Sometimes, from nowhere, a totally unprovoked wave of self-doubt/negativity/fear will slap me in the face and convince me that I’m going nowhere in life. On occasions, I can brush it off and move on. Other times, it has the ability to swallow entire days or weeks, which renders me helpless, painfully trawling the internet for jobs, seeking new directions, researching courses I should do, challenges I should take on or countries I should visit – all whilst hyperventilating in between mouthfuls of dairy milk. If it’s really bad, a quick scan of facebook is all it takes to set me off when I see just how successful, rich, married or child-bearing so many of my peers now are, and it’s a challenge not to curl up into a ball wailing ‘what have I done with my life!?’
I have a friend who refers to this niggling feeling as her ‘Gremlin’. Some people have more control over them than others. But some, like me, can’t help themselves and will always feed them after midnight. If you haven’t seen the film then this metaphor is totally lost on you and if you’re too young to have seen it – I don’t need to reminded of how old I am! 😉
In my opinion, Gremlins exist in everyone. Some lie dormant and may never rear their ugly heads, whereas others find them much more difficult to control and are a lot harder on themselves. I am in the latter camp. It might explain why I have changed jobs annually since leaving university and continue to explore varying career options in the hope for contentment. Although I’m not really expecting PAYE to pave my path to enlightenment, which is why, I went back to Uni and started working as a freelancer.
I have come to quite a serious conclusion as to why the Gremlin won’t leave me alone and why so many of my friends are battling Gremlins of their own. Now, I’m not going to start waving the feminist flag here, or burn any bras, but I think being a female is a major part of it. Biologically, we are forced into a much narrower funnel, where certain decisions have to be made, potentially a lot earlier than we are ready to have to make them. The family versus career debate. It’s not new by any stretch but it’s one that really resonates with me (and my female friends) and we can’t seem to shake off the resounding tick of the biological clock. It’s frustrating to think that if you don’t get the ‘family’ thing nailed down in the next five to ten years, then it’s unlikely that it will ever happen. But by taking time out to start a family, whats the likelihood of slotting right back into the position where you left off? Do you pay for childcare (and potentially cancel out your contribution to the household income) or do you wait until the school years commence and force yourself back into the job market after 5 years?
I know it seems slightly melodramatic as an unmarried co-habitee to be throwing around these concerns, but this is my Gremlin’s latest and I have no control over it.
Men don’t have the same concerns. I know because I’ve asked them. (Not ALL the men, but enough of a sample to come to my own conclusions). Their twenties can be filled with promiscuity and football, their thirties with promiscuity and golf (they’ve got more disposable income by then) and at any point before they sign up for their pension – they have the choice to make an addition to their life path with a partner and children. There isn’t the same rush, the same potential sacrifices. It’s really a nice optional side line that runs parallel to their career. I’m sure men have Gremlins too, but in my mind, they are battling between putting a bet on the football and having a pint after work. Men still have more control over their lives because their timelines are longer, giving them more time to really consider their options. Girls are often slapped in the face by mother nature who’s screaming ‘You’re not getting any younger so stop farting around and get pro-creating!’
Challenging as it is to ignore, I have discovered one way of shutting up the Gremlin…