I did an interview yesterday with a journalist who wanted my opinions about the kind of pressure that the 'modern woman' is put under to have it all in terms of her career, her looks, her mothering, her friendships and her bank balance. Some might say that society puts that pressure on us, and other's might say it is the media and our peers, but I think on some level we can all feel a little bit pressured to be some sort of perfect machine. For a while there I was endeavouring to be exactly that. I wanted the dream job, the big house, and the happiest children in the world. I wanted to be an amazing perfect mother, the best girlfriend and to be the best friend. I wanted to be the girl who was always in a good mood, and I of course wanted to be skinny and look great every day. I then realised that nothing could possibly be more boring.
Yes boring! During the interview the journalist asked me about my goals. She asked about my degree and Masters, and basically wondered if I was in the place that I wanted to be right now, career-wise and other-wise. It got me thinking. I remember being young and care-free and having the 'I hope' conversations with my friends and family about the future. At that point I was one hundred percent dead set on being a nurse. I ended up changing my mind that summer (when the CAO had that little window where you could alter your choices) realising that while nursing was such a wonderful vocation, it probably wasn't best suited to someone like myself who would definitely take everything home with me. I'm not a nut-job by any means but I am definitely a person who takes things to heart, someone who feels a lot of empathy for others, and I can pretty much get emotional about anything, if I let myself. Isn't my boyfriend a lucky man? I joke, but seriously I would not have been a good nurse. Then I got a bit obsessed with the idea of becoming an English teacher. I was so completely in love with the subject (thanks to a great teacher) and it was something I never grew bored of. I loved reading, I loved writing, I loved poetry, I loved grammar. Yes please! So off I went to UCD with a bag full of dreams and a packed lunch (that didn't last very long. Darn you expensive Arts Cafe). Three years sailed by, and suddenly I found myself working part time and taking a year out. It was the right decision for me at the time. I worked part time and it was a great year. I wanted to do a H-Dip but at the time we were at the beginning of a bad recession and just about everyone was telling me that there were no jobs in teaching. A dreamer I am, but I'm also a practical creature so I decided against it. I decided to go and do a Masters in another incredibly practical subject instead... drama! This is of course sarcasm. It was an amazing amazing year of my life. I had wonderful lecturers and class-mates, and just an all round brilliant experience but drama isn't exactly the most practical of subjects in terms of leading you to a stable job. At the time I was working in The Olympia Theatre ( I won't bore you but this was pretty much the best job in the world in my eyes and I adored every minute of it) which was perfect while I was in college. And then, the real world came along...
The real world. Agh, the excitement. To be fair there are some pretty deadly things about the real world but with it comes a new sense of responsibility (bills) and challenges. At some point or another you may have to pack away the little box of dreams that you once had and find a way to navigate yourself through adulthood. First things first, money talks. Well, it doesn't talk but it certainly isn't quiet and diminutive. I wanted to move in with himself (after nearly four years of driving from Baldoyle to Citywest most days, he did too. Oh, and he also thinks I'm deadly), I wanted to go on holidays, and I wanted to move on a little bit from that studenty part-time working care-free self of mine. In order to do this I had to get myself a big girl job. That's what I call it. You know, a Monday-Friday 9-5 type of deal. Something with a desk, and a printer, and my own mug for copious amounts of tea. I loved the idea of working in an office. I had been working evenings and nights for 5 years in The Olympia and while I loved it (probably an understatement) it really was a part time job and I totally envied those people who had free evenings to relax and watch tv or meet up with friends, and free weekends to do whatever they wanted. Before I knew it I was at my little desk, drinking tea from my own cup, and surrounded by the world of office-talk that always seemed completely alien to me. I was used to late night gigs, meet and greets, loud music, drunken crowds, celebrities, sleeping in till 2pm and having no sense of routine at all. Suddenly, I was a 9-5er and for every perk there was a new bill, rent to be paid, a new sense of responsibility and I suddenly felt... grown up.
Tracey the grown up. Has a ring to it doesn't it? It would want to with a baby on the way says you. No really, this is such a rambly post but the whole idea of dreams, goals and ambition has really been on my mind since I spoke to that journalist yesterday. After our conversation I couldn't help but wonder... (take that Carrie Bradshaw) can we have it all?
What I have realised is that we have to sort of carve our own sense of perfection and reality. For some people it is centred around their bank balance and wealth, for some it is health and wellness, for others it might be sex, drugs and rock and roll. I really don't think there is a standard 'happy'. It's pretty cool to think that we can all co-exist in this little planet of ours and all want and desire different things. I remember the journalist asked me "do you have any goals for the future?" and the honest answer to that is yes, I want to be happy. That might sound a bit airy fairy but it really is true. I don't want loads of money, a crazy amount of success, an apartment in Spain, to always look amazing and be the perfect mother, friend and girlfriend. I want to be happy.
And what is happiness to me? It is to be healthy, it's to be the best mother that I can be, it's to be financially comfortable so that bills and life is not financially stressful (and sure throw in a holiday once a year and an Early Bird Dinner as much as we can) and it's to be in a place where I don't take anyone I know or anything I have for granted. It probably sounds corny, and maybe that's because it is, but the truth is that I have realised that the truly important things in life are not the material. They are the laughs, the kisses, the good food, the sunsets, the fresh air, the nice smell off your clothes when you take them out of the washing machine, the Chinese on a Friday night, the cinema trips, the walks in the park (or long walks on the beach, whatever your in to), the new recipes, the fresh sheets, feeling like someone needs you, listening to others, knowing people care about you, colouring inside the lines, and the cup of tea that turns out exactly the way you wanted.
When I am old and grey, and I look back on my life, I won't miss the essay I wrote in UCD, the person who drained the energy from me, the dishes that needed doing, or the stress of money and bills. I'll remember the relationships, the people, the days out and the things that made me smile from the inside. I'll remember being happy.
When I grow up, I want to be the happiest me.