Friday, 13 February 2015

Perfection? I'll have some Perspective please

For the over-achievers, dreamers and impatient souls amongst us.

In films and television (even the deceivingly feel-good faves, like Bridget Jones and Friends), the age of 30 is this looming deadline by which you must have perfected your life. We feel like we have to have successful and rewarding careers, a wedding ring or at the very least be engaged to The One, have a baby on the way, a mortgage, a 5-door car, at least one investment designer handbag and a good anti-ageing skin regime. 

I understand this crazy need to perfect and work, work, work to achieve. When I was 18 I would have told you with absolute certainty that I was going to be engaged by 27. My fiance and I would both want a couple of extra years for our amazing careers before we actually got married at 29. Then after a year of blissful marriage, we would try for a baby. I’d get pregnant and have a baby boy first (his little sister to follow 3 years later), and I’d take a year - no more, no less - out of work, before returning to run my media empire and seamlessly juggle a perfect career/family balance. 

I’m turning 24 this year and I can safely say that none of that will happen to plan. Some of it will happen, eventually, but heck knows when. 27 feels way too young to be settling down, and thanks to my fear of commitment there is about a 2% chance of me being engaged in 3 years time. 

As for babies… I do hear that ticking body clock. My sister in law is in the process of IVF after a few long years of trying to get pregnant. It’s not a situation I want to be in. And yet, if I fell pregnant tomorrowI'd be straight down the clinic for all the anti-baby pills, because I don’t want that until I'm ready… if I'll ever be. I've actually recently decided to remove babies from my agenda completely. Not because I don't want to be a mother - I do - but because, to be perfectly honest, I have enough to worry about just now.

So with the personal stuff, I’m in no hurry. However, when it comes to my career, patience is not a word I recognise or understand. I want to be at the top of my game, immediately. I want to be like Tay Tay and Lena, and all the other phenomenal twenty-somethings who have found mind-blowing success.

My ambition and determination is such that, quite seriously and in light of a recent news story, I worry about my own suicidal tendencies taking over if by 30 I am not in a good place. How awful a thing to say is that? Bloody awful, that’s how. I even bloomin' tweeted about just that weeks ago. But I write the truth and nothing but on here, and I don't think I'm alone in feeling this immense pressure we're put under.

Ambition is great, goals are important. But do you know what else is really bloody crucial to life? Perspective!! 

It’s something I struggle with and something my friends are constantly trying to drill into me. With this in mind, here is a Friday gift of the harsh but reliable perspective I repeat to myself.

1. I will be in my perfect job by 25. By 30, I’ll either be head of my department, or running my own company.
Wowza, go me! Those are totally achievable goals and I am probably well on my way to getting them. But if I screw up that interview, if someone else gets the promotion, or if I get to 23 and I realise my dream job isn’t what I thought it would be, that’s ok too. Do you know how many people work jobs they hate? The very fact that I care about my job puts me a step ahead already. And at the rate pensions are going, we will probably have to work until we’re 80, so I might as well take my time figuring out exactly what I want to do. 
And I kind of do know what I want to do now. I think I've figured it out. I am leagues ahead, friend. It’s all down to me now - isn’t that a comforting thought? And I have all the time in the world, despite what that dumb voice in my mind is whispering. At 23, most kids are still romping around Thailand.

2. I’m going to meet The One and we’ll be engaged by my 27th birthday.
There are billions of men in the world. Chances are I'll meet “The One” several times, at the most inconvenient moments, but that’s all part of the fun. And if I'm going to spend the rest of my life with him, why such a rush? What’s a couple more years of being wild and single, compared to fifty+ years growing old with my man? Relationships are hard work and marriage a lifelong commitment - I’m going to enjoy my freedom and get to know myself before I attach onto another human being. No, the good ones will not all be gone if I don’t hurry up: repeat - billions of men out there. 

3. I want a baby by the time I’m 30.  
If I get to a place where a baby is a good idea before my uterus shrivels up, fab. If not there are millions of pre-made babies needing loving homes and parents and maybe I can do more good that way. Really, I don’t see why looking like a whale and pushing a miniature human through your vagina is such a life-goal for some women anyway. But each to their own. 
If I start to feel maternal, I'll get a pet again. I guarantee I will soon mourn the days where no one depended on me. (And equally, getting a pet with your then-partner is a very effective test to see if I want to make babies with him. Does he ever empty the litter tray? No? Well he ain’t ever gonna change nappies and do the night-time feed, is he?). 

4. I must have a mortgage before I have children.
In London? Hahahaha. 
Let’s get out of that student overdraft first, shall we babes? I will own my house one day and it’s important to start saving. But realistically, I am not in the financial position for that right now and that is fine. I will be. And it will be all the sweeter for the wait and hard work.  

5. I have so much I need to achieve and no time.
No one has time. Time is an abstract notion we have invented so our puny brains can comprehend the world. I could die tomorrow and that isn’t a reason to worry about the future, it’s a reason to cherish today. I would regret spending my last day on earth being stressed and unhappy. I wouldn’t regret the fact that I hadn’t been to the gym.
Or I could live to be 106. Then I’ll just laugh at how unnecessarily I worried about turning a measly 30 and wish I could be 30 again. And I’ll look back on everything I achieved in my life and it will be magnificent. Or I won’t remember anything at all and I’ll be a wrinkled vegetable waiting to die. But either way I won’t be able to say I didn’t have enough time.
The point is we have no idea how much “time” we have, so just bloody get on with it.     
6. I need to figure out what I’m meant to do with my life.
For real? Unless Jesus himself has come down and said, “Figure it out, you have a purpose!” I wouldn’t worry (and even then, I’d check I wasn’t high/poisoned/asleep/drunk first). Because I’m pretty sure my life is totally insignificant to everyone but me and my immediate friends/family. Why am I so special that if I don’t get promoted I’m letting the whole human race down? Take the pressure off, seriously.
There are millions of planets out there and our little Earth is but a pebble amongst them, teeny tiny and unworthy of attention from aliens. And that is GOOD. There is no pressure from anyone or anything but ourselves. I don’t owe the universe anything other than to not be a dick and to not screw up the planet too much (it’s just rude guys - think of the poor sods who’ll have to live here next century). 

7. My life has to be perfect.
Geez. My life is pretty damn good, ok? Even without looking at the starving children in Africa and the oppressed women in the middle-east, my life is awesome. I have amazing friends, I have an education, I have Cadburys mini-eggs and I have some cracking new playlists on my Spotify Unlimited. Why do I keep shitting on all the good things I’ve got? What, just because I’m not Instagramming a picture of my tanned legs on a Thai beach, my life is worthless? Screw that, my life is mine and I love it.
My life doesn’t have to be like anybody else’s and it never will be anyway, so comparing is pointless. Giving myself deadlines is pointless. 

This week a young woman tragically took her own life because she was turning 30; she had not achieved what she had expected and felt like too much of a failure to carry on. It sounds extreme but what’s scarier is that I think every woman can empathise. The fact that this caring, adventurous and beautiful young woman felt she no longer deserved to live is deeply saddening. 

This post is dedicated to Rachel Gow and all the twenty-somethings out there feeling like they're shitty human beings because their life isn't a romantic comedy. A little perspective goes a long way and I reckon that when you look back, you'll be amazed at how much you've achieved and grown. 

There's no great secret to life. There are no rules, no deadlines, no expectations. You will proceed to the next level if you haven't got a perfect life by 30. So let's just all be kind to one another and do our best, k?