Over the weekend an article by Wendy Squires created a social media buzz.
The piece was about how as a society we feel it necessary to pass comment and judgement upon childless women. I absolutely agreed with Squires given my own (albeit brief) experience with infertility but that’s not what I want to focus on here. Once again the idea of having a family was framed in terms of “ticking that box”. This lead my thinking off on a tangent about Western society’s expectations in general. ( I know, I know heady stuff for a girl who can barely lift her mind above crumpet). It appears to me that first world folk are increasingly weighed down by laundry lists of achievements that need to be checked off before we can feel we’re having a jolly time of it. It also seems that the higher one climbs up the socio-economic pole, the longer the “to do” list stretches.
A generic list could look like this.
To Do in Your 20s
1) Bachelors degree
2) One or more post Grad qualifications
3) Extensive travel/back packing
4) Gain career foothold in glamorous industry
5) A stint working overseas in glamorous industry
6) Date string of attractive and charismatic guys
7) Acquire a walk in closet full of fabulousness
8) Work out and look hawt at all times
Ideally these accomplishments will be systematically crossed off by the time one reaches their 30s necessitating a fresh list.
To Do By Age 35
1) Cease dating jerks and find true soulmate
2) Get married
3) Purchase sprawling family home in respectable suburb
4) Retire debt
5) Have 2.5 kids
6) Return to glamorous career
7) Work out and look hawt at all times
As one enters their 40s and the kids become more self sufficient the list requires further upgrades.
To Do By Age 50
1) Maintain happy marriage (or at least the facade thereof)
2) Achieve an even more glamorous job title and/or start own business
3) Get kids into private school
4) Renovations to house and face
5) Investment property and/or substantial stock portfolio
6) Renew love affair with travel through exciting family holidays
7) Work out and look hawt at all times
Are you exhausted reading this? I know I am. I’m not sure where all this pressure is coming from but its no doubt there. Yet when you look objectively its ridiculous to expect ourselves to kick goals in every aspect of our lives and to look immaculate while we’re doing it. No wonder depression is reaching epidemic proportions.
I stumbled into my 30s with most of the boxes on the list glaringly empty. To say that I was down in the dumps was an understatement akin to “Dadabs codes a bit”. I felt as though my life was a hard drive held under constant siege by “General Failure”. Luckily for me Dababulous came along and reinstalled said hard drive. The wheel of fortune spun in our favor during the mid 2000s. Relationship, career, family and the dream home all fell into place – tick, tick, tick , tick. I am not going to kid you and say it didn’t bring happiness. Happiness came by the truckload. It was like standing on the jetty thinking the Love Boat had sailed only to have the Tardis pop up and offer a ride.
I will say this – I haven’t ticked all my boxes. The travel box in particular is a big empty square that begs to be filled. However at risk of coming over all zen, I’m at peace with my lot and have given up on lists.
Let’s finish with some crumpet of the cerebral kind. Rock star philosopher Alain de Botton has much to say on what makes for a rich and fulfilling life. What’s more he says it in a voice that is positively musical. Listening to him is uplifting in a way my push up bra is not. Here are some quotes.
Here’s some insight I’ve had about success: You can’t be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance. Nonsense. You can’t have it all. You can’t.
Any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of loss is.
Any wise life will accept that there is going to be an element where we’re not succeeding.
A lot of the time our ideas of what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. Chiefly, if you’re a man, your father; if you’re a woman, your mother… We also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising, to marketing etc. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves.
Do you have list fatigue or are you still working through yours? And Alain de Botton - wouldn’t you like to get him all existential over coffee up the back of some charming Parisian cafe? Nup – just me then……..