What would you do if you could do anything? Who would you be? Where would you go?

I generally try to avoid thinking about such things. Instead I do them. Life is too damned short not to. But like so many bad habits that creep up on you, I've started separating out my dreams from real life. This is a very bad idea as such behaviour does not lead to living a dream life. And I have no interested in alternatives to living a dream life. I'm just not cut out for mediocre; things are tough enough when things are going great! 

I remember that my fabulous KL partygirl lifestyle was counter balanced with cockroaches, loneliness and a lack of roast potatoes. I don't aspire to perfect and am happy to have to go to work, do housework and have low moods for these things are normal and necessary. Rather a dream life is one where I feel inspired and engaged, where I jump out of bed with interest in what the day holds for me. 

I've not been doing that lately.

So I have some tough questions to answer.


Firstly though, my foundations are right. When I was a KL partygirl, the boyfriend asked what I wanted from life; wondering (as one would expect) how I was planning to adapt to Gloucestershire. I said I saw myself baking while he mowed the lawn with the children. That I wanted a home and a family, to settle down but not settle for. Last Sunday I baked, he mowed the lawn and my brother taught the elder of his new step-nephews to play croquet. Tick.

But there are some details that need fleshing out and in letting myself get caught up in the motions of everyday life I stopped addressing them. There are some very good arguments for just getting on with life. The daily grind has the advantage of paying the bills for instance. A good argument but a rather depressing one; and I'm not really cut out for depressing, not any more.

The main thing I’ve let slide has been my academic work and that needs addressing. 90% of a PhD done does not a doctor make and I really want the title to match the ego that sees herself as a world expert on ethnic conflict in Malaysia. I have a conference in Exeter in July and will use that to get the academic in me going again.

I’ve also been bad at attending my writers group and working on my various projects and the only paintbrush I’ve picked up recently was one to paint a piece of garden furniture. Nor have I really used the DSLR I was so thrilled about getting for Christmas. I’ve been cooking but I haven’t been creating recipes.

I could let myself off the hook saying that moving house was challenging but I rise to the challenge so ultimately I’m out of balance.

I’ve a holiday coming up which will be good for some thinking but in the meantime I’m going to commit my 30 before I’m 30 list* to the public sphere as motivation for doing the things that really matter.

1)    Get a degree – Done

2)    Learn to drive – Done

3)    Get a piercing other than my ears – Done

4)    Scuba dive – Done

5)    Publish a book

6)    Visit Russia – Done

7)    Live in a foreign country – Done

8)    Get a tattoo

9)    Get married – Done

10) Buy a house – Done


11) Have a baby

12) Eat lobster – Done

13) Order champagne in a restaurant – Done

14) Cook a multibird roast

15) Go to an airport and take a flight chosen on the spot

16) Buy a pair of designer shoes – Done

17) Own a corset


18) Own a sports car – Done

19) Watch a sunset and a sun rise without going to bed

20) Swim under the stars – Done

21) Take a road trip – Done

22) Make a film or documentary


23) Go to

          a.    The theatre – Done

          b.    The ballet – Done

          c.    A classical concert – Done

          d.    A gig – Done


          e.    The opera

24) Ride a motorcycle

25) Take a photo worth framing on a large canvas and hang it in my home

26) Ride


          a.    A horse – Done

          b.    An elephant – Done

          c.    A camel – Done

27) Ride in a carriage through Central Park

28) Be suspended by rope

29) Light a proper fire and cook over it

30) Buy an entire animal (eg. a pig) and cook it

I started this list as a teenager and half of it still needs doing. A lot of it is relatively straightforward and I just need to prioritise these things that are important to me. 

* A sign of how bad things got is that the notebook where the list is written had been put away!
6/4/2010 08:17:10 am

I published a 'to do list' earlier this year. Sadly I never put pen to paper in my teenage days to record what inspired me then. I'm rather envious of all your 'done' tags. Mine is so new it will take a bit of time to get through.
BTW I met my wife in KL - I too spent a few years in SE Asia. The Cotswolds were at number two in my 'Where shall I move back to?' list of possibles, but York won in the end.
Ian (of York now, must drop the Bangkok.)

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