I have always enjoyed reading books because they allow me to explore different worlds. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, I am always enthralled and used to spend entire days reading in my hammock–from sun-up to sundown–so engrossed that I never noticed the days pass me by. Given a choice, I would have lived in my cocooned world of imagination for the rest of my life.
I skipped meals, ignoring my parents’ incessant knocking to remind me that food was getting cold. As I grew older, my love of books grew, rather than waned. I continued in this vein until my early twenties, despite my father’s plea to step into the real world and learn a little bit of business. That my father worked in the newspaper business made no difference; once I arrived home from school, I would lock my door, take up my current book and just read. What did I care about discussing his plans for me to eventually take over his publishing concern?
Then, I met my soon-to-be-wife. She was a young woman who was, in her own way, as eccentric as I, but she had a clear-thinking maturity that got my interest piqued. Wanting to impress–and, for the first time, wanting to do more than live in my world of books–I followed her around like an eager puppy dog. I was at her every beck and call. But she must have seen something in me, too.
Educated as a chemist, she gave up a promising career at one of the country’s top universities and chose instead to develop her own perfume. She wanted to establish a business–together with me, she said–and so began our personal and business partnership. In early days, our house was a jumble of flower petals, grains of pollen, half-empty bottles of something-or-the-other with barely perusable labels, chemical flasks, glass containers, funnels, and manuscripts and journals obtained from her former chemistry professor. In this “lab” she developed the most divine scents imaginable. But she needed me to handle the “other” side of the business, the side that would bring in the money: marketing.
Although business was really nothing new to me, I had problems adjusting to this new world. Luckily, she egged me on: My wife accompanied me during my first few transactions. She taught me how to deal with people and, somehow, managed to show me that real life is far different from my books. She showed me that for us to close a deal and obtain clients, I needed to create “realistic” steps to achieve it. She introduced me to planning, initiating feasibility studies and, little by little, I noticed the changes in the way I viewed the world and reacted to it. And as I opened myself up to the real world, I got better at facing up to its daily challenges, big and small.
Thirty-seven years after
As of this writing, I stand as a fifty-seven-year-old man who has gained some measure of success as a perfume distributor. Eleven years ago, I finally took on the additional challenge of running my father’s publishing business–making his dream for me, which he’d almost give up on, a reality.
Thank goodness for my wife without whose unrelenting vehemence and commitment I would never have left my hammock. Without her, I can imagine myself weak and frail, bent over reading my books, with no one to turn to for a small bite to eat.
Today, I no longer live in Orwell’s world, and I now understand that life is no fiction– that providing meals for our kids requires acknowledging reality, and that I need to step out of my comfort zone to face life, run lucrative businesses, and make a decent living.
At this allows me to still, occasionally, enjoy curling up with a book to read.