The Agony and the Ecstasy of Self Transformation
I am a firm believer in the concept of creating your own reality. Looking back on my life I can see so clearly how I made all my dreams come true. But what happens after that? What do you do if all your dreams come true? Of course a lot depends on what your dreams were in the first place.
At age 20 my dreams were superficial and a bit silly:
· musician boyfriend ‘cos it seemed so cool – tick;
· glamorous job in arts and media with travel and celebrities – tick;
· travelling the world – tick;
At age 30 my dreams were very conservative:
· meeting Mr Right (who most definitely wasn’t the muso) – tick;
· having children – tick;
· cute cottage with a pool – tick.
Some would say, and I tend to agree, that my dreams were a bit boring and that maybe I didn’t aim high enough but remember, your dreams change as you grow. Some of my dreams took me a long time to manifest – I didn’t have my first child until I was 40. When I approached the age of 50, I realised that I no longer had any dreams that were about me. My dreams had become all about my family.
There’s nothing wrong with having dreams for your family, but I’m not dead yet. I looked around and realised that I no longer knew who I was and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Turning 50 will do that to a person. Also moving around a lot for your husband’s career will inevitably damage your own and I was struggling career wise. I had become a stay-at-home Mum and I wasn’t quite comfortable with that. Until our last move I had always worked part time, even when the kids were small. Part time work really is the best of both worlds but it’s not always possible, despite all the hype about balance and flexibility in the workplace.
Career can be brutally tied up with how we see ourselves in the world and we come a cropper when it becomes our only measuring stick for success. Who we are is so much more than our job but it can be really hard to see that sometimes. For me, my dreams and my career are tied up tightly together. I am aware that I have created a fabulous life for myself, my husband and my kids but without meaningful work outside of the home and economic reward, I don’t feel successful. I feel like I have to justify my existence and constantly battle guilt about not contributing financially. I have the most understanding and supportive husband in the world. These are my feelings, generated by me and backed up by society’s expectations and social media dialogue.
There are lots of reasons why I suddenly found myself unable to find work. They include my age, the fact that I refuse to work full time when I have small children, the massive changes to my industry with the digital age and a geographic location that is known for a tough employment situation plus the fact that I have moved around way too much. It’s now been too long since I worked meaningfully in my field. For the past 5 years I have been going through a very long and painful transformation. I had always worked in marketing and suddenly all anyone wanted me to do was write. Write content. I did get a part time job writing content and it was fabulous practice although I couldn’t see that at the time. All I knew was that I was doing a job that wasn’t in my field of expertise and seemed somehow less than who I saw myself to be. I can see now how it has helped shape me.
I left that writing job for boring child care versus low pay reasons (all Mums will know what I’m talking about) and set myself up as a freelance writer which I have been doing on and off ever since. I have had some absolute doozy let downs during that time though – stuff that wears down your self-confidence and self-belief until you can no longer sell yourself. It felt like every time I tried to do anything other than write, the Universe would slap me back down – so many times that I became punch drunk.
But underneath all that hard, painful stuff something has been growing. For the past year I have been studying creative writing for pleasure and self-exploration and I recently finished my first draft of a middle grade chapter book for kids plus I have 2 picture books ready to submit and loads of ideas for more. Dreams. Remember them?
All my life I have loved books and kept journals. I am a voracious reader. I was the kid who would write cards and have the family crying, the one whose reports always talked about imagination and who always excelled at English. I used to think “gee, wouldn’t it be great to be a famous author,” but I never for one second considered it as something that I could possibly do. I just didn’t even think about it. I don’t know why. It seems so obvious now that I look back, seeking clues.
I am someone who seeks answers, I am self-reflective and look to the bigger picture – the vision. I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and the ‘oh so simple’ but life altering message that I took from that book was that ‘it’s never too late’. At 50 I had somehow convinced myself that my time was over. That I had to keep being the person I had always been. Do the job I had always done. It was too late to learn anything new. But that’s just not true. That’s just a self-limiting excuse.
I finally worked out what my next lot of dreams are:
· continue travelling the world with my family;
· grow amazing little human beings;
· create a safe haven of a home;
· write fiction and be published;
· create a successful writing business.
Experience tells me that my dreams do come true. Sometimes it takes longer than we wish and it can be painful but it’s always worth it. It’s the agony and the ecstasy of self-transformation. We are all a work in progress in one way or another. If this post resonates with you, just know that you are not alone and that you are stronger than you think. Also, some of us, like good wine, are better the older we get! Trust the Universe – she’s got your back.