We all had life plans, once upon a time.
Whether they were life-consuming ambitions, hopes we never shared, or pictures of our future – the way we knew it would be.
Sometimes it’s hard to dig that deep into our memory banks, or to admit to because our current lives are so far removed from the path we envisaged.
Many of us have lives off-kilter with our plans. Even when our plans come good, we get everything we’ve ever dreamed of there’s often still something missing.
When I look around my peers, I’m amazed we’re not all Premier League footballers and we never got spotted in Top Shop, becoming the next supermodel (it was more sexist in the 90s).
Some dreams are more humble. A nice family, home and a job that paid the bills. Even these basic wishes can escape us, or in reality aren’t enough.
My life has been thrown off course many times, but this year was my apocalypse! So these are my post-apocalyptic musings about ‘life plans’, where we are and where we thought we’d be.
Some of us have had our life plans smashed to smithereens. A horrible illness or injury, a death, a relationship break-down, and a million other curveballs that send us flying off our paths.
Often it’s just a casual sleepwalk through life, following the motions that society told us we should. We reflect when we deem it too late to change direction and that’s when the breakdown or ‘midlife crisis’ occurs.
I hate that term, ‘midlife crisis’, so many negative connotations. But doesn’t it mean that a person’s managed to wake-up? Buy that motorbike, take that solo trek across a dessert, wear leathers every day (I’m looking at you French teacher we mocked, but should have applauded!). This one’s controversial, but leave that partner who doesn’t make you happy – I’m guessing you no longer make them happy too. Or do something to make it work! Don’t just exist… do something.
Sure, you may be reading this thinking this doesn’t apply to you and I applaud you. Congratulations on sailing through consciously, achieving everything you hoped and then some. Or maybe you’re satisfied with your lot – good for you!
But, for those of us whose dreams are illusive, this post is for you.
My life has looked pretty sweet on the surface but the reality is I’ve been been picking at emotional scars, releasing the poison and healing wounds. I’ve wanted to write but my words have been trapped as I’ve stumbled and fallen down rabbit hole after rabbit hole.
I ran away to the sunshine, away from the country where I gathered all my scars. My home country has never been a safe-haven for me. Safety is another land, any other land. I instantly feel the relief as I board a plane and I skip with joy as my emotional baggage never makes it past boarder control.
My plan you see crumbled and with that brought revelation after revelation. I’ve looked deep into the darkest parts of my soul and found ghosts, attachments that I’ve carried with me for many years. The open wounds attract the bad folk, the emotional vampires tend to hitch a ride. Pockets of trauma I’ve tried to bury and in reality they’re right here with me and have been all along. Shaping me and steering me further and further away from the real essence of me.
For a year now I’ve tried to focus on life, acutely aware that my past is being raked through by official hands with cold hearts. The reality isn’t pretty and has taken me on an anxiety-ridden rollercoaster ride, back to my childhood and back through my teenage years. Viewing incidents through adult eyes for the first time has shaken me to the core but also allowed me to grieve and think deeply about where I am and where I want to be.
So, my life plans were a non-starter. As much as I’ve tried to chase them, I had too much holding me back. Facing the truth, the incidents that damaged me, meant I totally unravelled. Suddenly, I had no idea who I was, or who I’ve ever been. I’d put so many mechanisms in place to protect myself, my whole being was coated in armour.
When you hit rock-bottom it’s an opportunity. If you’re at this point right now, feel free to virtually punch me. Sure it doesn’t feel like it at the time, as not only does your world collapse but the fabric of your existence too. But, it’s a chance to scream ‘fuck it’ and trace back to who you once were and what you wanted to do with your life.
From a young age, I learnt not to make solid plans as they rarely come good. But I had expectations, an abundance of them!
I wanted to be a journalist, fascinated with words life and truth and an author too.
Exploring the whole wide world, was on the list and I slept with a globe beside my bed. It excited me that there was a different life out there, one that I just hadn’t found yet.
Helping people was important, psychology fascinated me but I knew I couldn’t get too close or I’d crumble.
I wanted to bring life into this world and make those lives beautiful and perfect. Society expected that of me, but I always imagined they’d have no father and be happy living by the sea. I now realise this is pretty selfish.
But most of all I wanted to find this ‘content’ feeling that people talked about.
So when you find yourself in that dark place, wondering where it all went wrong, sit there, feel it and dwell on it if you must.
Cry, grieve and don’t expect a single soul to understand. Because this is your life, your pain and your turning point too. It’s from that broken place that you can start to look around you at the shattered pieces. Pick them up, piece after piece and admire your reflection, there are parts of you to be applauded and the rest just throw away.
In reality I wasn’t so far from my life plans, but they felt totally out of reach. It’s easy to discard everything but in reality every little bit is a lesson worth exploring. The bits that give you nightmares, face them in their entirety, deal with them and let go. Recognise that there’s light to be found in everything and trauma helps you grow.
I wanted to see the whole wide world. I’ve seen so much and one day I will see more. Sure, a part of me was escaping but it’s given me more than I ever could have imagined. Living overseas changed my whole outlook and now I know it’s possible I never need to feel trapped.
I still want to be an author but I want to do it properly. To write a book that people talk about and love and hate in equal measures as I’m a ‘Marmite’ kind of person.
During my apocalypse I submitted 5,000 words of ‘fiction’, just to see if I could do a Masters in Creative Writing. The fiction was my reality. Everything that was consuming me tumbled out onto paper in a story format. From bad came good.
The world started changing too, or perhaps the political divide just became more obvious. I’ve never felt the need to be so politically active, marching and writing letters to MPs. I felt it was time to say goodbye to writing about exotic destinations and focus on the big gaping humanitarian holes on our planet and I now work for a charity.
There’s no new life annoucement and it’s not an expectation anymore. I think a new job, city, life and degree is enough. I’m not greedy, I’ll be happy with a best-selling book and a home by the sea (one day).
And that content feeling people talk about, I’m getting there.
Maybe our life plans are always within reach, if we are vulnerable and courageous enough to pursue them.