All The Things I Didn't Do

31 Oct 2019

When I was a little girl, I used to look to those older than me in awe of the things they could do. When you're just a child, everything that adults can do seems so much more fun and enticing. Going out on your own, going clubbing, drinking alcohol, having a snazzy job, your own dream house and a flash car.

I looked at those around me, at their lives which seemed perfect, and pictured what my life would look like an adult, all the things I could do, the places I could visit, all the people I would meet. But what happens when your life doesn't turn out quite how you envisioned it?

I didn't live in the Lace Market. Although I'm 'from Nottingham', it's the idyllic countryside surrounding Nottingham that I grew up in. I always envisioned myself living in the Lace Market, a beautiful little area of Nottingham that always feels so magical, steeped in history, even now in my 30's; any visit to the Lace Market has me lusting for a home there. I pictured strolling happily to work through the city centre, dining at the plentiful little bars and bistros dotted throughout the Lace Market and having a little home full of personality. Not quite ideal for a family of four, mind you!

I still don't know how to drive. I always meant to learn. Well, actually, I always had intentions of owning a motorbike, but I thought a car would come eventually. Alas, neither has materialised. Laziness, lack of money towards the lessons and the cost of actually running a vehicle; thankfully, public transport manages to get me where I need to go. Sometimes I think life would be easier if we had a car, especially as a family, but realistically, it's just not within our means. Plus, it's better for the environment not to own a car, right?! Or so I tell myself when I wish I could pop to the 24 hours Tesco in the middle of the night!

I didn't take that job with Club 18 to 30, applying at 18 full of glee and excitement over the unusual exploits I might run into as a holiday rep. I envisioned drinking challenges, drunken stories to tell the grandchildren and maybe a holiday romance or two. Turns out I wasn't as well equipt for holiday rep life as I thought I was; with an expired passport, I was going nowhere fast! It's a job I always think about; what would it have been like? Would it have been as amazing as I thought it would or would I return home defeated within a week?!

I don't own my dream house, and probably never will. My entire childhood, I pictured the same house. Out in the sticks, wildflowers everywhere, a cottage with a thatched roof and picket fence all around it. A cosy fire, chickens in the garden, my dream home. Then I grew up and realised how ridiculous house prices are, how hard it is for many to get a mortgage and how, realistically, I'll never own my dream home - or probably have a mortgage at all. Sometimes it makes my heart hurt when I see houses that look so much like the home I dreamed of for so many years, but I know we're so lucky to have a roof over our heads at all, and after all, home is where my family is.

I never went travelling or on a 'girls holiday'. The idea of travelling for a year was something I really wanted to do, but I completely chickened out. All the wondrous places in the world I want to see, and I was simply too scared of the 'what ifs'. You hear horror stories of people backpacking in Australia or Thailand, the two places I wanted to explore the most, it completely terrified me and kept my feet firmly planted in the UK. Now I have a family, and the likelihood of any kind of long-term travelling is well off of the cards. Maybe when I've retired, ey?

I didn't pick one career. As a child, I wanted to be a vet. Then a zoologist. Then an archaeologist. Then a drama teacher. Then a palaeontologist. Of course, for all of these things, you need to do quite well in school and higher education, and although I didn't do that bad - I definitely didn't get the grades I needed for any of those. Instead, I dabbled at A-Levels before dropping out of the sixth form after just 6 months. I went to work in call centres, decided I wanted to be a hairdresser; trained and became a hairdresser, but then the recession hit, luxuries went first, and I realised it wasn't the industry I wanted to spend the rest of my life in.

So I went back to college, did my A-Levels as a mature student and headed off to University where I gleefully graduated with my Psychology BSc degree. I'm still not working in the field I dream of and will need to return to University to complete my Masters and PhD once the girls are grown up, but I have also realised that having one career from the moment you leave education until retirement is not quite as common as it once was. I've come to feel very OK about where I am in regards to work at this stage in my life, and I don't feel the same pressure I once did, to 'have it all'.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about all these things - and more - that I didn't do. I used to worry that they were a sign of failure, that I hadn't done enough for my age, that I wasn't doing what I should do at this point in my life. It's so easy to think your life is meant to go a certain way, you envision how your life could be, the experiences you could have, a lot of the time because of how you see other people living their lives.

It can be all too easy to focus on the things you don't have or didn't do, the places you didn't see. You see other people and you think they have got this adulting thing down, and with me, it can often make me feel like my life is inferior, that I haven't achieved enough. It stops you appreciating life and living in the present and everything you are incredibly lucky to have. None of these things matter. What other people have, the dreams you once had, the things you thought you needed to live a fulfilling life, none of it really matters. What does matter, is making sure you live in the now, don't worry what others are doing, cherish the experiences you have, appreciate the people in your life and concentrate on the things you can achieve, without worrying about all the things you don't even need to consider.

These may be things I didn't do, but there are so many more things I did do.

P.s. you can find this fabulous vinyl sticker on the PunkyPins Etsy shop!