What I Know About Finding The One
When I was a kid, Saturday morning television featured a phone-in game. Having answered a multiple choice question, a lucky caller would be shown the fi rst of the potential prizes. It would start off small, say with a packet of Nik Naks, which the kid could take or gamble. The latter would see the prize replaced with something better; a roller racer, perhaps, or a ideo. The quality of prize would rise with each gamble through swing balls and walkmen until, finally, there would be a treat of such allure that it was impossible to conceive of an improvement, most often that most desirable of 80s offerings: the electric drum kit. Beyond that, the prizes returned to the lowest of standards and would not improve again. The trick was to keep gambling until the prize could get no better. Occasionally some greedy 12 year-old fool would overshoot the mark, lose out on the drum kit and end up with a bum bag. But what I remember most is that few callers ever came close to the prizes’ apex. Most would become so beset with fear of losing their modest gains, that they lost all perspective and settled for a reward of such pedestrian appeal that even the presenters would egg them on (‘you’re sure you want to stick with the Tiddlywinks, Kyle?’). ‘There’s an interesting life lesson,’ I thought, finding the reticence of my peers to take the slight risk to improve their happiness both sad and embarrassing.
The lesson has stayed with me, mostly in the sphere of relationships, and manifested itself for most of my 20s in a refusal to settle for anything that resembles the formulaic relationships of the people around me. Some (by no means all) of my friends seemed so awestruck by the thought that another person could love them back, that they were happy to shack up with, if not the fi rst thing on offer, something around the fifth. Whether overawed by the coincidences of shared cultural currency (‘Oh my god! I loved Shawshank Redemption too!’) or the comfort of dull, mutual aspiration; too many of them seemed to give up and spend their lives beset with monotony, regret and, all too often, infidelity. But however powerful the disincentive provided by prosaic couples, little can nullify the fear you get when you are single that, rather than your top prize never arriving, it in fact passed some time ago, and you are now rooting around dance floors for some sort of commiseration prize.
We’ve all been there; boring your friends with your latest self-justification (‘I really think what I’ve needed all this time is someone that works in carpentry and Jason is just perfect!’), acting weird around the opposite sex at social events and contacting exes for ‘a catch up’ (read: hoping to find out you’re as lonely as me). Every so often you catch sight of yourself at a bar, talking about how you remember certain clothes the first time round and showing gap year students pictures of your nephews. But for me, it was worth the anxiety to end up where I am now. In six months I will be married to the future Mrs. Williams, and friends often ask me how I knew Katie was ‘the one’. I’d expected to say that the girl I’d married was ‘the best choice’- the top prize in life’s great relationship phone-in. But with Katie, there was simply no choice about it. There was no comparison with other options or regrets that other futures would now stand out of reach. It just became unfathomable to me that my life would take any turn other than marrying Katie. In a sense, the decision that plagued my thoughts most keenly over the years in reality required no thought at all. The truth is, my relationship with Katie has challenged virtually everything I held to be true by offering a more loving, gentle and contented perspective; helping me to develop a more refined understanding of the world. I am now far less likely to see life as some grand competition; as a game to win, with the people around me representing rivals to beat, setting standards to exceed or leading lives to judge. Katie has taught me a message that was articulated hundreds of years before young lads started taking wisdom from 1980s children’s TV: to thine own self be true. My only regret, really, is that this angelic woman was not around earlier to help me understand this message. I could have saved myself a lot of time spent in nightclubs and a lot of effort worrying about ending up either alone or with the wrong person. Contentment is not found in the fulfillment of criteria or taking pleasure in succeeding where others have failed. It’s found in being at ease with the world around you, building happiness on firmer foundations and allowing the anxiety that over-analysis, enviousness and insecurity can create to wither away. Mind you, that’s easy for me to say. I ended up with the drum kit.