When I was a boy I was fascinated by spies and secret agents. James Bond, The Man from UNCLE, John Steed, The Saint, Danger Man and similar film and TV characters were my heroes. Many happy hours were spent devising secret codes, creeping around eves dropping on neighbours, writing notes in invisible ink and hollowing out books in which to conceal ‘weapons’. I don’t think I ever really thought that I would become a secret agent when I grew up but their world of intrigue, glamour, danger and subterfuge captivated me.
And, hardly surprisingly, I didn’t become a secret agent. Several decades and changes of career later, I find myself reflecting and wondering what happened to the dreams of the little boy who would so often embark on perilous missions to thwart the evil world domination plans of the man in the greengrocers.
Although it is easy to dismiss childhood fantasies as inconsequential and unimportant, I do actually believe that they can be valuable signs to what makes us happy and fulfilled and what we ‘should’ be doing with our lives. For the characteristics which attracted us to playing at doctors and nurses, cowboys and Indians or spies and secret agents are a part of who we are, stay with us as we grow and remain within us as adults.
So what did happen to my dreams? Well, although I’m not an international spy, in my current ‘portfolio career’ of actor, facilitator, life coach and trainer, I can identify a number of aspects which were also the attractions of the life of a secret agent.
The first of these is independence and freedom. Along with all my childhood heroes, I avoid the constraints of a regular 9 to 5 routine and experience an extraordinary degree of choice in when I work, where I go and what I do. I also get to meet a huge variety of interesting and diverse people (fortunately very few of them are actually out to kill me – which is a bonus compared to my childhood heroes) and often get to find out interesting things about them. (confidentiality in the coaching work also satisfies my penchant for secrecy..). In a similar vein, there is the common aspect of being a little out of the mainstream, ploughing my own furrow and being a bit of a rebel in terms of conforming to the norms of society.
Secondly, spies (or at least those on ‘our’ side) are out to do good and make the world a slightly better and safer place, something which I aspire to achieve in some, if not all, the work I do.
Then there is the need to be resourceful, find creative solutions to problems and use interesting ways of bringing about a successful end to the mission. Again, resourcefulness, ingenuity and creative thinking are tools that I make frequent use of in my daily life and try to foster in the people I work with.
Finally, of course I now realise that it wasn’t real spies that I was identifying with but actors playing the roles, so maybe it was the acting that I really wanted to do. And I’m happy to say that in various ways that did come true.