Back in England again I had three difficult years before me: the final two years at university and having to live with my mother again in between and for nearly another year before I finally left England to join Bob in Venezuela. These were hard times for me. I thought that when I left home and went to university I had put my worst fears behind me. I had made the assumption that having a degree would put me on the path to success and money. But things rarely turn out as we expect. External circumstances get in the way. Those of us who always do what we want to do, not what other people want us to do, live adventurous lives, as I have always done. However we change as we grow older and begin to understand our life’s needs better. We unexpectedly have experiences that send us in a different direction.
I thought I wanted a great career and I achieved success enough in three major ways but that was not the most important thing in my life as you will see later. I often cannot believe that I have passed eighty years on this planet. Since Bob died three years ago I am still working on my books and intend to take up my painting again. I am reading more about philosophy and any other interesting book that comes my way, usually through new friends. I have gone over my life several times and I find that there is nothing that I wanted to do that I have not tackled. Living on the right lines I have still more to add to my research about people and how strange we all are. We are such complex beings that the search for self-understanding is endless. I can still be surprised by something new I recognise in myself and in others who are close to me. When people ask me if I am retired I say “Unless I am non compus mentis I shall retire on the day I die.”
I have read many books about people who have done what they wanted to do. I have not come across any of them who have not lived and suffered their way through two extremes, failure and success. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem “If” on this same theme. People who take risks that most of us would not dare to, must accept greater diversity in life; such as good luck and bad luck. In fact it is a mistake to think that good luck is going to drop from the heavens, although it rarely happens. Most luck, good and bad, is the direct result of what we ourselves have done, out of our own efforts. There are certain qualities without which no-one can follow his or her own star. They are patience, bravery and persistence. Throughout my life many people have asked me “How did you do this?” I had to reply “Only you [ie. Oneself – ed] can know”. The world is full of envy because there are many people who do not rely on themselves and their own efforts.
When I was young I did not want to be old, but that was so far off it did not bother me. Now I live in a community of flats for old people who have done many different things in the world. We all have our privacy and some of us, including myself, still drive. I have been surprised by how well most of them manage their lives. There are enough of us here that we can find a few people with whom to share ideas. I am considering writing a short book for people nearing the end of their lives about how we can pass our time in an interesting way, if we want to, without relying too much on our friends and families. However, if we still value our own lives and pursue what we like to do they will still enjoy coming to see us.