I spent part of today reading the Wikipedia entry for Jordin Sparks (don’t ask; I’m just an inveterate clicker of HtML links, and have a tendency to let them lead me to the more obscure parts of the WWW).
I’d gotten there via Jesse mc Cartney, Leona Lewis, David Arugula Archangelo Argueletta, all winners of American idol or it’s UK Equivalent X Factor, and, reading Ms Sparks’ entry, a thought struck me:
Here’s this girl, who’s just a normal, everyday kid, with a certain amount of talent - not an Einstein, but personable, and talented nonetheless - who wins a competition and suddenly her life changes.
She’s flying round the world, recording a lead vocal in LA, a Backing track in New York, meeting producers in Miami (OK, so, to date, she’s mainly flying around the US, but she’s done some overseas promotion, trust me), and it must all be so very exciting: The first class flights (cos you know she wont be flying coach or that jumped up coach - mid class) the fancy hotels, the sudden seismic shift in your lifestyle and your life experience.
And I remembered what it feels like. When I started at a little Japanese Derivative house in ‘93, I went from just another banking grunt at a huge faceless monolith where all grunts were just that - faceless, replaceable non-entities - to being a grunt at a company that had taken the decision - unusual even in those days - to hire the absolute best they could get, treat them as well as they possibly could, and demand a 100% commitment.
We worked long looooong days, weekends, nights, bank holidays, New Years, whenever; but in return, they paid: My salary went, within a short period of time to levels that nobody in my family had ever earned, and the bonuses (at a time when the company I was working for was making per capita profits miles beyond their competition) were satisfactorily high.
But more than that, there were the Business Class trips. To New York, to Hong Kong; the limousines and the 5 star hotels (and, later, when the volume of people travelling to New York made Hotels a ridiculously expensive prospect, the apartments in Manhattan with Balconies and Penthouse Fitness Suites looking out over the Statue of Liberty).
The dinners at top restaurants - everywhere from Balthazar and Pravda in New York to Quaglinos and the Butlers Wharf Chop House in London (this was before the inexorable rise of the Celebuchef, though I do recall a trip to an early Ramsey place).
All now, somehow, tainted as symbols of greed and hubris. But, back then, they weren’t; they were what I said above: Recompense. They said “You are not just worthless cannon fodder; you are a star, and we expect you to behave - and produce - accordingly. And, in return, we will open unto you a world of Limos and Luxuries.
And I LOVED it.
I still have vivid memories of my first business trip to New York (only the second time I’d been there). Of being upgraded to the front seat in the upstairs lounge, and of the door to the cockpit becoming unlocked and swinging open as we took our night time descent into JFK (could you imagine that happening in a post 9/11 world?); of the magic of looking down on the bejewelled black quilt of Manhattan by night from the vantage point of the captain of a 747. Of standing in front of a wall of window in my room - not a suite, but to a boy raised in a two up two down, the epitome of Luxury - on one of the upper floors of the Downtown Millennium at night as Broadway snaked like a glittering yellow brick road beneath me.
Of calling my parents. From the phone in the toilet. And being genuinely - childishly - amused at the concept of having a phone by the crapper (this was in the days before mobiles; seems like every time I head to the loo nowadays, someone’s standing at a urinal, dick in one hand, cell phone in the other, deep in conversation with their mother).
Of the magic and wonder you can only experience when you look up from your desk on the 80th floor of the much missed World Trade Centre and look out at clouds beneath you, with the tip of the Chrysler building poking through them in the distance.
Of meeting people - people from other countries, other cultures, other worlds, it sometimes seemed, and finding so much in common, and of finding how much you liked them and how much they liked you. Of being unguarded and open and, somehow, all together in this amazing adventure.
Of being Toto and Dorothy and The Lion and Tin Man and Scarecrow all rolled into one.
And it was - there is no other word for it - wonderful. Every day was exciting, filled with wonder, filled with hard - often stressful - work; but I was learning so much, and I felt the tectonic plates moving beneath me; my life (and David’s, cos we both shared this adventure) was changing, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in scary ways, and, in some areas, seemingly, not at all; but my life was changing as a result of what I was experiencing, and, I just knew, would never be the same again.
And now, it’s changed. And I look at the Jordin Sparks and the Leona Lewis’s of this world (there are only entertainment examples to be had; nobody in Finance is having that sort of excitement nowadays, believe me) and I know how it must feel for them.
And I wonder: Is that it? Have I had my excitement? Is my life - the changed, and, believe me, no-regrets-changed life I have today - fixed now?
Or is there still magic out there, waiting to be discovered?