- Posted December 8, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
2013: Your greatest moment
2013: Your Greatest Moment
Then I realised I was approaching it in the wrong way. I was pinpointing milestones in my year that were dictated as ‘triumphs’ by the background that I’m from but, in reality, had brought me more stress and self-questioning than moments of ‘greatness’. The war-torn post-uni career path is one constructed and reproduced in my world by the middle-class, West London environment I hail from. Bright-eyed graduates seem to either get begrudgingly coaxed, or run headfirst; arms sprawled; tongues wailing down this precarious and somewhat terrifying road. Most are hungry for that first low-paying; abuse-rendering; soul-killing ‘break’, simply because we truly believe that that is the key to unlocking a myriad of future “great moments” (and we’ll be able to afford those new shoes – yay). I thought I was one of the ones hungry for it: I was wrong.
So these successes, though I was (and am) proud to have achieved them, were not my greatest moments of 2013. As implied by the term “greatest”, I think this should be something that made you exceptionally and incomparably happier than any other time. It was then that I realised. It wasn’t a moment for me, but a chain of action. It was doing exactly what was not expected of me: I quit my promising future in London; I packed up my flat in Hampton; and I said goodbye to my much-loved, secure nest of family and friends in the UK. I flew to Greece to earn near-pittance at a watersports company, working as my not-just-a-little-bit-peeved ex boss described (through gritted teeth), as a “beach bum” (/admin bitch, actually, so there). I put a metaphorical middle finger up to the 9-6 office job that was stealing my soul, my health, and my sanity.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t imagine myself in a bedazzling golden aura as I say this. In fact, if anything, that decision revealed a critical weakness in me. I succumbed to that little voice that so many people must hear in their jobs, challenging you, taunting you…“Can’t take the strain? Quit!”. Thousands of people do seasons every year, and it’s not the job itself that made this the greatest moment (though I did love it, and I’m going back for more). It’s that by making the decision to take that job, I was loudly and unashamedly relinquishing myself of the pressure to do something that, ultimately, I do not want to do right now. My brilliant, loving parents had to gulp down the fact that they had paid towards private education and a First Class degree for 22 long years, and I was shunning these things like dust in my coffee.
Those old sayings "money doesn't make you happy", and "don't work so hard to make a living that you forget to make a life", are worn out and clichéd for a reason. They resonate with people. (That said, they do only identify with people who have enough money to be financially comfortable, and therefore are blessed with the option to be happy with, or without it.) But for those, like I, who are lucky enough to feel like the walls of our existence are sufficiently padded with a fallback option, an "I can turn to this (or them) if I am jobless and penniless for a couple of months" option, happiness (I think, anyway) is not generated by money. Of course, you cannot generalise, as some people’s motivational fins are propelled by the desire to fill their bank accounts. This is sometimes criticised, but those people are pursuing what makes them happy, and that is my point here: if it makes you happy, for God’s sake, do it.
Everyone told me that careers evolve from hobbies; from passions. I tried to leapfrog my way over the passion bit, and found myself plummeting headfirst into the career. But without the passion, I found myself flailing; slowly drowning. I’ve realised that it can never work this way. If you’re struggling, like me, to work out what the hell you want to do in your life, then throw yourself into the unknown (but don’t leave out the passion part). Try something new (I’m going to teach windsurfing next summer - anyone who knows me is surely thinking that this is an unfunny joke). You want to travel and see a bit of the world? To drink a banana lassi on a sun soaked beach like a lame, bewildered mature student on a ‘Gap Yah’? Do it. Put some money away and take off. Don’t let the expectation to use your ‘amazing capabilities’ for ‘secure’ employment constrain you. Those skills will still be there when you get back. Always think about money (unfortunately, you do need it), but never allow those thoughts to accelerate into blind panic. There is always going to be something on this earth that someone will reward you for doing for them, and every job you do (however low paid) will force you to encounter new people and new situations that will teach you something helpful. In time, you will build up the first-hand experience to become a convivial and co-operative force to be reckoned with.
One day, I definitely do want be back in pencil skirts - making decisions, answering emails, being a ‘grown-up’. I enjoy doing those things, and God-dammit, I am a grown up! (Aren’t I?) So I’m sure I’ll settle into a big city and pursue some form of “professional” employment at some point. But for now, seeing some different places and meeting some new people is what is making me happy. If it weren’t for that decision I made to move to Greece, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try new things. I wouldn’t have had the guts to start flexing my literary muscles and putting my thoughts on screen, for the world to scrutinise and ridicule. And I certainly wouldn’t be living in Cape Town right now. I think this is what I’m trying to say (I realise I’ve swerved fairly violently off on a tangent): my greatest moment of 2013 was following my heart, not my head.
Obviously, this is just conjecture; no one in this world is ever wholly right or wrong. The person who seems most ‘right’ is just the one who convinces you most effectively to believe their argument. In fact, in ten years time, I’ll probably be sleeping on my highflying investment banker friend’s Egyptian cotton sofa, crying into a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (that she paid for) as we re-read this and laugh at how much of an irresponsible dreamer I was. But if by then I have reaped as many moments of happiness, gut-wrenching laughter and good friends as I have in this past year, then I won’t regret a minute of it. Make the decision now that this time next year, when you look back on 2014, everything you did was for the pursuit of a “great moment” that primarily and fundamentally made YOU happy. You don’t have to follow the trailblazers and the £40kers if you don’t want to. Keep your head up, be smart, and challenge yourself. One day, you may be one of those rare and lucky few who earn the money to live the lifestyle they’ve always imagined, doing something they genuinely love. Here’s hoping…