I was trying to think what to write today, and I was struggling. I’d come up with an idea, not sure, think of something else, decide on that, change my mind. . . I gave up altogether for a while. Then it occurred to me that maybe I was having trouble because recently I’ve been thinking about my life: where I’m at right now, where I’d expected to be, whether or not I’d done the best I could, going over past decisions to try and remember if I’d made what was the right choice at the time. I think everyone does this now and again, evaluating their life. This is something I came up with that I felt might be worth sharing. . .
Practically from the moment we’re born we start taking in the world around us. Voices, people, places, and things we’re told combine to give us our own idea of how the world is, what is acceptable, and what is expected of us. Some people follow in their parents footsteps, some feel the need to find a different place or path all their own, some are driven to change the world.
I fell into the ‘follow your parents’ category. From a very young age I knew I would go to school, then university, get a job, marry, have children. Was this what I really wanted? I have no idea. I didn’t assume it would be easy, but I knew this was how my life should – and would – go.
Fast forward to today. I went to school and finished with a bunch of GCSE’s. I went to college and just about made it out of there. I went to university more or less – it was only sensible to go to one close to home, and the course I did was um. . . Okay, I don’t know how to describe that. But: for various reasons I didn’t end up with a job, I’m not married, I don’t have children, and I still live at home.
(I’ve heard there are more people in a similar sort of situation these days than you expect.)
What this means is that I am no longer in the ‘follow your parents’ category, I have popped out into somewhere else altogether. So what now? Do I be my usual stubborn self, cling to my childhood 5-step vision of how the world is and how my life will be, try to drag myself back to it? Because that’s what a big part of me expects. It’s what a certain voice in my head wants, prickling away at me, whispering things like, writing can’t be a proper job; you have to marry before you have children; you’re meant to move out of your parent’s house, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. . .
If I ignore that voice though, set aside what I think other people expect of me and what I expect of myself, and ask what I really want, what then? Well when I really thought about it I realised I’d never had any interest in having ‘a career’, or in ‘having it all’. I didn’t want it all. A job was always going to be a stepping stone for me, something I had to do for a little while. Then, once I was married and had children, I would stay home to look after them.
And just like that, I found the answer to that horrible question that had haunted me since middle school, ‘so what do you want to be when you grow up?’
Now I could – if I was brave enough – reply with, ‘I want to be a parent and I want to be there at home to raise my children’. Of course, it’s not so simple as that. For one thing this answer won’t help me in an interview when they ask where you see yourself in five years’ time! It’s also seen as old-fashioned, and a number of people look down on it for whatever reason. But apparently that simple truth is at the heart of me. Everything else – the job, getting married, moving out – it’s dressing things up nicely, being what I thought was acceptable, doing what was expected.
Expecting certain things and planning to have your life go a certain way isn’t wrong. But life isn’t always so obliging. You need to be prepared to change your vision of the world, change your view of how your life is going to be. Adapt to what is sent your way. Would my life have followed my plan if I hadn’t had ME/CFS? Maybe, maybe not. There’s no way to know and I’m not sure I’d want to know either. Because this is my life, and you have to play with the hand you’re dealt, even if sometimes that means folding. Because once you fold, if you wait a while, you’ll get dealt a new hand.