(WARNING: Complete Waffle Alert)
Yes and No. Let me tell you why.
One of my first dreams, (aside from marrying Donny Osmond or Prince Charles), was to become a cook. I was queen of the cheese scone, Macaroni Cheese and Bechamel sauce growing up – back in the seventies, some time before they discovered Cholesterol – and I believed that I had the potential to be the next Masterchef.
So I didn’t become a cook – even at home.
Then I was inspired by a beautifully illustrated version of The Wind In The Willows, that was given to me as a Progress Prize at school, (notice the emphasis on ‘progress’ rather than ‘first’ or ‘second’ prize), and characteristically impulsive, I decided to become a writer and illustrator of children’s books instead – the only flaw in my plan being that I couldn’t draw to save my life and I was ‘progress’ level in English.
So I did what every twenty-something with hidden talents and ambition does in a mild panic because their peers are all being offered fantastic jobs and I couldn’t even get an interview – I gave into my poor self-esteem. And that decision – to settle for what I COULD do, rather than what I was passionate about, has haunted me through the years.
But what about my personal dreams? Surely, they must have been more successful?
(Feminists, close your ears).
I’m not ashamed to admit that all I ever really wanted was to breed more of me and be happy – Disney has a lot to answer for. The old man never really stood a chance. (Although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wanting the fuck off house, Mercedes and diamond rings at certain points in my life, too).
So, have all my dreams been fulfilled, or have they changed now that I’m middle aged?
Again, yes and no…
I have the beautiful children, the bald but ‘fit’ husband and a cushy life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world; and for the most part I have been healthy and happy. I still aspire to be the next Helen Fielding, and Kurt may well be beautiful to me, his mum, but he has also been sent as a lesson from God, to remind me on occasion that the perfect package doesn’t truly exist in life and you have to earn true happiness.
But the icing on this middle-aged cake is that I have a more informed idea of who I am and what I want now. I’m a very different person to the woman I was in my twenties, who had so little confidence in her own abilities to succeed. I have ‘experience’ to fortify me now, and out of that experience, some wisdom has evolved.
FUCK, I sound old!
How many times a year do YOU catch yourself saying ‘if I had my time again? or, ‘If I’d known then what I know now,’ like I do? We say it because it’s true. if I’d had this wisdom and confidence back in my twenties, my work life would certainly have gone in a very different direction. But luckily, the wisdom of maturity that I’ve acquired with age, also reminds me that regret boxes are futile and only serve to drag us down.
So what I’m trying to say, (badly…and I know I’m waffling but it’s been a tough week), is that the real difference in my dreams in middle age is that I’m excited about them now – whereas in my twenties I felt threatened by them, like the walls were closing in and I was going to run out of time. The sort of sad truth is, I really AM running out of time now but just as the pressure to look good has dissipated with age into unimportance, so has the pressure to appear ‘successful’ in the eyes of my peers. I don’t fucking care what people think of me now and it’s wonderfully liberating.
I only care about my personal goals.
And perhaps my dreams are a little more realistic now, too. They still involve my family, (who remain the most important thing in my life), and my small career goals, but mostly they involve my passion to enjoy life and live it to the full with the people I care about.
Here are my middle aged dreams:
To spoil and then hand back my grandchildren, once I persuade my kids to have them.
To earn a living as a writer.
To be able to guarantee that my children remain healthy and content with their choices in life, are driven by happiness and not money, and are NEVER tempted to pour miserably over a regret box.
That the old man and I can tolerate each other for another thirty years and be like that couple in The Notebook and die at the same time, so that neither of us has to live without the other. Because that would be very strange.
That we’re not disappointed in the retirement we’ve worked so hard towards and that when we get there, the old man doesn’t start rearranging the kitchen cupboards or telling me how to food shop.
Have your dreams changed in middle age?