Some musings on time going by…
Nine years ago today, on the 30th June, my daughter Robyn was born in Romford, Essex – just as I had been (albeit in a different hospital), almost 30 years before that. I think it’s natural to make comparisons with our same sex parent, and my dad having me at 27 was yet another sign that I was behind.
Hours after her birth, and massively sleep deprived, I was at a job interview in Canterbury, Kent.
I got the job, which was a relief as my wife Laura was now going to be at home with our daughter – making me the sole breadwinner. We were DINKs no more (Double Income No Kids).
We had only got our mortgage and moved into our first home a few months before the birth, so it really did feel like a baptism by fire. Like I’d been catapulted from bouncing around from job to job, or rented room to rented room, to suddenly….”No! Grow the f*** up, you’re 30 in a couple of months, and now there’s 2 people depending on you!” It all seemed a bit too…mature.
OK, I managed to keep some semblance of youth and independence, by starting to play guitar in a band, but it definitely felt like the rest of “youth” had been ripped away – pretty viciously.
Like with these sporting events I’ve recently started to participate in – I had gone up an age group – but without seeing it coming. Our marriage, mortgage and daughter had all been planned…none of it was an accident, or unwished for…but the reality of how “adult” it all was didn’t really hit until I was in the thick of it.
My job was hard work as it was new, but it would cover the mortgage and bills so that was compensation enough – even if it meant only seeing Robyn awake at the weekend. I heard her at night, but Laura was what Robyn needed as she believed, “breast was best” (no arguments from me)!
I admit to feeling like a complete impostor at work and home – and still do to a large extent. Not because I’m trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, or be all style without substance – it’s just that it has taken me a long time to figure ME out, let alone LIFE or anyone else. In fact a three year psychology degree was nowhere near long enough…I barely scratched the surface. What I did see on the surface, was pretty disappointing, and that was when I acknowledged one of my biggest fears.
I could ignore, and probably had ignored for the first 29 years, disappointing myself or other people I didn’t have much respect for. But here were two females, dependent on me – I had dependents – and although I might have had plenty of verbal encouragement and reassurance from them (oh OK, it was mostly Laura as Robyn had yet to learn to speak), I had a nagging feeling that THIS was the thing to avoid at all costs. Disappointing them. Being a disappointment. Less than. Not – good – enough.
I thought that by the time I had children I’d already be successful in my career, financially comfortable, have the body of a Greek God, a PhD, and have a song publishing deal and be a best-selling novelist. I thought I’d be rich, be in better control of my emotional states and feel confident about who I was and where I was going.
I had checked some other things off of my bucket list i.e. got my degree, travelled the world, lived abroad, learned to play guitar, learned to speak Spanish, written stories, screenplays and songs…but when I looked at it all, none of them had been a rip-roaring success by anyone else’s standards.
I kept telling myself, “I must just be a late bloomer, there’ll be some hidden talent inside you that will make an appearance any day now – and you’ll be saved.” Saved from mediocrity, from being average, from being a disappointment.
“Maybe I’ll win the lottery, then none of it will matter. Money will buy me love (or pay off my disappointment debt) via presents and holidays, and I’ll get a personal trainer to get me my Greek God bod…!” was a frequent fantasy on the train to West London each day. *Greek God bod syndrome comes from being given He-Man action figures most likely…SEE girls, it’s not just Barbie that’s the problem LOL! #metoo
I never had any serious thoughts of “not going home”…I might have been a bit of a loser, but not a selfish loser. I am fearful person by physiology, but I’m no coward – I don’t run to escape. I confront, I chase (mostly marathon goals these days). There were plenty of tears and tearing into punchbags when the opportunity presented itself, which wasn’t often as my work was all-consuming, time-wise at least.
If I think logically about how much has happened since 2010, “of course it’s been that long,” I tell myself. But the right half of my brain feels differently – it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. Robyn is growing up…FAST…another 9 years and she’ll be off to university or starting some other journey without us. It’s scary…and exciting.
9 years served…
I’ve often wondered how I’d spend my time if I was ever incarcerated (for a crime I didn’t commit of course), and I’ve come up with the following:
- I’d make sure I read a lot
- I’d write loads with no interruptions
- I’d get in the best shape of my life
- I’d save any money I could earn while inside
- I’d help anyone I could – it might serve me when I got out
- I’d see family and friends during visitation, and be as happy as I could be while they were there – share stories, have a laugh, ask how they’re all doing (but I’d be gutted when they left, and I had to go back to my cell alone)
So when it’s all put in perspective, my work is not actually as bad as a prison sentence. I get to come home each night – eventually. I get to do all of the positives that I would do in prison and don’ t have to face the scraps, showers, screws or solitary confinement. I have been here to watch Robyn and Ralph grow up so far, and I wouldn’t want to miss any more of that than necessary.
For that reason, my answer to the hypothetical question “would you commit a financially rewarding crime if you could walk away with X amount after X years in prison,” has changed over the years. As much as prison itself doesn’t scare me, disappointing my family and missing out on them growing up is enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. It’s certainly not purely out of a desire to be a “good citizen”, not when so many get away with so much, without consequence.
Anyway, I digress. I am currently thinking a lot about the next 9 years. Robyn will turn 18, Laura and I will be nearly 48 (OMG)…and I feel optimistic.
I have some fantastic role models around me, and no shortage of encouraging friends and family. I still haven’t found “my thing” at 38, but I have a lot more useful energy and confidence than I had at 28, and some money saved for when I finally do find it.
Someone asked me my age last week, and I seriously had to stop and think about it…I had started to say twenty-…then I remembered I’m almost out of my thirties. F***! Was the next thought. I really don’t feel/believe I’m that old. Maybe that’s something I need to hold on to for as long as possible?
A famous old person once said, “At my age, you judge success by how many of the people you love, love you back.” Apart from embarrassing Robyn with my dad dancing at her 18th birthday party, I hope she’s proud of the rest. I’ve got 9 years to make sure that’s the case…but I won’t kid myself into thinking that 9 years won’t whizz by. Time to start blooming.