Que Sera Sera [and era era]

This time last year I posted a rambling, meandering piece about regret. Once you get into what I shall call somewhat older age the achievements you have not made may have begun to assemble into a substantial and growing heap. They may even have become a mountain. Ambition and regret are linked together like health and sickness.
As children we might begin with some outlandish and bizarre ideas about what we would like to do as adults. I still remember the cruel taunts and guffaws of laughter from my family that met my announcement at the supper table that I would become a missionary. I would have been about six years old at this point. There followed a series of ambitious plans for my adult occupation: ballet dancer, show jumping champion, vet, model, make-up artist, graphic designer. These aspirations followed my childhood devotions, each being thwarted by the arrival of the next love-of-my-life. It seemed as if I went from worshipping Margot Fonteyn one week to reading every book penned by Josephine Pullein-Thompson the next. ‘Wish for a Pony’ was one of my favourites.
After we’d moved to the flat, bleak, backward countryside of the fens my mother was fond of saying I could have had a pony if we’d stayed within the environs of the New Forest, from whence we’d come. This was small comfort to my pining, desperate, pony-mad self. Four years later, once we’d moved again [to the horse-friendly environment of Kent], I was able to indulge my passion by saving up two weeks of pocket money to buy one hour of horse riding every fortnight. My mother advised that my ballet dancing legs would be ‘ruined’. During one thrilling ride involving leaping ditches and straddling an unreliable steed I was thrown, resulting in a broken arm and three months of being encased in plaster of Paris from finger to shoulder. During this enforced separation from the realms of horsedom I underwent a metamorphosis and became interested in the mysterious creatures that were boys.
In a simultaneous bid to influence my career choice, my father, frustrated musician that he was, foisted a clarinet upon me [plus an abusive teacher-but that is another story] in hopes that I, the last of his three children might become a maestro. Sometimes it is possible to influence or shape your child’s destiny. More often it is not. Tennis players often come from a fanatically tennis-mad background, but to me it seems a selfish and egocentric policy to expect your child to achieve what you could not; better to support them in whatever pursuit they show aptitude or interest in. For me, this was not the clarinet, or any other instrument.
Ultimately I did what the vast majority of people do and drifted into a career that would do. In fact teaching did serve very well. I was able to do it adequately, but to ‘job’ rather than career level. It allowed me to spend the holiday periods with my own children and eventually paid out a reasonable pension; therefore no complaints. Career options shrink with age. I shall not, now be winning Wimbledon, dancing the lead in Swan Lake or painting any masterpieces. Still-if dementia can hold off for a bit there is an outside chance I may get a novel published. Just published will do; it doesn’t have to top the Waterstone’s chart-don’t want to be too ambitious at my age!

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Any Openings?

Life is arranged all wrong. You can blame God, if you’re so inclined [I’m not]. The first nine or ten years or so are alright. You get born. You are looked after [hopefully] while you are helpless. You might even be doted on. You may be fortunate enough to learn some useful stuff that will prepare you for adulthood, like walking, talking-even reading. Then it goes pear-shaped. Just when you are thirsting for knowledge, eager, full of enthusiasm, you lose it; snuffed out like a candle. Because as adolescence, teens and hormonal tempests begin to boil up, an interest in medieval history, Pythagoras theorem, netball practise, past participles and piano lessons flies totally out of the patio doors to be replaced by a fascination for one thing only.

         Unfortunately this is the time when you begin to be tested on your skills, ability and knowledge in order to prepare you for independence, the severance of the umbilical, the supporting of yourself. Striving to achieve academic goals becomes torture. Many of us [I include myself] acquire a disappointing, average, just-about-satisfactory set of results that equips us for some kind of career or job. Many of us don’t. A few manage to transcend their base instincts and shine-a source of pride for their parents [see previous post-‘It’s not that we’re not interested, but…’].

         You then embark upon whatever source of living your qualifications have led you to, because by now, in adulthood, you are on your own. Perhaps you will fall madly in love with your chosen occupation, perhaps not. Maybe you will find success beyond your wildest dreams; maybe you will rub along, earning enough of a crust.

         Other bits of life crowd in, like partners, children, housing, transport, holidays. These demands mean that swapping what you do for any other occupation becomes impossible.

         Then before you know it, the years you’ve spent earning enough to live have somehow vanished in a vaporous puff and you are free! Hooray! You are without obligations, dependents and if you are a little bit lucky, without too much financial pressure. You find you are interested in everything. You want to be a student of history, to learn about exotic places, find out how the universe was made. You want to run marathons, become a piano maestro or Australia’s next top model, win the Nobel prize, ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Masterchef’ and get knighted.

         But wait; just as these lofty aspirations buzz into your excited, eager, animated little bonse the bell is called for ‘time’. The doors begin to close. Those violin, mandarin or judo lessons, that  symphony you were going to compose, the Michelin-starred restaurant you always meant to open-they should all have been started years ago…when you were young, when your mind was…elsewhere.

         But hang on-not all options are finished. What about becoming pope? There is clearly no age barrier there. There may be some slight opposition in terms of gender, of course [for me], but… nothing ventured…Oh, old Argy Frank has beaten me to it. There’s always next time. Perhaps there is a God, after all?