Guardians of childhood

Recently I went to the cinema with my mum and daughter. We watched ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’. I read the book a long time ago, and all I really remembered was that a homeless person found a most marvellous cat and it gave him hope to get his life back on track. What I entirely forgot was that it also deals with the subject of heroin addiction and recovery. Post film, this prompted a really interesting conversation with my daughter who wanted to understand why he suddenly became very ill, and I explained the process of withdrawal to her. Afterwards, it occurred to me this was one of the hard conversations that happenĀ during the process of growing up. Explaining to your child that the world is not straightforward and there are harsh things out there feels really bleak. It is also important not to overwhelm and to counter this with all the amazing things too. Of which there are many. And then I thought about the easier ‘hard’ conversations that I have engaged in with my daughter.

Father Christmas. The Easter Bunny. And most specifically, The Tooth Fairy. And whether or not these noble warriors of children’s existences, are actually real. For the most part, I have always taken the philosophical approach with my daughter, if we can talk about something, then it exists at some level. And then if further conversation was necessary, we would talk about if dreams or ideas were real.

This is where the conversation has become interesting for me. There seemed to be a clear separationĀ in my daughter’s mind about reality. She understands that there is a physical manifestation and there is also the non-physical, which is somehow less real but seems to have a good deal of validity. I guess we have always had these sorts of conversations, even when she was smaller. Possibly my favourite ponder of my child was when she was around five. We had just entered the car park where we lived, there were lots of spaces. She said ‘If you go into a car park and there is only space, then that is not a choice. One choice isn’t a choice at all’. Clearly, as an adult, I can see the wider applications of her words, but I often wonder if she did as well.

We have now had the logistical chat about the existence of ideas, and other than Father Christmas (who is based on an actual person, which makes him somewhat more contentious than the other characters) we are all good. I generally think that when a child asks a question, they are ready for an answer. Maybe not the most complex one, but one that is without fabrication and definitely holds some element of truth.

Map Point. What questions do I still want to ask?


Choices and Success

In some areas of my life, I know exactly what I want, what I truly desire and this makes things really simple. It doesn’t mean that any or all of these things are easy, but it does present a straightforward path to achieving them. However, where I struggle most is when I have a lot of ideas because choosing the right one to pursue can be somewhat overwhelming.

If I offered you a certain bar of chocolate, your choices are clear, either yes you do or no you don’t. If I took you to a wall of a hundred different bars of chocolate and said that you could choose only one, the decision making progress becomes infinitely bigger than a simple yes or no. And that how I feel about a good deal of my life, what to pursue, what not to, and this indecision can be crippling for me.

For me, it’s almost akin to hoarding. I have a plethora of options, currently with my career and discounting anyone of them can sometimes feel like a massive loss, the avenue not pursued might have been the perfect choice. But this I know is also a trade, by fully embracing any particular option, I am allowing myself the opportunity to succeed. But maybe success can be scary too.

I have been pondering how schools reward children. In my secondary school, if you were good at sports or music, you were showered with praise frequently (as is the case in most schools), but in reality, only the select few will truly shine in either of these areas, and what about everyone else, who gets to watch something that they don’t feel as if they will ever be a part of?

Now on one side of this, hard work should definitely be rewarded, if someone has achieved then this is a good thing to celebrate. But on the flip side, no matter how hard some children work, they simply won’t attain this, thus, the situation for them could be seen as demoralising. Ways to counter this perspective is perhaps based on giving children the tools to build their own self-esteem, irrespective of what they achieve.

This brings me to the idea of risk taking. If we are confident is who we are, then the idea of success or failure is almost irrelevant, it is simply another lesson to absorb and move on from. But if we are too scared of the idea of failure, then success is that much harder.

I have a lot of qualifications, and a whole host of skills, a proverbial jack of all trades. This has served those around me, my adaption to succeed in a whole host of small ways. Recently, I have begun to contemplate what it is that I actually want to fully succeed in. The path is clearing.

Map Point. Where in my life can I shine?


My love

I have loved photography since I was really young. I remember being incredibly excited to receive a ‘LeClic’ camera when I was around eleven. I took rolls of film, most of which was likely shocking, but it never deterred me. In my secondary school, we had an amazingly creative teacher called Mr. Caulderbank who loved photography, and he had a dark room adjoining his classroom. This was my first step into what I considered magic. The lights, the papers, the smell of the chemicals, I found this was a place that I felt instant familiarity, I felt home. By this point, I had my first SLR camera and I would invite friends over to pose for me. I loved the creation of the shot, making sure that everything was perfect before I committed it to film. My photography was improving massively. But somehow, despite my amazing passion, I never gave it priority, never thought of it as anything more than a hobby.

In my mid-twenties, I went to university to study media. I chose this course because I thought it would offer me skills in animation, which was something that I was beginning to enjoy at the time. It turned out that I didn’t particularly enjoy animation and by the end of my first year if it was raining on animation morning, I simply went back to bed (joy of being a student in a class with no registers). However what I did love was media theory, something that I am still massively passionate about. In my second year, the university put a photographic studio in. This was proverbial honey to me. I spent a lot of time in the studio, occasionally dragging people in (not usually literally). My love for photography was completely rekindled. On the course, we thought a lot about jobs and possible career choices, but even then in such an incredible environment, it still did not occur to me that I could make a living working with what I loved.

At this time I had just begun a new relationship with a musician. He was an incredibly gifted bass player. He worked hard to achieve this, and he also worked a lot of ‘function’ gigs where he got paid. For doing what he loved to do. It took me a while before the enormity of this sunk in, that someone could pursue music, or any creative endeavour, even photography as a job.

In my head when people had spoken about creative pursuits, I had always labelled it ‘hobby’, not a vocation or calling or passion. Creative pursuits were what you did when you got home from your entirely uneventful ‘proper job’. I don’t know where this particular mindset had stemmed from, possibly that was just what people did in my sphere growing up, and thus I never entertained any other choices.

When my daughter was around five, we were out driving and she was quiet for a bit, then suddenly spoke up ‘If you go to a car park and there is only one space, then that is not a choice’. These words resonated hard with me, I had been viewing my career mindset (and other mindsets too) as if there was only one goal, only one way to achieve, and if I didn’t do this the same way as everyone else then that would be failure. I had been judging myself against standards that I was never designed to fit. It was an empowering moment. If I suddenly had choices, what could I do?

Map Point. Where in my life does a fixed belief limit my choices?