In amongst the going back to work stress that focuses me on the present are some thoughts and feelings bubbling about The Future. I recognise that my moods can dominate me and override rational thought (haha, reading that back I realise what an understatement it is) and so I try to make big decisions about my life very slowly.
Babies are becoming a bigger feature in my life. They are no longer something I can keep at arm’s length for fear of becoming emotionally overwhelmed. I will be an auntie in the autumn, and one of my closest friends is also due in the autumn. I’ve knitted a baby blanket and plan to start on booties and jumpers soon. Once the initial shock of ‘argh! babies! babies everywhere!’ was over I have been pleased at how quickly I could begin to adore watching pregnancy from an outsider’s perspective. I love it. I love feeling baby kicks and watching my sister’s body change. I find it very emotional and hold myself back from asking ALL THE QUESTIONS. I know it’s something I will never experience so I want to know what it’s like. It’s fascinating, almost magical to me. Turns out that women can’t seem to explain what a baby kick feels like from the inside though. I’ll keep asking that one but I fear I may never know.
I have realised that it’s not babies and children and parenthood themselves that I will miss, so much as the milestones and the identity that accompany them. I’ve accepted that I will not be having children. I like my quiet life and I’m happy to keep it that way. Babies cry, they smell, they take over completely. My instincts still tell me to steal my sister’s child occasionally (JOKE) but essentially I’m OK with giving the baby back at the end of the evening. But I watch my friend especially, who’s near me in age. We went to university together, we entered adult life together, we’re both married. So far, so similar. But now she’s anticipating the birth of her first child. She’ll be feeding and changing and cuddling. Potty training, teaching to walk, rejoicing in new words spoken. A whole new set of milestones are beginning for her and mine have stopped.
These new mothers’ identities are, well, mothers. They’re still the same women they were but now they are mothers. So I decided that I want to craft my own identity. I don’t want to be the person whose identity is wrapped around something she doesn’t have. I know I will watch other people having children and becoming parents my whole life, but please God, don’t let that define me.
I want to Do Something. It seems my life could potentially go down three routes. I could continue with what I’m doing now, good job, get more experience, get other good jobs. If I can get to grips with my job then project management is the route I’m going down. I could manage other projects. Hmm. Seems fairly sensible.
I could do something Worthy. That’s been a feature of my internal life for as long as I can remember. I want to do something Worthy. It always has a capital W in my head. This was solidified by seeing an old friend of mine recently in Morocco. He’s got this cool job with the Red Cross, that takes him to all sorts of exotic places. Dangerous, tragic quite often but undoubtedly Worthy. As he told us about it I felt jealous, inferior and guilty all at once.
Then there’s the PhD. I put all thinking about that on hold this year. I spent 3 years exhausting myself over the MA so a time out was needed. Ten months have passed since I submitted my dissertation and I’m getting itchy feet again. I do love studying. I watch a certain online friend of mine who went across the pond to study with increasing curiosity and desire.
I’m looking at my current job with some negativity at the moment. I know much of that is driven by the recent mental breakdown so I try not to give too much credence to these feelings. But to record them anyway, the thought of doing this for the rest of my life or even the next few years bores me. I also worry I’m just not cut out for it. It’s a good job with a lot of opportunities, but I only ever went into administration as a means to an end. I got that end (the MA) but I’m still an administrator. I’m at the cool end of administration, but deep down I don’t think it’s for me. And I don’t want to live a life afraid to open my work emails. Again, caveat in place, I know that these feelings are coloured by the emotional scarring of the last few months and also by being extremely knackered during my first two weeks back thanks to a kidney infection that has thoroughly outstayed it’s welcome.
Looking at the Worthy options, they’re driven by guilt. Whole swathes of my identity are driven by guilt, I’m not sure why. But it’s a lousy thing to drive your life and your decision making.
The PhD is the option I’m most attracted to. And there’s no guilt attached to it, apart from being unsure if it’s Worthy enough. I think that that’s what I want to do. I want to immerse myself completely in books and language and religion and ancient manuscripts. I can’t see a way to do it. I don’t think working and studying together is a viable option for me. It’s too exhausting and leaves too little time for any sort of life. But I can’t afford to study full time, even if I could scrape together enough money for the fees, which is also exceedingly unlikely. So! I’m drawn most strongly to a not very sensible life choice.
I should probably try to break the connection between deciding what to do with my life and wanting to carve an identity for myself without children, because that’s so emotionally laden. But I want goals for myself, milestones, a strong reason for my existence. I’m not sure that the connection between childlessness, my job, the future and suicidal ideation is entirely real but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wishing I wasn’t here.
I have to leave the ponderings half-baked for now, to make way for washing and dressing myself and going to an occupational health appointment to let a stranger assess my capability to work in this job that frightens the life out of me on a daily basis.