When I was a kid, I wanted to be a newsreader when I grew up. I walked around the house with a cardboard box on my head, one with the front cut out, saying hello and welcome to the nine o’clock news. Then, when I realised how stomach-churningly nervous I became at the prospect of public speaking, and how fucking good I was at writing, I decided to be a journalist, instead. Not the ideal career for someone with a blind fear of talking to strangers, but like most things in my life, I didn’t really think it through.
My point is, I wanted to be a journalist, so I became a journalist. Actually, that’s only partially true. I wanted to be a music journalist. I wanted to interview Bros, and thereafter Take That, and thereafter Blur, ideally all at the same time. I moved to London and wrote many, many letters to the NME, all of which were roundly ignored, and then I got a job on an illustrious publication called Homeflair, where I spent my days making up letters to the editor, and, well, the dream was still there, but it was slightly modified and altered to suit an industrial estate in Watford, Hertfordshire. But still, I could call myself a journalist, of sorts, and even though my mum really, really wanted me to become a pharmacist (nope, me neither), she and my excellent dad always lit the way for me to follow my heart.
When Paul was a kid, he wanted to be a comic-book illustrator. He loved drawing, and was really fucking good at it, kinda like four-year-old Frankie is now. It’s effortless for them, like writing is for me and Ben, and dressing like a lunatic is for Alice. Little Paul should’ve grown up to be an artist, or at the very least a graphic designer. Something with pens, anyway. But no one along the way said hey, little dude, you’re really fucking good at drawing and shit, why don’t you pursue that? Instead, Paul decided to go and work in a bank, ‘cos his sister worked in a bank, and his dad worked in finance, and he was pretty good at adding up, truth be told. And then – after a few weeks’ work experience – he realised that perhaps banking wasn’t for him, on account of him wanting to steal all of the pennies all of the time, so became a printer instead. Which is a good profession – a NOBLE profession – and a profession that pays our mortgage, but it doesn’t light up his soul. Or, in Paul’s words, it doesn’t stir his juices (sorry). Which is why, after 16 years of printing labels, Paul’s decided to start drawing again.
I get that, I really do. Yeah, I’m a journalist, but I’m predominantly a homes journalist. I write about display homes. And, because this doesn’t come close to keeping my kids in biscuits (and me in gin), I also dabble in copywriting. I write words for business. Sometimes these words are very exciting (soft furnishings!) and sometimes they are very, very dull (scaffolding!). This writing does not, as they say, stir my juices.
And so, at 38 and 43 respectively, Paul and I have decided to stir our juices (I’ll be honest, this analogy isn’t working for me. It’s making me feel a bit sick. I’m sorry). Actually, I started a year or so ago, when I began this fine blog; writing for free, and writing for me. But just recently, I decided to take it one step further, and start writing a book, too. A fucking novel! Because if I don’t write a book – and if I’m on my deathbed having never got around to writing a book – then I’ll be pissed off, and wishing I had, and dictating to my kids, who in all likelihood will be more concerned with where I’ve hidden the gold, yo.
Paul, in the meantime, has started doodling. He began by scribbling little sketches to go along with my blog posts each week; he did them at work (ssshhhh) when he had a big print run on, but it stirred his juices to such an extent that he bought a new set of watercolours and some bad-ass textas, and started painting properly, in the evenings, when we used to watch Come Dine with Me and drink heavily. That’s when I write, too, even though we’re both fucked from life and children and work and shit. It’d be a lot easier to switch on Come Dine with Me and drink heavily, but shit, man, you’ve got to stir your juices, you’ve got to light up your soul, you’ve got to do that thing that makes your heart sing.
This is the lesson we’re trying to teach our kids. Don’t wait until you’re 38 and 43 respectively to follow your dreams. Do it now! Do what makes you happy (unless it’s smoking crack and incest). Frankie wants to be a rock-star (although, at this point, with his arm in cast, his options may be limited to drumming for Def Leppard), Alice wants to be a doctor, Ben wants to be a professional FIFA player and sports journalist. Fucking do it! And if, along the way, your dreams change and you decide, instead, to be a lollipop man, Barbie princess and one of those weird guys who film themselves playing Minecraft in their pants, then three cheers for you, and go for it. We’ll steer you towards what you’re good at, maybe, to a certain extent, but we’ll never tread on your dreams.