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
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!