Scene 1. I’m seated at the front of the room, looking over the group in front of me. We’re in the middle of what we call an Information Evening, part of a recruitment process I invented for hiring trainers for our business. There are 60 or 70 applicants in the room who have responded to ads we placed. There are also 12 or 15 of our own staff, who are sitting around, clipboards in hand, observing candidates, making snap decisions and writing down things like, “Virginia—red hair, witty”. Followed by: “Yes!!!” or “Well…maybe” or “Not in this lifetime”.
In this part of the recruitment process we invite ALL the applicants in to hear about our business and to let them get a look at our team. We’re all on our best behaviour, looking sharp, professional, happy and cutting edge. The applicants will briefly introduce themselves and we’ll make snap decisions about whether to interview them further or not. After all, in the training business, first impressions count for more than usual.
I’m proud of our team. I’m thinking that I am surrounded by people I like working with, and that out of this process, we’ll find two or three more people who’ll fit that profile.
I enjoy my work, partly because designing training is so stimulating, but mostly because there are so many passionate, entertaining, clever people around. Being in the company of interesting people is a key part of my life.
Scene 2. I am skating on a frozen creek bed. The ice is covered with a half centimetre of fresh snow that mutes the snick of my skate blades. I am fourteen, using this time alone in the early dusk to dissociate from a busy day at school.
I love the quiet, the solitude, the beauty, the romance of it all. I resolve that I will NEVER live in the city and I will ALWAYS be faithful to the country life.
Scene 3. I am leaning against the doorframe, standing silently in the doorway of Rick’s office in our home in the city, coffee in hand. I’m watching Rick do some surfing on his computer.
Rick and I’ve lived in large cities for all our life together—Vancouver for four or five years, and the rest of the time in Sydney with its 4½ million bustling people. But we’ve been thinking we’d like to move to the country when we retire. I crave the quiet and the beauty of the countryside, and it seems Rick does as well.
But there’s the matter of keeping myself entertained. I’m used to a bustling office full of lively people, friends to go for lunch with, strange people to watch on the train, queues at the movies, girlfriends to call in for coffee on a moment’s notice.
And on the other hand there’s Rick. He is a wonderful man and means the world to me, but, if we were to move to the country, could he (and I) fill the space of my days with what I’m used to? What pressure could that put on us?
Scene 4. I am having lunch with new neighbours. Rick and I’ve just moved to a townhouse near North Sydney, and we’ve been invited for lunch by retirees, a few years older than ourselves. They live happily here, in their renovated apartment with a baby grand piano, elegant furnishings and all the mod-cons. They talk about the concert they went to last night and are looking forward to boating with their son on the harbour sometime during the week. They are committed to the energy, variety and abundance of city life. They plan to stay right here as long as they’re able.
It sounds pretty good. Maybe a little expensive, but theirs is a full, rich life.
Scene 5. It’s a Saturday mid-afternoon and I’m fidgeting in my chair while participating in an enthusiastic seminar which extols the theme of “having it all”—the point being that you can have anything you want in your life. This notion is patently untrue, as I know from many years of real life. Sometimes you can have a good piece of what you want but “having it all” is an innate contradiction. Every choice involves leaving something else desirable behind.
But perhaps the real point of the course is that you can have a great deal more than you reckon you can have, if you think it through, design it well and really go for it.
I think: my challenge is that I want to live in the country AND I want lots of people and variety around me. I want peace AND I want commotion.
Pipedream or possibility?
Scene 6. I am standing with Rick, Judy, Eve, and Daniel, my toes digging into a piece of property we’ve just decided we should buy. It’s a half hour from Taree, which in turn is four hours from Sydney. There are cattle, massive beasts with unsettling stares, on the neighbouring property just across the fence. What are city dwellers like us doing even thinking about such a place?
Well, the views are wonderful, and birdsong and fervent insects make the only noise we can hear. I can envision a nice house and exotic garden. Yes, it’s hopelessly rural and I notice a smile on my face.
With six of us contributing to the vitality of life, maybe the isolation won’t matter.
Scene 7. It’s earlier this week, and I’m sitting at dinnertime with my Shedder housemates. We’ve just had a delicious Thai beef salad served up by Rick. Just before that I was in Eve’s yoga class, which might relate to my feeling particularly mellow. We’ve had a film crew around for a good part of the day, filming our Shedders’ life, and the conversation is lively as we review the day’s antics. We make plans for tomorrow.
It’s hard to see how life could get any richer.
Scene 8. It’s the following day and I’m in the car on my way to Taree where I frequently go for an aquarobics class. Gosh, I think, I love these classes but I do spend a fair bit of time—and petrol—traveling. This is our lot, living in the country. And when we’re older and less keen (and able) to drive, keeping ourselves fit and entertained could become a problem.
You can never have it all, I sigh to myself.
But, damn, you can come close.