I still remember a conversation I had with my mum when I was about 14. She asked me why whenever anyone asked ‘how are you’ I answered with ‘I’m tired’. Then a few years later that answer was replaced with ‘I’m stressed’. It was the simplest answers I could come up with for the mass of things I didn’t like about my life, and how I felt like a fish out of water.
But now, when people ask how I am I can confidently say ‘I am freakin awesome’. I still get tired, and I am a pretty good friend of stress, but overall I appreciate that I am lucky to live the life I do.
So what had changed? My psychology degree tells me that the greatest unhappiness comes from the difference between what we have and what we expect to have. And to be honest I think I changed my expectations.
I always thought that I would be all loved up by my early twenties (my family seem to find the love of their lives before they leave their teens!), but I’m single and I could not lead the life I live now if I wasn’t. I decided to move to London on a whim, if there had been a man in my life it almost certainly would have involved more planning and compromise. Being single more importantly allows me to be entirely selfish with my time. I can work 13 hour days without explaining myself, I can then spend all weekend going to galleries or blogging without feeling guilty. So my expectations have changed, I could not give a toss about having a boyfriend right now which means there is no cognitive discord.
I also thought that I was going to be a career woman in a power suit and high heels. Ok, so I went down the wrong road quite far on this one (a four year degree, internship and eventual job as a tax accountant) and it was a massively hard jump to leave – after all I was failing the ‘self’ I thought I was. When I left pretty much every friend and family member said the same thing “I never understood why you wanted to do that, it didn’t seem like you”… Well thanks guys, could you not have told me earlier?
But they were right, I now work for a company with values I believe in, that challenges me in every way and supports me whole heartily. In return they get my endless devotion and a frightening proportion my time and energy. It wasn’t a matter of changing my expectations, rather understanding them better. A career didn’t have to mean suits, hierarchy and tax legislation, it actually meant a job that I could throw myself into and feel like a was a valued cog in the machine. Even if those same friends and family now laugh themselves sick because I work for a fitness company and I’m not exactly exercisey (is that a word?).
I also particularly feel blessed because of my grandmother. I have been told my entire life that she was a Prime Minister stuck in a farm wife’s life. She was intelligent, feisty and born too early for that to make any difference. Life was planned out for her, with the only option being to marry and have children. That is the life some women choose and they love it, but for me that would have been an even worse choice than tax accounting. I get to live my life how I want to – a luxury that my grandmother didn’t have and that millions of girls around the world today miss out on as well.
Yes London is hard. Yes I get stressed. And for sure I get tired. But I know who I am, and more than anything I know that who I am is 100% completely and totally ok.
Hell, I’m still a fish. But at least I’m a fish that learned to fly.