Sunday, 17 June 2012

What do you live for?

These kind of thoughts always seem to come to me in the wee hours of the morning when I'm drifting between sleep and consciousness. Why is that? As if I'd really rather be philosophical and contemplative than SLEEPING?!

Still, it's something I've been thinking about a fair amount recently in one way or another. Funny though, it's one of those little phrases that you hear so much it becomes almost meaningless. Until one day you find yourself really asking yourself the question, and suddenly it's the most important answer you ever looked for.

My whole life, I have had visions of what I would like from my own future. It began with
"I want to be a princess and live in a tower with a dragon" until it became clear that real human girls don't actually morph into Disney characters as they grow up. And so then it was:
"When I grow up I want to be an astronaught. Either that or I'm going to open my own cafe and make cakes all day" (at the time, the two options didn't seem so far apart as they do now).

And as my life shuffled on, my ambitions shifted and morphed through vet, fashion designer, unemployed housewife and mother with at least 3 kids, painter, interior designer, illustrator, graphic designer... as if I was playing out my own future in my head until I found enough reasons not to do it.

But then last night it occurred to me clearly for the first time... those things on my list... they're not who I am... they're what I am. And this is where it gets complicated.

I think it's another case of not living by everyone else's rules. Because to me, it seems that we spend the first 25-30 years of our lives living by the question "What do you do?" (it changes from what WILL you do to what DO you do around about year 18-20) before we realise our lives are in our own hands and we start thinking about whether it's actually what we want. As if our jobs are the most important thing in our lives.

Are they?

I mean, we have options here, though very few of us choose to take them. We don't have to spend forty of our ninety-odd waking hours a week trapped in some office or behind some counter. But it's what almost everybody does. And then when we're introduced to someone new, they ask us 'So, what do you do?' and we reply 'Oh, I work in this office in town. It's pretty sweet, I sit in front of this computer screen all day and I get lots of money.'

OK, so maybe that's not it word for word, but the answer will inevitably be something along those lines. I know because it's what I've been doing for the last 8 years... invariably subsituting 'sweet' for 'shite', 'computer screen' for 'till' and 'lots of money' for 'bugger all money'.

And so we all go around introducing ourselves as our jobs. Why is it that we do this? Why, when faced with the question 'So, what do you do?' why don't we reply 'I make music on my computer and then I go out to nightclubs and get wasted and dance for hours and hours and talk rubbish to people. Then when I've got over my hangover I get in my car and I drive to the beach and I go surfing. Then I find pubs that serve gorgeous food and I take my friends there and we laugh and eat and drink all night. Then I curl up in my amazing feather duvet and drink tea and watch anime films. Or I make more music on my computer until I have to go to work.' Doesn't all that say more about a person than which computer or till they sit behind?

The point I am meandering towards is that I am concerned about my own ambitions and my own answer to the question 'what do you do?'

Last night, I realised that the question 'what do you do' is so closely linked to 'what do you live for' and yet at the same time, it's so far apart from it. They should be the same thing, shouldn't they? Everyone can give answers to the question 'what do you live for?' All you need to do is think of the things that make you the happiest. And if you want happiness from your life, shouldn't you be doing what you are living for? But how many people can answer both questions with the same answer?

I thought about what I live for and this is what I came up with:

sunshine and blue skies
cosy pub evenings
travelling to exciting new places
great food
great sex
great hugs
great kisses
curling up in my duvet on a winter day with a mug of coffee and a good book
creating a masterpiece I can be proud of

It seems sad that nobody can make a life from these things, because to live a life, we need money. It's a closed circuit: without money, I couldn't have any of those things in my life, to get money, I have to give some of those things up. There is no job where you can get paid to create beautiful things, go to festivals with someone who's really good in bed, and spend the whole time dancing and eating amazing food, then curl up in the evening with a good book and a duvet.

Oh... on second thoughts... this description is sounding familiar... sounds like my last 2 summers... hmmm. Except that I never made any money, it only barely paid for itself.

And this it the crux of the whole matter for me. Because if I choose to live my life by the things I love, I will never have enough money to buy my own house. I will always be in debt. I will never settle down into a career. I will never be able to buy expensive furniture or electronics. I will never own a pair of designer sunglasses.

So which do I choose?

Well the choice is made I suppose. Here I am living it. I never liked designer sunglasses anyway.

they're just not me...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Being a single woman

Before reading this, I think it'd help you to understand where I'm coming from here: of course, this is not a blog specifically aimed at women by any means! But on this one occasion, I'm writing from a very personal perspective, which happens to be that of a 28 year old woman who has 'offcially' (in naming terms at least) been single for about five years. I'm writing for myself as much as for anyone else who feels frustrated, confused, proud, glad, angry (etc) about being single.

If you are a woman who understands these words, your first pleasure can be found in the knowledge that you have experienced something in life that many others haven’t. If you are a woman who truly understands these words, then you can add a further gratification (even if it’s a bittersweet one) in knowing that you have felt feelings that many others haven’t. What is life anyway, if it’s not to experience and feel things?

Being a single woman is being alone.

We know how it feels to make all of our decisions alone, for ourselves and nobody else. Big decisions, long term decisions: what am I going to do with my life, where am I heading, what is my aim?

We know how it feels to make all of our small, short term decisions alone: what am I going to eat for dinner? What shall I do this weekend?

We understand the empowerment and freedom of this capacity, and at the same time, its loneliness.

Being a single woman is being in charge of our own happiness.

We can’t fall into another’s arms when we are feeling weak, sad or scared. We hold ourselves up. We choose to wallow or we choose to find our own forms of comfort. We can be proud of the strength we must find in our darkest times.

Being a single woman is having space and time.

We have physical space: we can stretch out in our beds; we can decorate our homes with pretty things and never have to explain their purpose; we can go where we choose, when we choose.

We have mental space: we have only one person’s problems to concern ourselves with: our own.

And we have emotional space: we have not promised our hearts to one person. We can find that closeness with whoever needs and deserves it.

But we also have a space in our lives that couples do not. Time to ourselves can be both gloriously indulgent and painfully isolated.

Being a single woman, it is easy to search for answers we will never find to questions that we do not like to acknowledge.

We will question why we are alone when so many others have found love. We will ask if we have acted in a way that has led to our being single. We will ask if there really is someone out there who truly wants to be with us, and wonder if we may have met this person already but somehow missed our chance.

We will look into our past relationships with sentimentality, and with bitterness.

We will wonder if we have been scarred so badly, we will now live a whole lifetime of being a single woman.

And we will never reach a conclusion. There is no conclusion to be made, our lives are simply what they are.

But we still hold somewhere near our hearts, the beautiful expectancy of future love.