Title courtesy of that great philosopher Meatloaf…blog post content by me.
As another birthday approaches (no, I can’t believe it, either) I can’t help reflecting on how my attitude to life has changed over the last couple of decades.
Looking back, as I was growing up, I assumed that the aim in life was to get it right and then stay there. I had an idea (largely unarticulated, even to myself) that once I had “got there” or “made it” I could stop striving, metaphorically put my feet up and cruise for the rest of my adulthood.
It took me a really long, long time to realise that life really, really doesn’t work like that.
Unfortunately I spent quite a long time – particularly in my 20’s and early 30’s) getting increasingly frustrated that I hadn’t “got there”.
As time went on, I became increasingly unsettled that I seemed to be losing sight of where or what “there” was.
And it took me even longer to realise that “there” kept evolving anyway. And even longer again before it hit me that living the same way for the rest of my life would be boring at best.
Of course, some people seem to know exactly what they want: they have clear goals from a young age, work towards them and achieve them. Looking from the outside, what the rest of us don’t see is the times they try something and fail, then try something again, maybe slightly differently. We don’t see what those people might give up along the way and what they might wish they could change. We just see the shining, successful exterior which matches with what we thought they always wanted.
By contrast, I grew up accepting the received wisdom (largely from my parents) that what a reasonably bright working class girl needed to do was to work hard at school, get good qualifications and get a good job.
Then to succeed at that job by er, working hard. (There seems to be a theme here).
I assumed that at some stage I would get to a certain level of prestige, income etc at work at which I felt comfortable, and then I would reap my reward.
Instead, work got harder and harder, expectations increased…I started to realise that life isn’t really like a mountain where you climb and climb until you reach the top. It’s more like an Escher painting where a great deal of striving uphill can get you back to the same or almost the same place, or possibly somewhere totally unexpected. Life isn’t a linear progression, it’s more a series of vistas, some more delightful than others, some rather less so but all new in some way.
Of course, in some ways, working that out was the easier part…what to do about that new realisation? If there was no longer a need to spend my time focusing on a pre-defined (albeit imaginary) goal, what should I be doing, and what had it all been for?
I’m not sure I’ve worked out the answer yet, but I have made some radical changes…I’ve moved from the city to the middle of the countryside; and after over twenty years of full-time employment I’m trying out self-employment for the first time. After years of being office based, I’m now working from home. Relying on the work I can generate as an individual rather than being part of a much bigger machine.
Although I have spent some time setting out my goals and ambitions for the business, I don’t know where this will take me…but I do know that I’m learning and growing and wherever the journey ends I should have some fun along the way.