ring again, don’t say yes each and every time to the possibilities life offers you, that life will stop offering you those chances, fold closed the kimono, and it will all be over.
And you realize, in your confusion and doubt, that all you really want is to go back to that bamboo hut – the one in Fiji, or the one on Flores, or the one on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, or the one you have kept in your mind like a mantra manifested since you first hurled yourself out on the road – the one on the new-moon arc of powdery sand, beneath the coconut palms, the one you’ve dreamed about over and over again. You can almost picture yourself sitting there again, deeply tanned, drinking a beer, the good hot smell of your own baked-off sweat, the dried-seawater tautness of your skin, natty dread, nothing going through your mind other than the colour blue, a deep and throbbing hum, and a set of gentle animal hungers. In the moment.
And then the phone rings.