“It is never too late to be who you might have been” George Elliot
Tragically this quote is not an indication of a brilliant mind, but is merely the stolen last line from the season finale of ‘Brothers and Sisters’, which I watched during one of my son’s lunchtime naps last week. As well as saying my farewells to Kitty, Nora, Kevin et al, in the past week I have also completed a Cougar Town series 2 box set and the last ever episode of ’24’. My husband has been away for a couple of nights too which has meant I’ve had to tap into my reserve recordings and start watching the last five episodes of ‘Desperate Housewives’, which I have been trying to save because there will be no new TV until September and after they are done I have nothing left to watch.
A quick assessment of all of the above tells me that a) I watch too much trashy TV and b) if I have enough downtime in daylight hours to waste it watching this crap then maybe I should stop procrastinating and get on and do something with my life.
Problem is now would be a rubbish time to start, given I’m just about to go on the road for seven weeks. So having made the decision to turn off the TV and do something less boring instead I now can’t do anything until normal service is resumed in September. What I can do, though, is figure out the what. And suddenly, while this post is in its draft form, things are coming my way without me even looking. I was offered a one day acting ‘gig’ last week that could lead to more of the same, doing something that I love and am good at. I’ve also started meeting with potential business partners to get another, completely different project off the ground. It’s slowly taking shape, and as I begin to figure out how to manage this new phase of my life, my default ‘can’t do’ attitude is gradually being replaced with the faint whiff of optimism and entrepreneurial spirit.
Maybe sometimes all it takes is someone else to spur you on, so that you don’t feel like you’re going it alone. Being asked to come and work for someone because of the skills I had to offer gave me a real buzz that I haven’t felt in a long time. A different kind to the one you get being a mum, because it was all mine. And I realised just how much I have missed the kinship of working alongside anyone these past few years when I had my first meeting with my potential business partners. Motherhood is such a lonely job. I don’t think you ever realise how lonely until you stick your head above the parapet. To be able to share ideas and experiences beyond those of the under-3s was so refreshing – it made me feel like I’d given my brain a cold shower. Under a waterfall. In the middle of a beautiful rainforest full of birdsong. And talking to another person in a professional context who is also a mother made me realise that all my worries are for nothing – there is not a single issue I have that can’t be worked out somehow if I put my mind to it and turn off the damn TV.
I worry that I will make a wrong turn and what I commit to now will turn out to be just another notch on the career bedpost. I don’t know when I became this careful. Certainly when I was younger I never thought twice about the consequences of doing anything. My CV reads like about seventeen different people contributed to it. But on the question of what to do next with my life I keep getting stuck. As a world-class perfectionist of all things (or at least an attempt thereof), I don’t want to change my mind, or to fail, or to compromise my family for my own selfish needs. I live daily with the guilty knowledge that I can’t even be the full time mum I dreamed of being because my patience, or lack thereof, turns me from Mummy to Monster if I don’t get time off for good behaviour. I feel I failed myself by not living up to my own expectations, however unrealistic, and I vow everyday to be better. But at this point in my life I can’t and won’t repeat these feelings of inadequacy in my professional life as well. I want to be successful at whatever I choose next. I live with so much uncertainty – if or when we will leave Dubai, where we will go when we do – the tendency is to let these issues overwhelm my ability to make decisions, or to make change, or to do anything other than tread water.
But the more I think about it, the more I think: so what if it’s not the last job I ever have? I’m never going to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or an accountant, I don’t have a ‘calling’ as such, so why not just pack as much in as possible? Maybe a little reincarnation every few years isn’t such a bad thing. And why should my temporary situation in Dubai stop me from doing anything? I think I’m finally figuring out that I need to relax a little – and that it’s ok to make change as and when it feels like the right thing to do.
I’m not sure even in a perfect world, that there is ever a right time to go back to work, or start a business, or have a baby for that matter. It’s clear that returning to work in any capacity will alter life not just for me, but for my family too, and I want to make sure as much as I can that it is a positive experience for all of us. But I’m learning to accept (albeit rather slowly) that we will adjust, and although it might take a bit of time to get the balance right, we will get there.
And now I have an opportunity, or two, I don’t want to regret not taking them because I’m worried about what might happen if I do. I live in the land of dreams for goodness sake. If there’s one place in the world where you should aim high and believe anything is possible, it’s in this small city with (still) such big potential. It is, as Mr. Elliot rightly says, never too late to be who you might have been. But why leave it that long, especially when you have so much to get through?