A decade or more ago, the female vocalist Dido sang “Life for Rent,” it is a song that has lingered in the consciousness, asking questions, provoking reactions. Dido sang of allowing opportunities to pass without knowing why this would happen. why didn’t she do the things that she had always wanted to do? Why did she not follow her dreams?
I’ve always thought
that I would love to live by the sea
To travel the world alone
and live my life more simply
I have no idea what’s happened to that dream
Cos there’s really nothing left here to stop me
The success of the album on which the track appeared suggests that Dido’s lyrics found a resonance with many thousands of listeners, that there were many people who asked similar questions, many people who might have followed their dreams, but for various reasons had never chosen to do so.
It’s odd. Why do people choose to be unhappy? If there are responsibilities to be fulfilled, then that is a reasonable explanation, but, otherwise, why would anyone choose not to do the thing they wanted?
In the days when sweatshirts bore slogans rather than designer labels, there was one that declared, “This is not a dress rehearsal,” yet there is an attitude that suggests it is, that somehow we will get another chance. Looking back at reading Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one meets with that sense of one’s life having drifted by:
Our names shouted in a certain dawn … a message … a summons… there must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said-no. But somehow we missed it.
(He looks round and sees he is alone.)
(He gathers himself.)
Well, we’ll know better next time.
Guildenstern expresses a common sentiment – that we shall get it right next time round; that when the opportunity arises, we will do it our way, that we will live the life of our dreams, but, of course, we won’t. We won’t, because it will not be possible to do so; we won’t because the times are forever gone.
“I have no idea what’s happened to that dream,” sang Dido. Maybe there were many who felt like her, wondering where it was that they missed the opportunity of going the way they would have chosen. Perhaps her younger listeners learned well the lesson in her lyrics; sometimes, for some of us, though, it’s too late to learn.