Tomorrow I register for university. I am about to start my master’s degree. And whilst I know that this is utterly the right move and will be amazing, I am also scared. What if I cannot live up to my own expectations?
My brother was talking today about the lives that we had planned for ourselves when we were younger. Aged around eleven, I envisaged a life that involved going to university, working for a few years, buying a house, getting married, having babies and being ready for the (part-time) workplace again by the age of 35. It really never occurred to me that there was any variable contained within this. All of my friend’s parents had lived like this (the university was the added new variation, that was my school’s expectation added in for good measure!). Everyone I knew owned their own houses, the husbands worked ‘in town’ and the wives had part-time jobs or were full-time parents. Thinking back, this was my entire worldview, and despite my own circumstance (divorced parents, most anomalous in my world) this was still my expectation.
So I went to university at eighteen (still on track), fell in love with someone who was entirely inappropriate, got engaged (on track!), then left university in the middle of my second year (deviation, but we have still got this!), relationship ended (no white dress?) and it occurred to me that I was not living a life that I intended.
My friends from school (that I heard through generalised gossip) were living that life, my life. They had good jobs, marriages, houses and children. Possibly cars, dogs and expensive holidays too. But my life wasn’t fitting into such a neat boxes, my life was becoming perceptively different. At the time I was aware of this, but I wasn’t sure if my life was on the right path. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to deviate from my original plan.
I went to festivals, university, took holidays by myself, developed a love of facepaint, saw theatre, museums, had a couple of relationships, owned a house, didn’t own a house, played music, was a children’s nanny, worked in shops, offices, schools, cafes, shook hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury when I got my degree, had a baby, learnt sign language, became a single parent, grew a monster plant of aloe vera (it scares some of my friends), honed a muchly eclectic house, changed my politics and read enough books to fill a small library.
This had not been the plan. I was going to carry out scientific research in a lab and make pottery at weekends, alongside attending fancy dinner parties where everyone sparkled (I held a dinner party once, it was for six people, we all sat on the floor and the instruction at the beginning of the seven-course meal was to hang on to your cutlery, as I only had enough for one set per person. The meal was legend). And this would have been a good life. But now I recognise fully the life that I am actually living, it is abundant with new and sometimes chaotic enterprise! I do sometimes resent that I compared myself to the other life for so long. It is hard for me not to compare myself to others sometimes, but when I am comparing myself to an imagined perfection that never actually happened? That is much harder.
I am learning to accept that I am not already written. I am possibility.
Map Point. Do I fear the judgement of others?