There must be something else I can do

IT’S a beautiful day outside and I should be in it.

But I’m not. I’m in here writing stuff. If I’d known it was going to end like this, with me slaving over a hot keyboard while everyone else is sailing around Magnetic Island, I’d have done something else.

I don’t know what. There’s nothing else I feel cut out for. I envy those people who have a calling from the age of four and who sniff their way into their future career like a bloodhound that’s picked up the scent.

My cousin was one. When he was four someone spotted him stripped to the waist, his trousers slipping off his hips and five centimetres of the crack of his bum showing.

“Builder,” said his father, not without a certain pride.

Two years later he was carrying his pencils behind his ear (the cousin, not his father) and if you asked him to do the washing up you didn’t see him again for two weeks.

For some people it’s written in stone.

Not that anyone forced me to be a writer. When I was 14 I wanted to write. But that was because I thought it meant a minimum of exertion and huge amounts of money.

I did all the right things. I threw a desk at the principal and stormed out of school to live in a garret, where I recycled my teabags, grew a beard and banged my head against the wall, but the rejection slips kept coming.

I even explained to the publishers: “Dear sir, I enclose a short story for your consideration. I would like to add that I live in a garret, recycle my teabags, have a beard and bang my head against the wall.”

It didn’t make any difference.

So I thought I’d try something else. A philosopher maybe, or a beachcomber, but I couldn’t find the advertisements. I guess those kinds of jobs don’t reach the newspapers.

I even tried being a builder but the crack in my bum’s too low and you have to get up while it’s still dark.

But now I’d like to try something else. There must be something I could be good at. Something else besides the career options on offer at the Job Centre. I might resent all my friends sailing round Maggie Island while I’m stuck here getting repetitive strain injury of the index fingers but that doesn’t mean I want to be a bank clerk or supermarket assistant manager.

I knew a bloke once who earned his living selling pregnant mares’ urine. I never had the nerve to ask him who to, or what for, but he did it and seemed to enjoy it, too. I bet that’s one that you’ll never see in the university careers office.

I reckon we’ve got the whole work program of the human race upside down. We leave school, get a career, work till we’re 65, then retire.

Maybe we should retire from school, spend 10 or 15 years on the pension and then go to work, by which time we might have worked out what we’re good at.

I know now — 30 years too late — what I’m good at: talking, sitting on my backside, having a considerable number of pretty unpopular opinions, knowing very little about a lot and a lot about absolutely nothing, and making people laugh.

I know what job I should be doing, too, with qualifications like that, but John Howard already has it – and he can’t even make people laugh.