My thirty-second birthday fell last week. Apart from the minor, no, really, it’s minor, I’m not in the least annoyed, fact that every single one of my eight brothers and sisters have forgotten said birthday, it was very nice. H spoilt me. My mother gave me the fees for my MA. As I had saved these up anyway, I was a) completely flabberghasted, b) in tears, and c) now have enough money to buy a lap-top, about which I am unreasoningly excited. My Dad called me (a highly unusual event) and we had a lovely chat. My two best friends gave good gifts. Everyone at work signed a card for me. Well, I did draw their attention to the fact it was my birthday by turning up with a gigantic box of Millie’s Cookies, the nicest cookies you can get big boxes of on the way to work, but the sentiments in the card were very sweet.

As part of his Birthday Spoiling, H took me to the theatre to see Avenue Q (warning, noisy link). And yes, it is indeed very funny to watch Muppets running about screwing and swearing and being gay republicans. I enjoyed it thoroughly. H denies this absolutely, but he damn well DID waggle his eyebrows at me during two songs, one about what can one do with a degree in English? (nada), and one about longing to go back to college, when you knew who you were. Yes, well, this particular English graduate who’s going back to college in September did in fact laugh quite hard, but with a little inward sigh. Yeah verily, the show is ‘just like your life, only funnier’.

Anyway, all this turning thirty-two and going to musicals has brought on a fit of introspection. It would, wouldn’t it? I was the sort of teenager who not only kept a diary (ohhh, yes), but who also made lists of New Year’s Resolutions and of grand plans and ambitions. When I was sixteen, for example, I was going to be a barrister and a best-selling author. By the time I was eighteen, I had dropped law and was going to be an English Literature Professor at, oh, I don’t know, Oxford. Not that Oxford shared my enthusiasm for this plan, damn their eyes. And up until The Great PhD Debacle of 2000, I was nevertheless going to be an English lecturer at some university or other.

My aspiration success chart currently looks something like this:

  • Career in Academia – Fucking oops. And no, I don’t think Library assistant at a college counts in any way.
  • Published author – Nope. Though I have, at last, actually written something book-length, which is a start. The length of time it took me to get from wanting to write to actually writing something is shameful.
  • Cat ownership (I love cats) – I have a cactus.
  • Deeply cool flat with balcony purchased with proceedings of authorial career – Ah ha ha ha.

On the other hand, my actual success chart looks more like this:

  • Highly successful marriage to unusually lovely man – How in Hell did I manage this? It had never been an aspiration to start with because I spent all my life from the age of eight to twenty-eight convinced I was fundamentally unlovable, so it would never come up, and anyway, I didn’t care, because that would be wet, and in any case I’d be far too busy pursuing intellectual success to look after some damn man. The fact that I have married my childhood sweetheart is therefore so eyewateringly ironic I still sometimes wonder who that man is and why is he making me tea? But there it is. One husband. Quality, excellent. My mother is very proud of me.
  • Career in librarianship – Increasingly obviously the career laid out for me by the Fates since the hour of my birth. As my careers advisor (also the school librarian) tried gently to point out to me when I was 14, 16, and 18. If I had listened to her, I’d have saved me a lot of time and mucking about.
  • Errrm…

And my current aspiration chart has morphed to look like this:

  • Finish the damn novel. No further comment needed on this point.
  • Have kids. A kid, even. I have no idea why I now want a kid so badly, when I spent until my mid twenties not really wanting kids, and my late twenties being ambivalent. I don’t even really like kids (except my niece. And my cousin. And my friends’ kids. And when any given kid smiles at me). Motherhood looks exhausting, boring, grubby, repetitive, and insufficiently appreciated by the rest of the universe. I don’t fancy the look of it in the least. Nevertheless, incoherent longings for one of my own are persecuting me.
  • Get MA in Librarianship, followed by nice quiet job in cataloguing, preferably well away from the Issue Desk, as the general public are just so damn exhausting (though I may feel sunnier about them when exam term is over and they’ve all recovered their manners and sanity).
  • Good health would be nice.

Whaever has happened to the firebrand young woman who needed no one and nothing and who used to live in this skin? And is the fact she’s gone good or bad?

Why can’t I answer this?


2 responses to “Retrospective

  • Adrienne

    Happy birthday, May. And I think your actual success chart looks fabulous!

  • Sol

    I am also doing the two things I was least expecting to/ declared they were the last thing on Earth I would ever do: be married and teach.

    And the fact that I like bossing people around is a bit of a surprise.

    I’m not sure whether it’s a blessing or not that I discovered this a bit late to just go hell for leather for a career in Management, with a view to getting on the Board before I was 40. I occassionally thing about the money wistfully and watch the Aprentice with a sneer.

    What actually worries me though is that I seem to be sliding to the Right rather rapidly when it comes to political persuasion. I cannot understand where my leftie sensibilities have gone to. It’s like losing my belief in God. Really quite traumatic.

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