Normality is a paved road; it’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow
I am well aware that for many people even ticking along through life can be stressful and that life throws more tough times at some people than is fair. I am sure these folk must feel irritated by trite sayings like this … so apologies if I’ve got your back up but perhaps you will still read on.
The quote is attributed to Vincent Van Gogh and it is one of those quotes that appears in the blogosphere now and then to start a discussion on taking an unusual or creative path.
Firstly I need to say that I have had times when too many awful things are going on and I will be heard to complain, ‘I just want a quiet and normal life!’ I don’t think there is any shame in wanting a carefree and stress-free life. I also know that when I have survived a period along the rocky road and I return to the smooth path of ‘normal’ life I have a greater sense of strength and self-reliance … adversity can be character building.
What I also take from this quote is that sometimes I need to turn away from the easy paved road because it is taking me in a direction that will not make me happy in the long run, even if it seems the path of least resistance. This policy has stood me well in terms of my working life and my happiness [although not always my pocket]. If you saw a copy of my cv you might be horrified at the number of organisations [over 20] I have worked for since I first started work at the age of 16. This fickleness is partly because I am easily bored [the longest I have stayed in any job is five years] but is also due to my lack of patience with employers who either undermine me, pay me badly, set impossible targets, have ridiculous rules or don’t give me enough to do. It is best not to mention any of them here by name but I have had some employers who have excelled themselves and are guilty of more than one of these things!
As an example, let me take you back in time to an office in a Midlands city in the 1980s. I worked for a [very] short time for a company who insisted women [not men] wore tights even if it was 30°C in the office [this was before air-conditioned offices]. In addition, although the office of about 20 people was very busy processing wages for temporary workers Monday to Wednesday, on Thursday and Friday we were kicking our hosiery-clad heels. These were pre-internet days and having nothing to do at work was exceptionally tiresome; however, my practical and money-saving suggestion to management that I work part-time was refused. Needless to say, although staying in the job would have kept me on the smooth path of security, I soon left for the rocky road of short-term unemployment until the next opportunity came up.
I think this experience of constantly changing jobs makes me feel fairly confident that I will always find some kind of work if financial pressures mean that I need to because of some unforeseen catastrophe. This certainly contributes to giving me the confidence to take retirement as soon as I can.
Further thoughts in 2021
It is interesting to read this post during the Covid-19 pandemic, when all I crave is a return to the life that I was calling normal! Taking early retirement was certainly a good move and in the three years of expected early retirement I hung onto my resilience to cope with problems as they flew into my life without announcement. Then along came Covid-19 which certainly put pressure on that resilience. I am certain that lockdowns and this pesky virus are not the out-of-the-ordinary problems I was thinking about when I wrote this post. Some readers are looking for the good to come out of Covid-19 but for me, I don’t feel that anything positive [or blooming flowers] has resulted from it, apart from progress in science.
Many of us are wondering about how the pandemic will change us. I have written about how I have been cruising in neutral and feel I have lost a precious year of my life as so much has been on hold. My normal is to be travelling and exploring and I long to return to my travelling life and for my own version of that comfortable paved road of normality at the moment!