In the beginning there was imagination: when I grow up I will be a writer, an intellectual that knows about everything and writes about everything and lives happily ever after in writing land. (I read a lot of French female authors while going through puberty.)
Then came the angst of late adolescence and the distinct failure to launch at anything. I just about managed to move to another city to start my student career, but I failed to become a successful student as I changed course after one year, dropped out after the second year to run off abroad for ten months to learn another language. When I came back, I started yet another course, which I managed to stick to and finish in order for me to fail the following promotion: launch myself into working life…. Instead I became pregnant. That has definitely been my best career so far: three children later and with the youngest firmly in her own adolescence stage, I have yet to launch myself in the dream world of success and independence.
I am unquestionably a disappointment to my generation as I could not manage to have it all. I have a husband, three children, friends, a house with a garden, a dog (that farts) and no career nor money.
Is there anyone out there who has it all….at all? Telling anyone that they can have it all is just a blatant lie, a stop cock to their moaning. A way of saying that it is their own fault if they have not got it. ‘You could have it all as long as you try’ is a barrier to looking at society and saying out loud and clear: some people can have it more than others, but no one has it all. Although we all have imagination and we may imagine that we or someone else (nearly) have it all.
Looking at other people and judging their life is a favourite past time of mine. Who does not know an example of a have-it-all-family? Little jealous thoughts floating in my head of she’s got it made: two rather well behaved children, the house, the extension to the house, a garden, a dog (that does not fart), a new car, the expensive holiday, the weekend away, an attentive husband …who is on his phone all the time. Turns out the husband is texting his latest fling and BOOM, CRASH, BANG my having-it-all-family is going through an acrimonious, angry and devastating divorce…..the grass seems greener until it dries up and turns yellow.
A lot of us must have this nagging feeling that what we are now is not what we had imagined ourselves to be when we started making our first tentative steps on the path to adulthood.
A lot of us must have this nagging feeling that what we are now is not what we had imagined ourselves to be when we started making our first tentative steps on the path to adulthood. I never imagined to be financially insecure at this age. Growing up and choosing what to do was always about what I’d liked to do. It was never about how will I take care of myself in the most possible secure way financially and emotionally. All that was held up to me was, ‘the world is your oyster and you can have what you want’. Yeah right! It seems that is not how society works.
Perhaps my generation is the first generation that has grown up with constant wealth, resulting in us being inherently selfish and greedy with a strong entitlement of having it all, but without the skills to be confident and content. There is a lot of noise about the difficulty Millenniums have launching themselves into the world of independence and self-reliance, but I think this has been a long time coming. My generation of 40 somethings (many of my friends have passed the 50 mark) are not as secure as my parents. Hooked on consumerism and seemingly having it made, we stay vulnerable until our off spring is secure and independent. How many of us 40+ are joyously looking forward to the day that our child is coming back from university, ready to move back into their old (box) room? Security for my parents meant that by the time they saw Abraham and Sarah the financial burden of looking after their children had subsided and it was time to start thinking of leisure time, perhaps reducing their working hours and renewing their furniture. My mum went to university when she was 48 and started working part-time again when she finished her degree. My dad reduced his hours soon after he turned 50 and retired when he was 60 years old. He was quickly replaced by a young teacher who was eternally grateful for allowing him to take up full-time hours and enabling him to move out of his parents’s house. Fast forward to today and my friend increased his working hours after he became 50 to pay off his debt and support his children through further education. Another friend felt pressurised into increasing her hours as she had been warned by her manager that part-time workers were at a greater risk to be made redundant in the next round of reorganisation than full-time workers. Is this even legal?
So yes, I clearly feel I have not reached my potential in this career driven society. My contribution to the world is dismal. There is a nagging feeling I could have – should have – done more to reach a goal – any goal. But then isn’t that my imagination again? Instead of imagining myself as a writer, now I am imagining myself as not having done anything in the last 30 years. The fact that I am guiding three children into launching themselves into this chaotic world as independent beings – financially and emotionally, sturdy enough to stand on their own two feet – that I have a part-time job and a house with a garden, a farting dog and a loving husband, is perhaps more than I ever imagined a fully launched human being could be.