When are you supposed to give up on your dreams? When do you sit back and shrug and say, oh well, that didn’t happen. It occurs to me that my husband and I have been having the same conversations for almost fourteen years.
Will we still be projecting at eighty? Me, the new Mary Wesley, a wizened but sprightly publishing phenomenon? Him, the white-haired octogenarian who stumbled across a multi-platinum selling act on his way to the pub? We’re still at it, still hoping, still forecasting, then seamlessly moving onto the next big thing the minute last week’s hope shatters and bursts into smithereens. But then there will always be an exciting unsigned rock act out there, promising to change the face of modern music. And what is writing if not a compulsion to record your thoughts and to repeat that process day after day? Sometimes I wonder if we should be giving these aspirations everything we’ve got. Should we, like Jonathan Ross and Ewan McGregor, be forswearing alcohol to attain our personal utopias? Should we ship in a full time nanny for a few months, and eat, sleep and breathe our dreams? It’s true that we’re still out there, gunning for it, refusing to give up, dragging our aching bones out of bed to give it one more shot. But it’s also true to say that we’re a little more jaded lately, that our hopes are now coloured with the faintest tinge of scepticism, with the fear that maybe THIS IS IT. Having been to many friends’ fortieth birthdays in the past two years, I can see that the celebrations divide largely into two camps. Those that have made it, see this significant birthday as a chance to prove it and perhaps, more benevolently, to spoil their friends. Their parties are all about hiring the flashest villa on Ibiza or flying thirty close friends out to the Caribbean. Then there are the slightly shambolic, studenty, not quite bring a bottle but almost, bashes that the rest of us throw together. Peppered with drunken existential crises at almost every corner and more fun in a way. I remember asking a friend if he felt any different having just turned forty. He told me he was much happier since deciding to give up the fight. ‘When you stop trying to make it, you can get on with the rest of your life,’ he said sagely. Funny how this is the same guy, whom five years later, has just dragged his family out to bankrupt Dubai in a last-ditch bid for success. ‘It’s this or bust,’ his wife tells me in the toneless voice of one who has been hauled across continents in search of nirvana. I’m wondering if this is the moment to give up. To step back and enjoy what we have. You could say that we’d achieved our dreams: three much-loved children, a lovely home, a marriage that has held together for more than a decade and seems in good enough shape to attempt the next ten. Perhaps this is it, perhaps we could look at each other contentedly, basking in the warm glow of the fire, relaxing in our leather armchairs and reflecting upon a life well-lived. I don’t think so. For in the morning my alarm will go off at five thirty and I’ll be downstairs, huddled over my computer in the dark, cold (even in summer) kitchen, trying to put this novel of mine to bed. The fight goes on.