When I was a kid I wanted to be a zookeeper. I have no definitive explanation for why this was the case. Yet from as early a time as I can remember I harboured a passion for animals and an inexplicably deep attraction to the beings of the natural world.
My interest was not fed by encounters with real Iife creatures, or even visits to zoos or wildlife parks as one might imagine. I was instead the proud possessor of a large set of plastic zoo animals, complete with cages, other paraphernalia, and even figures of zoo keepers. At a very early age I could identify such relatively unknown species as Okapi, Tapir, and Capybara with consummate ease. But I would have to say that nothing about custodianship of a plastic menagerie was ever an incentive to become a zookeeper. I was quite capable of distinguishing between what was kept in a cupboard and a lifelong vocation.
My thirst for knowledge of the animal kingdom was fed by parents who quickly realised that to keep me happy at birthdays or Christmas, all they had to do was buy me a toy animal; or latterly, a new book about animals. An impressive library of age appropriate material soon filled a bookshelf in my room. I never tired of just looking at the pictures, but learning about habitats, eating preferences and behaviours, the stuff that is bread and butter for zoo keepers, was definitely not my bag.
Naturally enough, my animal fixation did eventually lead to visits to a variety of zoos and wildlife parks. But I found these to be a tragic and depressing disappointment. Zoos in particular were quite distressing even as a naïve and unaware child, and I can remember the almost palpable discomfort of seeing beautiful and vibrant creatures confined in ridiculously small, dark and unpleasant spaces. Clearly it was not the environment that induced my interest with zoo keeping.
The truth is that I had my own clear notion of what a zookeeper did. It had a great deal more to do with having an empathetic and synergistic relationship with those whom they cared for than it did with mucking out and feeding. The role transcended basic human needs of providing income and job security. It was in itself enough of a fulfillment without need for career progression, financial reward, title or approbation. Simply having the privilege of looking after the animals was everything. So from the earliest age I can remember I would tell any adult that asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up that I would be a zookeeper. And nobody challenged me.
I still recall with vivid clarity the day my mother sought to dispossess me of my confident belief in what the future held for me. When I had not long turned ten I was once more averring my intention to be a zookeeper when she explained that perhaps it wasn't such a good idea. Being a zookeeper apparently did not pay a lot of money, and you needed money to survive. If I wanted to work with animals, why not be a zoologist instead? I didn't know what that was, but I was persuaded and my (at that point) lifelong ambition was shamelessly discarded in seconds. But I gave up the idea of zoology when I discovered that it was all about scientific study, and that I hated science. It was a mere three years later when my mother planted the idea in my head that I should be a lawyer, and from that point on, my future was sealed. I would never be a zookeeper. Or so it seemed.
So what's the point of this blog? What point am I trying to make aside from offering an extended rambling about a vaguely amusing aspect of my personal life? Well it should be quite obvious that despite everything that happened in my career, I did ultimately become a zookeeper of sorts. My need to connect with the animal kingdom was so strong that in hindsight, it was inevitable that I would end up as the keeper of some form of menagerie. But that's not the point.
Deep within all of us, unseen and largely unawares, there lurk forces of impetus that impel us upon the pathways we always intended to tread. We have defined these pathways for ourselves before we ever incarnate and we tread them so as to best meet the requirements of the learning that is for our highest good.
What we do and our attraction to it may not be as obvious as it has been for me. It is often the case that it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we may recognise those forces which have been at play within our lives. Only when we look back can we see the significance of what at the time seemed inconsequential or lacking in meaning and purpose.
Even the hardest, most chaotic, disrupted and even painful lifetimes are of value to us and to those who are around us. In the apparent absence of clarity of goal, direction and purpose, if we so choose we may still find it in ourselves to have confidence in the value of what we have done and what we will do. One day, all of the seemingly disparate and disconnected pieces that have made up our lives will fit together in a way that makes perfect sense. Sometimes we just have to be patient.
Irrespective of what life throws at us, we should rejoice. No matter how it seems, our lives are rich and full and relevant. All those things that are happening and all those things that will happen are meant to be. In our contemporary societies that seem to encourage an ever increasing amount of whining and dissatisfaction, we might do well to remember that we are the orchestrators of our own destiny and, as the ancient Anglo Saxons would have put it, "Wyrd bid ful araed". Fate is inexorable.