‘To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear!
To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse –
that cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory!’
– Richard Adams
Watership Down and the lesser-known Tales From Watership Down are two of my all-time favourite books. I’ve read and reread Watership Down and fall in love with it every time, which means I relished the chance to revisit the world when I discovered the tales. I popped down the rabbit-hole again when writing my dissertation at university. My question was: ‘Is fulfilment possible?’ And the work was a discussion on utopia, dystopia and the theology of hope, composed partly because the subject fascinates me and partly as an excuse to read as much utopian literature, fact and fiction, as I could get my hands on.
At Cambridge, there was a wee group of us known amongst ourselves as the bunnies. I’m not exactly sure how this evolved, except perhaps out of the habits of my then roommate, who 1. loves bunnies, and 2. addresses everyone with this endearment. The bunnies were my close-knit fellowship in college. Perhaps if we’d pursued Footlights, The Bunnies could have been the next Monty Python. Anyhoo, this post is dedicated to them (the bunnies, not Monty Python).
But, what does this all have to do with the corporate world? I hear you wonder. Well, that’s where I left idealistic Cambridge to go. I struck forth for The City, the big-smoke, the bigger pay-packet, the twinkling lights, the buzzy brilliance. It’s known as selling out for a reason and the corporate world was not for me. However, while it’s not where I’m supposed to be, connecting with that world was an important and valuable step on my journey.
The same can be said for Hazel and his companions when they touch other warrens on their quest for Watership Down. Although Efrafa is a dystopic nightmare of a warren, with safety bought at the price of freedom, the rabbits met there by Bigwig and the lessons learned there are beyond valuable for the warren founded by the wanderers.
Fiver has a vision. It’s not just for somewhere where the grass is greener and not just for somewhere that isn’t under imminent risk of extermination. His is a dream of a better place – a safe, peaceful, just society, where it’s possible for someone like Hazel to be made Chief Rabbit. On the way, they encounter Cowslip’s warren. There is certainly peace and plenty here and nearly all of the band are seduced by it, but they discover that the cost is the risk of death and the disconnection from those who meet it.
Life at Ernst & Young hit its peak when I was sent to Edinburgh, seconded to Lloyds Banking Group to work for Scottish Widows. For me, this was a prettier place and I was happy, to a point. I even found myself thinking, I could be happy here, less stressed, I could stay. But there were still the snares of long hours and work I wasn’t passionate about, which could jump up and grab you at a moment’s notice. I’m not saying that EY is the corporate equivalent of Efrafa, by the way; I very much enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot. Some of the people I met there are among my best friends. And many thrive in the corporate world and love their work. Equally, however, I know many who feel lost and trapped. It wasn’t the warren for me, and in this post I’m writing for others who wish they could escape somehow and end up somewhere they love.
I’ve now found my Watership Down. I’m as far away from The City as you can get over here in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s not just the place, though; it’s what you do there. I’m building a business so that I can make a living doing something I love. It’s not been easy, but it’s been worth every hop of the journey to get here. I extend the warren of my work every day and I hope for others to follow their dreams too. So, I ask you this: Where is your Watership Down? And how are you going to get there?