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Chatting with a friend tonight, whose life is taking one of those severe emotional/financial/everything shocks that lives are wont to take on occasion, reminded my about an important fact about the world. Fact, in this instance being an easy replacement for “Richard’s Opinion”.

I have come to believe that, in the end, there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who lived their lives on their own terms – who may not have been a success in the conventional understanding of the term, but who owned their destinies, woke up each morning with the power to decide their own day and be the first person to whom they have to answer. The corollary to this first category are people who found it easier to fit in, to trade wild and reckless dreams for a mortgage and the security of a paycheque – to live a life where they will not experience major upsets, and can pursue the respect of their peers in the game of life.

This point is particularly relevant as I watch my twentysomething out-of-university friends racing each other to the top of the ladder, trying to be the first to the best job, the biggest paycheque, the nicest car and so on. The almost feverish desire for security, to know that you are protected from your worst fears of joblessness or being the least achieving of your friends has somewhere eclipsed the fact that, not too many years ago, you had big dreams – you had things you were going to be and do that made your little self excited at the prospect of life. Somewhere along the way, people move from a life motivated by anticipation and excitement to one motivated by avoiding pain and loss and uncertainty – to keeping as safe as possible.

Life, being the sadistic mistress she is, is well suited to encouraging such a transformation, as she throws us into holes, screws us over and generally makes things difficult. And with every little slap or loss we experience, it becomes a little harder to remember why some abstract dream for your future is more important than your ability to eat, to not feel small around your friends. You begin to wonder whether the odds on the gamble you are taking by pursuing what you believed to be your most adventurous dreams are not perhaps looking a bit long. And every time that moment arrives (and dear lord, it arrives often), a few more people throw in the towel and decide that it is more important to know what the future will bring than to have blind faith that it will be OK, and that we will get there in the end.

The point here is that, at the end of the day (and I mean the very end), it is only those small few who managed to keep getting up and who kept on keeping on (when every rational instinct said stop and give in) who will stand tall. Everyone wants to be the person who looks back on life and sees a path of adventure and dreams realised, but few are willing to work the hours, to take the pain, and keep getting up and trying – day after day, for your whole life.

I don’t know if its courage or sheer stupidity. But its the quality that makes the lives of the few interesting. Life was never supposed to be easy – if it was, then a dream would have no value. It’s only in the tears and heartache of years of your life that their value can be measured. And they are very, very expensive.