No

  Everyone has heard some variation of the story. An enterprising individual has an idea, something they feel will change some facet of life. All they need is the right people or person to see it or hear about it and gain some backing, some momentum.
   The story of Colonel Saunders is well known, how he approached fried chicken shops with his chicken recipe and was turned away over one thousand times before receiving a ‘yes’. Positive life coaches talk about not giving up, as the next opportunity may be the one you were waiting for. Perseverance is a lauded, recognised and an encouraged trait for a would be go getter. No is never no. It is just the first refusal; it’s a test! Do you want it or will you be easily deterred? Rousing stuff.
  Like religious text, people have a way of interpreting things in a way that benefits their thinking. The notion of ‘no’ being the starting point of a discussion, as opposed to the conclusion, is very much a generational, liberal thinking, modern phenomena.
  Anyone who works in an environment where they are required to deal with the request of others, will understand this. The present generation have a real problem with the word ‘no’.
  Whether it is something quite important, like trying to gain a place for their child in the best schools, or fill a necessary prescription or something less so; getting a table at a hip restaurant on a Saturday evening or tickets for that unmissable thing, the response in the negative will, for those entitled souls, begin a battle of attrition.
  The variety of non important things, objects, request is endless. There is just a belief that if one shouts loud enough and long enough – basically the equivalent of a small child throwing a tantrum – you’ll get what you want. This tends to actually work because most want to avoid embarrassment or confrontation. It is bullying.
  It is nice and can be fulfilling to get what one wants. But always getting your way is only possible for those blessed few. The rest of us just have to accept that sometimes no means no.

The Second Act

It is said that with age and experience comes wisdom. I am not so sure that is true. I think that with age comes fear and apathy. The vigour of youth fading, realities of life constantly bashing one over the head, the dreams of creating a chapter in history remaining that; dreams.
The analogy of a chapter, a book, is relevant, even for those who do not read books, or see any worth in doing so. Let me elaborate.
The cover is hopeful. You liked the look of it, that’s why you picked it up. Further investigation – reading the back cover – will talk to your judgements: do you want to live through the chapters of this book or discard it or perhaps check it out at a later point? So many options. Just like in life, only difference is you started out as the book. You were perused, checked out at many various times in this library of life. The begin is intriguing, mildly interesting if not yet riveting. Then you move to the second act. You write the story. Even if you did not expect to.
The first people who saw you – unless you were unfortunate enough to be born to the sort of people who should never have children – were your parents. To them, you were an exciting novel, a cracking page turner. Day after day, a new adventure would befall them, taking them through every possible emotion, the pages turning rapidly. What a fantastic book! They need to share this. So what they do is, those damned fool parents, the imbecilic clods cart you off too the nursery. Not such a special book here. Loads of bleedin’ books here!
Some of these books have really nice covers. Pretty, new and shiny, screaming – literally – for attention. If you’re not that kind of book, you’re already falling behind, getting frayed at the edges. It okay though, there are plenty of other books to hang out with and when you get collected, you’re special again.
Bombshell. You’re parents have gone and got another book! It’s newer, noisier and – allegedly – more interesting. What can you do? Time to start writing some more pages, adding more chapters perhaps.
Getting older and, perhaps, a little repetitive. Maybe you need to write a different chapter, you know, where something different happens? Yeah! Genius! You’ll write the clubbing chapter and the drinking chapter(s) and the drug phase chapter(s)! So you do. So does everybody else.
Some were busier though. Some were writing parallel stories. Dual storylines! How had you never thought to do that? Apparently they had seen some of the more impressive tomes work like this. Oh. Did not know there were bigger books. Thought everyone had the same typewriter.
Well now you do know. Great. So the dual storyline is introduced. Can you…can you do that? Of course you can. You can write whatever you like. Bash away. So you write. And write. And write. The chapters still meander, coming back to a horrible familiarity. The rehash of previous chapters, description of near identical days, interactions, frustrations, celebrations.
You cannot of run out of things to write, can you? Have you? There has to be more. You cannot publish this! Even your own family won’t read it! You got a beginning, you know the end. You need to edit the middle; the second act. Otherwise you are going to have a very underwhelming epilogue .

If.

What he had never learnt, understood, was that being ordinary, getting by or coasting along, just was not going to be enough. This was not the seventies. This was no longer the era of the working classes. Even those who still claimed to be of working class stock, had embraced the ethos of mixing with and shopping like the middle classes. But he did not get it.
Being a manager use to be something. He had been a manager once. Not a very good one, but one nonetheless. It had not worked out so well, so he went back to being an assistant manager.
The move out of retail had come soon after that. Try something else; be happy. The money will come. Haha. He moved sideways. Not retail but still customer service, still mediocre. Waiting. Something will come up. Something must come up.
He did not starve. Neither a pauper or a rich man. Just constantly in limbo, below the middle. Twenties pass. Thirties pass. People die, leaving a mark; or not. Would he leave a mark? He did not think think so. Twenty plus years below the middle was too much. Embarrassing. No one asked what do you want to do. They asked what you were doing. Everybody is doing something. He could not still be looking, could he? For goodness sake! There were people his age who were thinking about retirement! In fact, some had already.
There had been such promise. Not much granted. He had been shocking at sport and fair to middling academically, but there had been a flicker; a kernel of hope. Hope that he might achieve beyond mere employment or avoidance of incarceration. Might prove better than his own doubts, his own limitations. That he might defeat the voices.
The doubters had long departed, forging lives of plenty elsewhere. The age of sport had passed and academia had become an irrelevance. The voices however remained. He could not escape them.
Logic fought to defy them, but as the years went by, the dark truths of their whispering kept coming. It was all in his head. Absolutely it was. Highlighting of life’s failings, reliving bad decisions, missed opportunities. All played and fought for supremacy, day after day, ever reminded that his life could have been so different if…