I am twenty five, and I began this post to say that very suddenly my body is a ticking time bomb. I changed my mind by the time I was finished, never fear.
Last year, I was twenty four – young, naive, only 3 years into my graduate career with all the world in front of me, a degree, the beginnings of life experience, and everything to work for. On beginning this post, I meant to say that now I am twenty five, I’ve got only 5 years to achieve every selfish goal I ever chased, every dream I’ve dreamed before life is over.
Here’s the ‘logic’:
If I want to be an asset to society, to further the human race, you see, I’m going to have to have children – or so the world tells me. At least, I blame society – but the truth is I don’t hate the idea of starting a family, and it’s easy to blame society and sound barbed about it. Regardless of the reasons, I don’t want to be arguing with a 16 year old mini-me when I’m over 50 (believe me, NO ONE wants to have to argue with a 16 year old mini-me without substantial energy), so I’m going to have to push a sprog out come 30.
Aged 20, only five years ago, I was considering entering my first triathlon – maybe not even that, quite possibly entering my first 5k run. I had years to achieve everything I wanted, years to prepare, years to think about entering the AG World Champs, a couple more to screw up and spend a 24 months on the no-running injured bench. Now suddenly, I’ve got to hurry up or I’ll never get that sub hour 25 mile TT (still 36 seconds to cut off, you see) and ideas of competing in a GB suit are going to drift away if I don’t get on it and actually complete a qualifier without breaking something.
At 21, I took my first internship for a local paper – £50 a day they paid me, and strung me along for 3 months before giving me a permanent position, that was constantly under threat from the shorthand monster despite the meagre £15k a year salary that was just enough to barely live on.
A year later and I was not sure I wanted to be knocking on the doors of the bereaved after a ‘story’, so took a side step, spent a few more years in Marketing, and now I’m nearly where I want to be, writing about my passion – just about figuring out where I’m going. And I’ve got 5 years to become exactly what I want, before I have to try to make it a freelance endevour, or just give up. Perhaps I could carry on, but it’d cost me probably more than I earn and maybe more than that emotionally.
Basically, I’m starting to see that every mistake, every wrong turn, costs me years – and there aren’t as many as I expected. If I had 60 of them, to have my career, I could afford to waste a few – but I don’t feel I do.
I realise there are countries where women don’t even get a choice, where they’re giving birth to multiple wailing anchors from the age of 18 or younger, I realise all my turmoil is because I’ve been given more than them – and should I choose, it can all go away with an implant or something else.
Despite this, I can’t help but feel the pressure to become everything I want to be before giving it all up to be the one and only for a new life.
I realise the 30-somethings might find this hard to read, still ploughing on with life and getting closer to their goals, close to the position they’d like on the career ladder, with no intention of letting go.
Yet still the clock is ticking and I’m wondering if I can reach Nirvana in time (the oneness sense of the word, not the 90s grunge band).
I realise the 30-somethings who have stepped off the edge of indecision and plunged into motherhood, now tending to toddlers and living their lives alongside the new career may find this melodramatic – they drop the little ones off at playschool perhaps, and go to work as they always did.
But is the same drive and determination still there? Can they still finish the day and pummel themselves in the gym, too, seeking strength and speed, can they still pack a bag and just explore the world for a day on the weekend (or a week?!), or is all that over?
If I’d been created with an X and a Y chromosome, none of this would matter.
Fatherhood might stunt a man, might mean sleepless nights, but likely he’ll go back to work and carry on his previous existence. Of course, no biological rule states that he couldn’t stay at home, whilst the mother went back to work to live a normal life – but it seems somehow natural that the one who carries the child for nine months stays with it in its early years.
I could argue that in Penguins, that’s quite the contrary – but I am not a Penguin.
I am a human, and actually there is a lot of choice. Perhaps now, there is too much choice – and it’s best not to dwell, and to simply let life happen as it does, and go where it goes.
I think the answer is that there is no perfection, no Nirvana, that can be found in any goal.
First world society is never simply content that it is warm, well fed, with a roof over its head. It’s not happy if it gets promoted to the top of the top, nor is it happy when it stands atop the podium with Gold – there is always more.
No job, no finishers medal achieved will ever make for the fulfillment we’re all seeking. No family life, no endless broods of heirs to the family name will provide that joy either.
There isn’t really a deadline, except the end of life – by which time we want to die happy. There are many, many routes to happy – and to get there, we need to enjoy the present, enjoy the moment, not spend time constantly wondering what is next, around the corner.
That is why I shouldn’t hear this tick. Life is what it is, will be what it will be, and I think I’m best off just enjoying the seconds, the minutes, hours and years – not counting them against me.