Do you ever feel like you are doing exactly what you’re told to do? Going through the motions like you’re expected to? Finish high school when you’re 17 or 18, go to university or college (or maybe get a trade), get a job you can grow into, find someone to love, get married, buy a house, have kids… Feels like you’ve been there?
Then what happens? It’s a long time before you a grandparent… Is this the time that we wonder what happened, wonder if we did it right, wonder if we are happy with how our lives are?
Maybe that’s the mid-life crisis we all go through as we taxi our children around to all their extra-curricular activities, juggle work commitments with home commitments and stress out about all the things we ‘may’ or ‘may not’ have missed out on. I know for myself, I didn’t get to travel after I left school or in my twenties… I went straight into the responsibility of sharing a flat, working to a budget and finishing my studies. Then I overlapped my first ‘real’ job with the end of my studies, promoted myself up the ranks with different jobs and then started my own business, which I’ve been a slave to ever since. And being a business owner has so many different stresses – when will my clients pay me? Will I have enough work this month to cover my bills? Will I ever be able to go on a holiday? It took me 8 years after I started my business to actually take some time off and tell my clients to find someone else to do the work while I was away for 10 days… and that killed me inside, not knowing that they might actually find someone better than me to replace me. Luckily they never did, so I took more and more time off to appease my need for travel and getting out of my little cave that I found myself in.
So, as we’ve had our children, I’ll say that we are in the age group of 35-55 who have the ‘wondering itch’ of what could have been done better, if you could go back again, what would you do better?
It’s a tricky question, because you wouldn’t be who you are today if you did anything differently. You may not have had the same kids, or spouse, or ex-spouse, IF you decided to back-pack around Europe in your Gap Year instead of going to uni or starting a full time job. For me, I think the ‘process’ was so ingrained in me that I didn’t know how to think any differently. If I had to do it all again, I think travelling the world would be a priority. I would still have wanted to have kids in my late twenties, therefore I would have possibly latched onto anyone who was interested in having babies in ‘my time frame.’ I think there is still life in your late 40s/early 50s to still feel young enough to enjoy the world when your children have gained their independence from you, but you see the world through different eyes and I would have loved to have had that chance. (Maybe I’ll see the world in a different light when I’m travelling around in my 60s!)
But really, why do we follow the rulebook or ‘the process?’ Why do we care about what people think in how we live our lives? Why do people put emotional pressure on us to be ‘like them?’ A classic example I saw the other day on a friend’s Facebook post was ‘isn’t it time that you’re thinking about having No 2?’ What a horrible thing to say… they don’t know the circumstances of why they haven’t had No 2 yet, or even if they want No 2. But it’s the ‘process’ – the expectation that we follow what our peers do and what our parents did before us. There’s more to life than living the ‘process’ – we just have to be strong enough to know what it is that we want to defy it.