07 Oct LOST : “Passion” … Last seen circa 1998
When did searching for your passion become a thing? I don’t recall having to brainstorm it as a child. At around age eight, I remember telling my Mum, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a ballerina, a flute teacher and have one hundred babies” … in that order. Simple. In my perfectly idealistic and innocent mind, my life goals were entirely plausible and my talent (or lack thereof) as a mother, flautist or ballerina was of little or no consequence. Anything was possible, time was infinite and I believed that I could be and do whatever it was that my heart desired. I wasn’t completely naïve however, as I also recall that it was my intention to; “build another house on top of your house mummy” … presumably so that she could help care for the one hundred babies, while I was off juggling my commitments to the Royal Ballet and the Conservatorium of Music. Curiously, there was no mention of a father figure, and nor did I ever fast forward to the part where my hundred babies grew into hormonal, eye-rolly teenagers. Funny that.
Somewhere during high school, I relinquished both my creative and (to my Mum’s relief) reproductive goals, but if I’m honest, I never replaced them with anything as specific, or for which I harboured the same enthusiasm or passion. Creativity gave way to conformity and as time passed, my childhood dreams were dampened by societal expectations to fit in and follow suit. I began laying the foundations for the kind of life I thought I should want. The one that I thought I was expected to want. School was followed by university, then a coveted graduate position with a major multinational and a firm foothold on the corporate ladder. Everything was on track … whose track is not clear, but a well-traveled and orthodox one for sure. I don’t think that I ever had a clear vision of where or what I was aiming for, but I was of the belief, that if I just kept moving up the rungs, wherever I ended up, I would be successful…. at something. I came to mistake ambition for passion, or maybe the boundaries between the two just became blurred. I was motivated by the lure of the next ‘rung’ on the ladder and found validation in societal accolades rather than from that thing that made me come alive or made my heart sing. I learned to shut out that inner whisper that said “this doesn’t feel right” and I handed over creative control of my story to a ‘societal ghost-writer,’ who continued to develop the plot in a very conventional and predictable way. I married an entirely suitable man; we bought a house and had two children in quick succession (a girl and a boy), after which I detoured off the ‘career’ track and onto the full-time parenting path, all by the time I was thirty. By all mainstream measures of success, I was nailing life. I wholeheartedly embraced what society told me a good mother should look like, selflessly devoting myself to meeting my children’s every need. My identity was defined by my role as a mum…. martyring myself to motherhood, slowly burying the real me under layers of expectation, service and pretence and silencing that inner knowing that I was meant (and secretly yearned) for something more.
Over the years, I frequently fantasised about rediscovering my passions outside parenting, re-engaging my brain and resuming some semblance of a fulfilling career. My youthful ambition, filed away within easy reach, ready to take up where I left off, when the time was right. Until one day (not so long ago), when I woke up and realised that ‘the right time’ never came or if it did, I missed it. The family, that I had lost myself in service to, no longer required my services. Gradually (but also suddenly), one by one, they peeled off and I found myself alone, inside a life I didn’t recognise. A life that looked more like an empty chalk outline of what it once was and haunted by the ghost of the person I always dreamt I would be. A part of me is still pining for what was; desperately trying to squeeze back into that life that outgrew me and a part of me is scanning the horizon for that pre-dawn expectant glimmer of hope, that might offer an inkling of something beautiful and interesting ahead. Is it too late to rediscover that passionate girl, trapped below all the layers of life and give her back creative control of the story she was born to tell? The one she imagined as a child. The one she always thought she’d have time to make happen.
This complicated relationship with time has given rise to an internal tug-of war, that has sparked a newfound sense of urgency around uncovering the big P’s of passion and purpose that will underpin the foundations of the next phase of my life. For the first time in forever, I have the freedom to do whatever the hell I want (within reason and overlaid with some annoying economic considerations) … but freedom relative to the last twenty years nonetheless. This sweet taste of freedom should see me jumping for joy and high-fiving strangers in the street, but instead, I feel disoriented and on edge. I am acutely aware of life’s giant hourglass hovering overhead, like the ball in Times Square, counting down and reminding me that I no longer have the luxury of endless hours to experiment and learn from my mistakes. Death, once a blurry speck in the distance, is slowly moving into focus. A focus that was simultaneously magnified and floodlit by an online quiz AND a meeting with my financial planner. The dreaded death maths doppelganger. According to the quiz, I may well live until I am ninety-one, a result that left me feeling both elated and alarmed. Elated because that’s a ripe old age by anyone’s definition, but alarmed because half of ninety-one is forty-five and a half, which means that as of a few years back, I am officially counting down not up. This spotlight on my ‘use by’ date was reinforced by my financial planner, who outlined, in an alarmingly matter-of-fact way, that it was his job to make sure that I don’t “outlast my savings.” I guess the notion of a destitute ninety-two-year-old, who’d only budgeted to live to ninety-one, is the ultimate double-edged sword.
As my heyday gives way to my mayday, death feels less like a rumour. I am racing against the giant hourglass of life, to uncover those big P’s that, with any luck, will help me to rediscover the plot of my life and write myself back in as the hero of my story.
One more thing …. I am putting the finishing touches on my first book and have been told by ‘reliable sources’ that a writer’s “platform” (aka followers) is an important piece of the publishing puzzle … who knew? Anyhoo …. self-promotion is not my strong suit (and I am starting well behind the 8 ball) … so I would be super grateful if you could help me out by following my facebook page at: www.facebook.com/therealangiam and/or subscribing to my blog at www.angiam.com.au (scroll to the very bottom for subscription box)… and maybe even share this post on your own facebook pages, if you think your mates would enjoy it too.