Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Letting go of the old list

When I was in my teens, choosing subjects at school, I began to imagine what my life would be. How on earth was I to know whether I wanted to be a doctor, a hairdresser or a plumber when I knew very little of the world beyond my little all girls school?

But there we go. We are expected to be able to predict what will make us happy in the future and set ourselves a course through life. It's a bit like sticking a pin in a map.

Somewhere along the way a plan emerged that looked something like this....

Leave school

Go to University

Work for a while, and achieve some things

Get married at 30

Kids at 35

I achieved the first two, but dropped out of an architecture degree at 20 and had to start another course. Not going to uni was not considered to be an option, and my mother enrolled me in my second degree course.

The third is a work in progress, and I have done well so far. My own business, a professional qualification, work that makes a difference, much satisfaction – all in a career I didn't even know existed ten years ago. I started out in the art world, lost my job in a company takeover and changed tack completely but it's worked out well.

And the last two? Who knows if those things will ever happen for me?

The nice thing about reaching the upper age limit on my list is that it can now be discarded. It's never been a rigid thing but has somehow lurked in the back of my mind over the years. Until recently, I had never considered what I was going to do past 35 or if I didn't have kids. I still don't know.

What I do know is that I can just get on with living my life without conforming to any agenda that was expected of me, I've been nagged about it often and it has made me feel like a failure on occasion. My mother and society have the ability to make a girl feel rotten about her status in the world. I know I can ignore it, but if someone asks you often enough about your lack of husband or passes opinion frequently, some of the doubts will sink in.

I will move onwards, upwards with a world of the unknown in front of me.

PS Although I made to art college, albeit on the compromise of a 'sensible career' path, all I ever really wanted do was paint and make things. Perhaps one day I will upholster furniture and give up my laptop.


  1. or you could upholster furniture and keep your lap top too.

    I like this post for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that finally about 5 or so years ago I STOPPED all the pushing toward some intangible ideology and started finding out about ME. Society won't hold you up when your falling.
    Society cannot know my very essence and urge me on. Society in large part is many times WRONG about how to do it and how to go about doing it - LIFE that is.

    I appreciate this post as a woman. I am hoping for you and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Thanks Jennifer, perhaps I will! I think most of us harbour 'shoulds' in some way or another, and breaking free can be hard work. So glad to hear you set yourself free,


  3. Letting go of expectations (our own and others) is definitely liberating - yay for you moving onwards and upwards! Btw, I am envious of your number 3. My own map is so full of pinholes and no pins. Can't seem to leave one in long enough to get to a destination!

  4. Thanks and hey, you have chickens and a partner! I'll swap you....

    Having said that, work has worked ok for me because I chose an environment I wanted rather than a set career path thanks to a wise piece of advice I've neer forgotten (ie think about not what you want to do, but what environment do you want to work in? For example, I chose to reject suits, corporate structure, financial security etc, for flexible/meaningful work with a poor salary).

    How to you want to be, rather than what do you want to be? It's been a helpful way to see the benefits in the unexpected.

  5. Should read 'How do...' not 'to' - bad typing

  6. Thanks V! Very timely advice. I had begun to suspect that I was focusing on the wrong part, but it didn't occur to me to approach it from this angle.

  7. It's an interesting way of looking at things, and has made me realise what's important to me. Simple things like I don't mind working evenings and weekends and travelling if need be, but my old flatmate loved that he could switch off completely at 5pm and his time was entirely his own.

    So many ways to look at it - Do you like autonomy or being part of a stricter team structure. Could you work four days a week for less money, or is financial security important? I have a portfolio of work, rather than a single employer, some people prefer stability etc. Do you want to learn or relax knowing you can do it all already?

    Skills will always be transferrable, have the confidence to identify yours; creativity, strong writing skills etc. Make work work for your life and loves!