If you need me, I’m on the couch nodding off, because I stayed up too late last night

21 Nov

I was in bed last night, thinking about this and that and the other. And in between these thoughts I was turning my light on and off and on and off, and reading Everything I Knew by Peter Goldsworthy.

And all of this led me to the thought, the realisation:

I don’t know what I dreamed of becoming.

I thought of myself on the school oval at lunchtime, or on the benchseat leaning against the wall, or walking from class to class. I thought of talking with my one very best friend, of gossiping with the bigger group, of laughing on the year eleven camp. I tried to reimagine the conversations that we shared.

And I can’t pinpoint a particular aspiration. Not of mine and not of anyone’s.

I remember in year eleven, in our economics class, the girl who said to me she wasn’t worried about her job because ‘I believe that married women shouldn’t work’. I guess she said ladies not women. I was gobsmacked (I have tried to think of the word we might have used in 1984, but I don’t think there’s a gobsmacked equivalent) which makes me think it was an unusual conversation. I remember one friend did a modelling course one school holidays. I remember another came to Adelaide to do a secretarial course and one of our teachers said it was the worst decision any of us could make, but to me it seemed neither good nor bad, just something else I hadn’t known you could do. Girls left school to do hairdressing, but they were girls who were good at art and wore interesting clothes. It never seemed like something I could do.

I know that I have always carried an affinity with words, a knowledge that words are what I get. The same way some girls got hairdressing or some girls got netball or my best friend got maths. I got words. My ‘mock interview’ was at the local newspaper, but still and all the same, it never really occured to me that I could be a journalist. I didn’t know that journalist was something to become.

Perhaps I thought I would live my parents’ lives. Civic-minded teachers, surrounded by other passionate teachers and political activists. I remember telling the mister he should be a science teacher, so I guess on some level I was trying to recreate their life.

But my mum didn’t want me to have her life. Or more precisely, she didn’t want me to have the limits of her life. And the only thing she knew to say was ‘don’t become a teacher’.

And now, I’m back to where I was at two o’clock this morning. I don’t know what I dreamed of becoming. Which doesn’t matter. It’s not something to fret about or to add to the lists of things that keep me awake at night.

It’s just – as they say in yoga – an observation.

One of those rare thoughts that has remained as interesting in the light of day as it was at two a.m..

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16 Responses to “If you need me, I’m on the couch nodding off, because I stayed up too late last night”

  1. fifi November 21, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    I like what you’ve become,
    whether it was intentional or not.

    Seems you “got” a lot of things.
    Which might have taken me longer to “get”, had you not told me.

  2. kate November 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    I remember quite clearly having no idea at all, and deciding to trust the Fates. I remember anything I was vaguely interested in (like teaching) inciting dire warnings, and lots of people trying to encourage me to do things that I knew I couldn’t sustain an interest in for more than half an hour.

    So became an organiser and a maker. Which I do in various capacities under all sorts of job titles. Sometimes for money, sometimes not.

    I do hope your former classmate became a married lady. A life of spinsterhood without a career could really suck.

  3. franzy November 21, 2008 at 12:54 pm #

    Sounds like you’re a writer to me.

  4. Pavlov's Cat November 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm #

    Word, franzy.

    I knew what I wanted (for several years) to be: a marine biologist in tropical climes. And me with the red-haired white-complexioned skin-cancerous genes. ‘Self-defeating’ doesn’t cover it.

  5. Pavlov's Cat November 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm #

    Word, franzy.

    I knew what I wanted (for several years) to be: a marine biologist in tropical climes. And me with the red-haired white-complexioned skin-cancerous genes. ‘Self-defeating’ doesn’t cover it.

  6. Deborah November 21, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    Hmmm…. I wanted a career, but I wasn;t quite sure what, so FSM knows why I chose accountancy. But I think I was taken by ideas, and feminist ideas in particular, from early on, so maybe the career thought was really a feminist thought.

    I have been through two careers since accountancy, lecturing in philosophy, and policy work. And guess what – now I’m a housewife, and I don’t know what to do with myself, and my ideas. It’s all very odd, and I don’t understand why it has turned out this way.

  7. kate November 21, 2008 at 3:43 pm #

    I suppose the thing is that one doesn’t get to an end point where everything is sorted. You just keep moving through stages, you’re a housewife right now Deborah, for example, but your children wont be small forever, and you may well find yourself doing something else entirely, or returning to one of the previous ideas, or discovering that housewifery with teenagers is totally different but sill essential. I try to remember my Nanna reflecting (when I turned 22, and said I still felt 21) that she didn’t feel any different to the person she was at 21, in one’s 70s one still isn’t finished, or settled.

  8. kate November 21, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    Lordy, I forgot to add, the point of all that is that I find it easier to work out what I’m doing now if I confine my thinking to where I want to be now, and realising that the job I choose now is for now rather than forever, rather than looking at some big lifetime tragectory.

    I realise there are lots of keen goal setters who’d disagree with me on that, but if you don’t have a goal, finding something that works right now is pretty good.

  9. meli November 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm #

    i wanted to be a writer. before that i wanted to be a paleontologist. or a ballet dancer, which is laughable.

    my mum wanted me to be a psychologist.

    my dad wanted me to be a lawyer.

    now we’ll see what sort of mess i’ve got myself into for following my dreams – almost as hazy now as they were fifteen years ago.

  10. kim at allconsuming November 21, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    I wanted to be rich AND famous.

    I’m neither.

  11. suse November 21, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    I wanted to be an accountant for a while. I did year 10 accounting and the balance sheets pleased my pedantic nature.

    I got over THAT real quick.

    Since then I’ve written ads, newsletters, reports and now minutes and policies. And blog posts.

  12. shula November 21, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    And now you’ve got me doing it….

    so long ago. I do remember wanting to be great.

  13. Isabelle November 22, 2008 at 9:30 am #

    Your mother was right.

  14. Penthe November 22, 2008 at 10:16 am #

    “it never really occurred to me that I could be a journalist. I didn’t know that journalist was something to become.” Yes, that completely sums up my teenage years. I didn’t know you could become anything at all really. I didn’t understand that there was a process.

    However, I wanted to be a medievalist, but I didn’t have the Latin.

  15. meli November 22, 2008 at 7:41 pm #

    oh, i meant to say last time, i had a friend who at the age of twelve was absolutely sure she wanted to teach the electric organ in her tiny south australian town. i was horrified. she never changed her mind, and now that’s exactly what she’s doing. she likes it.

  16. ThirdCat November 23, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    “I wanted to be a medievalist, but I didn’t have the Latin”…that is just a brilliant line, penthe.

    Thanks all for your comments – which are totally fascinating to me. I’ve got a bit of an essay about this started somewhere, and I think I might drag it out again to have a look and see what it says.

    I feel a lot like you, deborah, but I really like Kate’s response.

    meli, for a while, I thought I would be a music teacher in a country town. Mostly because I overheard my grandfather saying ‘it was a good job for a girl’.

    Meanwhile, Australia just won the cricket.

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