Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Not quite where I thought I'd be

When I was a little girl I imagined what my life would be like. I would obviously get married and I would have the babies and I would have the house and I would have the job. My brain never went into more detail than that, I’m not one of those girls who knows what every aspect of her wedding will be like (in fact I fear that I’ll be one of those unfortunates who just looks like a twat in a big white dress) and I was never specific about how many children I would have, how big, or where, the house would be and no idea what career ladder I would be climbing.

There was only one thing fixed in my head. The age by which all this would have happened.

That age?

My late twenties.


The trouble with this dream was threefold:

1. I was little! I was at an age where 40 means you’re close to your grave and in my head late twenties was pretty damn old.

2. I had the older brother and sister leading the way – they were both married and sprogged up by the time they were my age, so of course I thought it was reasonable. What I didn’t realise was that really they were the exception to the rule, my sister especially, she is Mrs Big Fancy Boss Woman, but only because she had her children pretty early on, went straight back to work and got to hop, skip and jump up the ladder in her 30s when all her fellow female colleagues were dropping out to deliver their offspring into the world.

3. I have an older Mum. She was 38 when she had me and although I love her dearly, I was conscious of having an older Mum and didn’t really like it growing up. The gap between her generation and mine just seemed so big and I know we all think our parents don’t understand us but mine really really didn’t, she was bewildered by me a little bit I think. I wanted to still be fairly young when I had my kiddywinks.

Anyway. Whatever the reasons were I think it’s easy to say that it aint gonna happen. Unless I win millions of pounds enabling me to buy my own house and pressure someone into impregnating me in the next couple of years, that childhood dream will remain just that.

And weirdly enough, I’m starting to feel ok with that. A few years ago when Mr Gym Freak and I split up I went into a complete spiral and thought that my life was over and I’d never find anyone ever again and all my chances of realising my dreams were up in smoke. But, you know, you get over it don’t you?

And then I thought I’d found it all again with the ex only, well you all know well enough, that didn’t work out and so I find myself, at 27, not in a house with a husband and a baby but in a house with a friend and two cats. I won’t lie, at first it was difficult, when I moved in to Dorothy’s I went upstairs to unpack and just stood there looking at all my shit all over this tiny double room and couldn’t believe what I’d done, I wanted to take it all back immediately.

The trouble is, the childhood me never took into consideration the notion of happiness. My brain was focused on the end products – husband, house, child – not on the feelings that went hand in hand and if I have only learned one thing over the past few years, it’s that the happiness thing is the most important.

I could have had, or come incredibly close, to having all that Tiny Me wanted. All I would have had to have done was discount my happiness. It wasn’t terrible, I could have stayed, but I knew that I couldn’t put those feelings to one side and so blew up those dreams in a puff of smoke. Like I said, I am now feeling ok about that, yes it’s sad but it isn’t the end of the world, life is carrying on and I know, I know, that me being happy is more important than some silly childhood dream.


A week on Saturday I will attend the first wedding of my group of friends. I can’t wait, for one thing the pair of them have been engaged for freakin’ years, but I can’t lie, it’s made me feel a little wobbly and although I will be at the wedding just being happy for the pair of them I know that there’ll be a little part of me inside that is just ever so sad (and more than a little jealous) that it’s so far away from my grubby little mitts. This is sometimes made worse by the fact that out of the seven of our group, three are engaged, one has a baby with her partner, two live with their partners....and then there’s me. Excellent.

When I do start to feel wobbly I try to focus myself and tell myself to calm. down. It’s all fine. It’s all going to work out (no don’t ask me how I know, I put all my energy into not asking that question). You are happy, that’s what’s important. Repeat after me, “You are happy. You are happy.”

And then equilibrium is restored.


Until earlier this week when one of the girls who lives with her boyfriend announced that she was engaged.

Anyone got a paper bag to hand?


  1. I am coming to the end of my 29th year. I can't wait for it to be over.

    I was in an 8 year relationship and for the last 4 of them the ex and I said babies and marriage at29.
    For 4 years 29 was the age it would happen. We split up over 2 years ago. I left him because it wasn't right. It was my choice. And I have a wonderful new boyf and a lovely flat with my friend. I am happier than I ever was. But it hasn't stopped little 'wobbles' as you put it all through the year – I’m 29. I am *supposed* to be doing those things. My friends are doing those things.

    Things don't go to plan but it doesn't stop the head remembering the plans does it?

    But yes, it will all work out. I am clinging on to that myself.

  2. I'm pretty sure most women go through the same thing when things don't go according to schedule. I expected to have kids, house, career by now (I'm 37). I am unlikely to have kids or a traditional career because of my health. I'm in pain everyday - and every time a friend announces they are pregnant - I feel my heart break. Then I remember that if I'd gone down that traditional route and married my fiancee at age 22 like I was supposed to. I might have those things, I might have even not got ill, but I would be stuck in a loveless marriage and I'd probably resent my children because of it. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, let alone my own offspring. I may have had to give up on "the dream" but I have a wonderful supportive partner, who has been with me through all the ups and mainly downs of the last 10 years, and I wouldn't change him for the world. I have a creative outlet that really satisfies me and lots of friend. Apart from the pain, I'm happy. If I got rid of the pain and got to keep everything else I would be ecstatic, but if I had to give any part of that up to get rid of the pain, I wouldn't.

    You will have regrets, we all do, that is what makes us human, but remember that if you are happy NOW that makes you a rare beast indeed. Be grateful for it, whenever you remember.

  3. I could start with an "At least you're..." comment but you know them all. I'm just going to say that it's odd the way our lives turn out and that there's happiness to be found in all sorts of places and situations. I certainly never thought I'd be a childless cat lady sharing a house with a wee young thing but it's infinitely better than where I was a few years ago.
    You made the right decision about your relationship; a loveless marriage is torture and you didn't inflict that on yourself or anyone else but that doesn't mean you can't regret th loss of the dream.

  4. In truth I think most people aren't where they thought they'd be. Most people don't have their dream job, just a job - but you put up with that as you have to pay the bills. The marriage thing is different. You were brave and said it may be ok but it isn't good enough, a lot of people aren't that brave and go through with it as they're scared to see what else there may be out there. But OK isn't good enough. Not for ever. You made the right decision.

  5. Borrow my paper bag...

    At times everyone seems more grownup than me - if they're not married already then they've been together for years and have the house/car/dog. Feck it though, I refuse to feel under pressure from any stupid societal norms to get married and pop out sprogs by a certain point in my life. If it happens, it happens (well the sprogs part won't - I have zilch maternal instinct). If it doesn't, why is that a bad thing?

  6. I don't have a paper bag but I do have a bright white tyvek suit you can borrow if you like. you can borrow the mask as well if you like x

  7. I know exactly how you feel. I am in the EXACT same boat - except I don't have a job, a place of my own (living with dad) and I don't have a clue either...

    It isn't a race...I keep telling myself and happiness is so important - you wouldn't want to feel trapped in a marriage and unhappy. But...you look at the happiness of people at their weddings and wish it was you. Everyone is jumping on the wedding/baby band wagon at this age and it is a little alarming.

    Actually...it is kind of like the feeling i had at 14 when i realised practically everyone had snogged someone and I hadn't at school. I panicked about that for ages and ended up snogging some ugly guy with shit teeth. No fun. It was only then that I realised I would have been better to have waited and that my fears had been stupid.

    But just remember only fools rush in -as the above story reveals. Hate to be cynical but not all of these marriages will last. The wave of divorces will hit at some point too and everyone will start jumping on that band wagon as well! That will be an interesting thing to witness if facebook is still going when we hit that stage!

    Anyway...you're alright...I'm alright...we're living our lives and when we are least expecting it...that is when we will probably fall in love again...with the right person. xxx

  8. Oh the pressure is just waful isn't it. I remember when I was 14 and not knowing if anyone would ever want to marry me, or if I even wanted to get married, and as for kids, God, just the thought...as you know I am married now (8 years) and have 2 boys, but I was 31 before I had my first, and SO conscious of how old I would be through certain stages of their life. I loved this post, it was so honest and opening your soul, saying things most of us have thought at some point but are too shit scared to say it! Go to the wedding and enjoy it for what it is, a good time and celebration, and DONT relate it too much to your situation. Hugs K xx

  9. You are doing what is right for you, all those ideals of what we should be or have by a certain age are just that 'ideals'

    I did what I thought was the right thing and spent many many years stiffled and unhappy in a marraige I should never had entered. Yes I did have the 'I don't want to do it's' on my wedding day but my Mother poo pooed it and well the rest is history.

    Now I'm the odd one out at parties because everyone else still has their husband - god I should do a blog on that one! LOL

    You are fine, you will be fine and hon I wish I'd had a friend like you 19 years ago. :D

  10. Do you know what? You are as grown up as the lot of them. You have made your own mind up! Things will happen when the time is right, it's just not always the things we expect. You will look back and just know that you did the right thing. Enjoy the wedding, you never know who you might meet. Look out for the unexpected.

  11. Oh this post made me feel really sad - because I think the above comment "In truth I think most people aren't where they thought they'd be" is absolutely true. I had all of what you're wishing for (well, not the babies!) and i lost it, and it's pretty f-ing shit. Better to have loved and lost? I'm not so sure. Now i know how important it is to wait for the right person at the right time, not to be be motivated by abstract desires to be in particular situations... just to be wise. You sound wise and i'm sure it'll carry you far. But i know how horrible it is to watch other people enjoying what you want, and to feel so jealous and a little bitter about it, and then to turn on yourself and start thinking how horrible you must be for envying your close friends for being happy, more or less. Gah.
    Hope you feel a little sunnier today.

  12. God, I know exactly how you feel. About the whole being totally settled by your late twenties. My idea was that I'd meet someone, be with them for say 5 years (which is a reasonable time to find out whether you're compatible or not) and then get married and have babies. All before the age of 30. Now, things have been more than rocky lately and god knows how things are going to end up, but I feel this dream is disappearing into smoke... a little sad, because as I've grown up, I've felt that having kids young (rather than when you're 35) is a lot better for both the kids and yourself. But yep, unless I turn into some mental psycho bitch and stop taking the pill without telling my boyfriend, that's just not going to happen!!

  13. I was the last of my crowd to get married - all the rest had husbands and babies and houses even though I had been with my commitment phobic boyfriend the longest. I eventually "forced" him into buying a house and marriage - only to get divorced 7 years later very traumatically. Then I met my lovely hubby - and you honestly would never have put us 2 together! And weve been alright ever since! (apart from a annus horibilus year in 2003 when it looked like it might all be over). If you want life to go to plan, you have to have plan A, B, C, D etc and be very flexible. Its not an easy ride, but try to enjoy it as much as possible. xxxxx

  14. I am a great believer in 'shit happens for a reason'. And we never ever know why. I'm kind of jealous because at least you had dreams. I don't ever remember having dreams of 'when I grew up'. How friggin sad is that? And then to have to grow up very quickly because my mother passed away, and then to rebel against my dad because he was getting married before my mother was gone 6 months.And then for me to marry some piece of shit only to get out of the house.......well the rest is history. Some I am not very proud of but the fact of the matter is I was thrust into these situations clearly out of my realm and I did the best I could at the time. I am now in my 50's after 2 marriages with a heavy soul full of regrets. I live with them every day. We all have our demons that we carry but we all wake up each day to do the best we can with what we are dealt. Some's hands are crappier than others.

    You hit it on the head...the word happy. That's what it's all about isn't it? We have to be happy to get through our lives. Otherwise we are miserable bitches that have no purpose except to make others miserable. I don't particularly care to expose others to my miseries, I'd rather suffer in my own silence with the illusion of happiness so they don't pity me. At least my expectations aren't a bust....for I never had them to begin with! Life is good. :o)

  15. I know exactly what you mean, when I was "younger" I always thought by 25 I'd be married with a string of children behind but sadly at 31 I've been single for far longer than I care to admit!

    All my friends are married/partnered up/have kids apart from me... and the hightlight of all that - having to go to my ex-fiance's sisters wedding as the ONLY single person there!!!

    Victoria xx

  16. I've been reading your post for a while but never commented.

    At 27, I was single and didn't think I would marry anytime soon (that's also the year I moved to the UK). I wasn't looking for it, really, even if I had the same childhood dreams as yours.

    I was married at 29 and was 30 and a bit when my son was born.

    So everything is possible! ;)

  17. Oh, there's so much I could say here but I'll just restrict it to these few things:

    I know how you feel about the older mother - mine was 39 when she had me. But unlike you, I never felt particularly worried by this and even conned myself into thinking that if she left it that long to have a child then I could get away with it too. That turned out to be a rather stupid assumption and it's only now, in my mid 40s that I'm finally pregnant, and that after a lot of effort and money. Hmmm, that will possibly not reassure you.

    For me, marriage was just a childhood fantasy and as soon as I was in my 20s I realised that I hadn't seen enough examples of good marriages to want to be in one myself. I also feel very strongly that, for me, getting married would be like a wild animal voluntarily allowing itself to be caged up. It really makes me shudder at the thought. Are you sure you want to get married? Or is it the romance and the alleged happy ever after that is fooling you?

    Final thing. I definitely think you can try too hard. For all my 20s I wanted a long term boyfriend and the whole cottage with roses thing, but it never happened. Then I worked in an all male environment for 3 years and got sick of men being complete a-holes. I decided to change career and went back to uni to do landscape architecture, and jokingly planned to study ferociously for 2 years, then get a job, meet a wonderful male landscape architect and live happily ever after. Instead, I met my other half during the first week at uni, he was doing a completely different course to me, we had nothing in common and yet more than 10 years later we are still together. It turned out exactly as I didn't plan it, and perhaps that was what was meant to happen.

    Being imminently 30 does not make you over the hill. I felt better about myself in my 30s than at any time before. People who have the whole marriage, mortgage and babies thing by the time they're 25 are either incredibly lucky or wearing rose tinted glasses.

    ps. you might also be interested in the last couple of posts by The Cupcake Goddess on a related topic http://www.thecupcakegoddess.com/

  18. Double grumble. I just wrote an extra long comment and flippin' Blogger told me it was too long and I lost it all.

    So quick summary:

    My mum was 39 when she had me and although I wasn't bothered by it, it did lull me in to a false sense of security about leaving it late to get pregnant. That was a mistake.

    Marriage lost its lustre for me in my 20s when I realised I hadn't seen enough examples of good ones to be convinced by the idea. The thought of marriage now makes me shudder.

    I think it's very easy to fall into the trap of trying too hard. My OH turned up exactly when I wasn't looking for a partner and we have nothing in common, and yet somehow we have been together for more than 10 years.

    People who do end up with the whole package by the time they're 25 are either very lucky, very ruthless or wearing rose tinted glasses.

    I felt more comfortable with myself after I turned 30 than during the whole of my 20s. Unfortunately you can't know it till you get there.

    You might also want to read Sunni's posts on the related topic of ageing at http://www.thecupcakegoddess.com/

  19. It just annoys me that there's more social stigma attached to being Happily Unmarried than there is to being Unhappily Married. Like, oh, so yeah, you don't love your husband? yeah yeah, well at least you GOT one. Uh...yeah, but, surely, most people have somebody they could have been with at some point. Doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

    Happy. Happy. Happy. S'all you need.

  20. I think I'm maybe further down the road than you with this stuff (and already threw some of it away a few years ago because I was not happy), but I was feeling a lot like that this week too. My room-mate from university had her first baby today and I think the main reason I cried was because I just never pictured what it would really be like when all this stuff happened. Over the last couple of years, very quickly all the girls from uni have got engaged.. married... and now the babies are arriving, although not all in the correct order. This time we've left no-one single as even the girl with the useless boyfriend we never see has moved in with her man, and i'm the most recent "move-in" moment. But it very much looks like I'll be last, and you know, that's never how I pictured it... I don't know if I'm just jealous or if life got in the way a bit.
    If that all sounds bitter it's not. I'm very happy for my friends. But they really are having it all, as they all have really good careers which seemed to overtake mine sometime when I wasn't looking in the mid-noughties. C'est la vie I suppose....

  21. This definitely strikes a chord with me, but without the 'happy' bit at the end.

    I was single for four years up to the age of 25, and at that time ALL of my friends were buying houses, getting engaged and married and I was so depressed thinking it would never happen for me. Then suddenly it did - I had an amazing boyfriend and we moved in together and I was starting to feel ... normal, when he ended it and here I am, about to turn 29, and back where I started.

    It most defintely is not my choice and was instigated by my 'confession' that I wanted marriage and kids one day. Now I have to come to terms with having caused the best relationship I can ever imagine to end, for a dream which may never come true now anyway.

    Sigh, isn't it awful, having a body clock?!

  22. 27 still sounds pretty young to me.

    One thing I've noticed (from my elevated vantage point of 33) is that once people get past their late 20s they really move fast with the big life-decision stuff. There's not much dating-for-a-couple-of-years-before-talking-about-moving-in. it is all wham-bam meet-move-in-get-married-up-the duff-within-twelve-months. I suppose as you get a bit older you know what you want and what you don't.

  23. Apologies as I'm a bit late to the party, but I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog and thought I'd add my thoughts to this one.

    I must echo Mooncalf - I'm also in a riper age-group (32) and just got engaged to my (now) fiance (who I met when I was 29). At 27, I was in a very similar position to yours, but it is amazing how great things can happen when you least expect them. My advice would be to try to forget about the relationship bit and focus on doing things to get you where you want to be professionally, emotionally, etc. The relationship will fall into place at the right time and be much stronger if you were already happy without it!

  24. I know this is an old post but I am just reading it. Things will happen when they do, you can't make them. Never measure yourself by other people - no one really knows what is going on with other people, you know, the ones you think have it all and are so happy. Mostly they are no happier than you - life is swings and round-abouts for us all. I got married at 20, child at 22 divorced at 26. Fast forward 20 years, and I am in exactly the same position. But actually I feel lucky that I am not trapped with someone I despise - many are. I have very little compared to some, but what I have is good. I don't have my own house, at the moment no job and no partner on the horizon either. But what I do have is the ability to be content and aknowledge what I have got and to be happy when I have nothing to be sad about. It strikes me that we just want too much! Bad partners are worse than no partners, self esteem comes from yourself. You can't have babies with the wrong man (well you can, but it's a bad idea) but you don't have to have babies to be happy. If I had no child then my life would have been different, not better not worse (and I love being a mother). Envy is wasted really as you have no idea of what you are envying - why do you think your friends are all estatic with their boyfiend or husband. Many of them will be sad, feeling isolated and trapped and jealous of you and your freedoms. We always think that the grass is greener but it really isn't. Be happy. Want what you have and aim for some of what you want. By the way as a young mum my daughter still thinks I am ancient! Also, while 38 was an older mum some years ago, it's pretty common now and you wouldn't be considered weird at all - not by society, other mums or children (yours or others). So you still really do have time on your side.


Go on. Say something. You know you want to...