What do you want to be when you grow up?

Photograph of a child running towards a city in the murky light.

Author’s note:
This piece was written while in a period of gloom. Therefore, it is gloomy. In fact, it’s one of the few pieces that my husband has read of mine, and he commented that it is pretty well navel-gazing, negative rubbish that is a poor reflection of real life. Ha! Interestingly, at a distance of nearly four weeks, I agree with him wholeheartedly.

But, as I’ve always said to writers that I’ve edited in the past, If you release it, let it stand, or don’t publish it at all.  And so, I let it stand. Enjoy. ~ L.

Clive James said in a recent interview with Kerry O’Brien that he always feels like the youngest, least wise person in the room. All I could think was: Me too, Clive. (In between the weeping over the amazingness of the man who is my greatest literary and critical influence.)

It’s a feeling that I also have. That whenever I am in a room with people, that I am (in theory anyway)the youngest, the least wise, the least educated. That in any given room of people that my life experience is more limited, that I am less well travelled. That I know fewer people, have less money, have fewer things, have read fewer books, seen fewer films, heard fewer albums. That my opinion is less valid, unformed, thinner, and probably not worth airing.

In fact, the feeling of being the ‘least wise’ or the ‘youngest’ is something that I try to accept, largely because I feel I have no other option. I have come to accept that I haven’t travelled the world, and probably never will; that I have made not-so-stellar decisions in my life. I have rather come to accept that I don’t own any significant assets, and that at any given time having $4000 in the bank is remarkable for me. The most money I’ve ever saved is $20,000. And that money was for the Tax Man. I’ve never yet had more than $4000 at my disposal. Never.

When I grow up, I’d like to enjoy feeling like the least wise person in the room.

At 36, I feel I’m at liberty to say, nearly 40. In those terms, having very little and feeling that struggle has a lot more sting. My little sister owns (and has owned) far more property than myself, is far more stable, and has been further in the world than I have.

When I grow up, I will enjoy not having things, and will have let go of this pointless clinging to stuff.

Now that I am closer to 40 than I am to 30, I’ve given serious consideration to the fact that I really should attempt to buy a house, even if it puts me into a whirlpool of serious debt. And this only because beyond a certain age, you can’t work and in Australia, if you can’t work then you can’t live. Can you imagine living in a one-bedroom bedsit at the age of 80 with all your books and albums, unable to buy food, because you have to pay a landlord instead?

No. Me either. But that’s where I’m headed unless I go and have some serious conversations with money lenders about how to change that future.

When I grow up, I’d like to have a guaranteed roof over my head. One from which nobody can boot me.

This issue of being the youngest, the least wise, the least capable is not something about which I write frivolously. There are people 10 years younger than me who are smarter about their finances. People whose lives don’t seem so difficult. The people around me who are young and vibrant and can’t feel the reaper yet. The people for whom lists about what to do before you turn 35 are a laugh because they’re not even 30. The people for whom having less than $10,000 in the bank is a bit of a joke, people whose lives are close to their families.

People who have never struggled, will probably never struggle significantly. They own more than two pairs of functional shoes, wear high priced business wear never more than one day in a row, because they have a lot of it. People for whom eating out constantly is easy.

They are the people who in a room of other people hold conversational sway. They are confident, appear to be educated, appear on panels and in rows of other experts. They know a lot of people – certainly more than I do. They hold conversation easily, never worry about going to a thousand-and-one events even if they have family or friends at home who aren’t seeing them.

You see what this is, don’t you? This is entirely a fantasy in my own mind. In my vivid and colourful imagination they are people whose houses are always clean, shiny and smell nice. People whose fridges are always well stocked. They walk around with panache and lightness, and things come to them easily.

They are a fantasy. And in this fantasy, my somewhat thin education is kept out of their sight. They don’t care for it, such as it is, and my opinions are not well accepted by people. Therefore, I don’t speak them.

When I grow up, I’d like my imagination to paint less envious pictures.

This feeling of being less than other people is something that could be, you might say, the fabric of my life. If you travel to another city, doubtless you go out and enjoy it. If I travel to another city, I work and read and see family. If you go to an event, it’s more likely that you are a person of influence, and I am the hanger-on hoping for a semi-reasonable conversation with someone before leaving early so my family doesn’t feel left out.

In any given group of people, I will certainly feel less capable than you. I will certainly feel less skilled. In any relevant group of people, there will be someone withholding her (often considerable) opinion about things, and that will likely be me.

It’s a simple truth that I don’t feel particularly well educated. My writing is not that good: I spend my life writing crap things and crap websites for other people (badly, in my opinion); I have friends who have regular jobs and write amazing books, and have fans, and all the rest of it. My library is thin, my reading experience poor, my experience of the world as a whole is threadbare. There are few things that I do very well, and I spend a lot of my life training myself in things like focus, attention, compassion, and being valuable to others.

And yet, I simultaneously feel that I am also rubbish at all of these things. I will likely always be rubbish at all of these things.

When I grow up, I want to have an absence of wanting to fit a picture of ridiculousness such as the above.

When I grow up, I want to be well read, and educated, and talented at something. I don’t have enough time to become this, and I am scrambling to read enough to feel like this vast wasteland has some features.

When I grow up, I want to be valued.

I’m not sure that I am valued. In fact, much of my life is spent in service to others. And as I’m learning – and have learned – being in service to others is difficult, most often thankless, and just downright difficult. It would be nice to be able to grow up and have the bandwidth to be the writer and business woman that I like to think that I am; but I am not sure where that path lies. Much of the way is obscured in fog. And yet, that’s also life and the uncertainty is something I try to grasp.

When I grow up, I’d like to have the courage to plough my way into the fog, to discover the riches and wonder that it contains.

And at some stage, I’d like to be able to grow vegetables, too. Yet I fear, outside surrounded by my garden plants, I am still the least wise, the youngest, among them.

2 thoughts on “What do you want to be when you grow up?

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one, Panos! I’m glad you enjoy my work. Perhaps the issue of being a crap writer is so subjective that it’s one of those artist things about being destined to be dissatisfied always. Maybe it’s something to celebrate: If I thought I was great, there’d be no point continuing. 🙂

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