Some people go their entire lives never feeling truly settled with who they really are, others feel the need to go on soul searching adventures to find themselves, I am not one of those people. By the age of seventeen I knew who I was, with the arrogance of youth on my side I was convinced I could take on the world. I knew I wanted to write, I knew I wanted to travel, but most of all I just knew what in life made me feel like 'me'. Life, however, always has a funny way of throwing obstacles at you, which quite simply plant small seeds of self doubt.
As a teenager I had my future mapped out. It was a small, unassuming future. I wasn't big headed enough to assume I would be a millionaire, and I definitely never wanted an office job. Once I had left Uni I envisaged I would live on a house boat with a trusty four- legged friend, a simple, artistic way of life, no massive debts, no massive stresses. Somewhere along the line, though, I became more concerned with what OTHERS thought.
I never really saw it as an obstacle, but looking back now I think my parent's divorce may have delivered my first seeds of self doubt. My parents divorced just before I headed to university, yes it was sad, but it was inevitable. I had been perfectly aware of marital troubles so I took it in my stride, telling myself not much would change. Not much did change, but things felt different. When my new stepdad moved in, home wasn't quite the same. I began trying to please him and my mum, wanting to make them proud, rather than just being myself.
My twenties became a time for 'keeping up with the Joneses' for 'doing the done thing', in other words for trying to become a 'valuable' member of society. I suddenly dropped the house boat idea- it was unusual, I may have been deemed a 'hippy' (as though that was a bad thing). I became more concerned about getting a good job, about mortgaging myself to the hills so that we had a nice (expensive) roof over our heads. I dropped my dreams to simply do whatever everyone else does, to fit in, to make my parents proud.
By the time I had children I was pretty good at creating my own self doubt. Am I a good enough parent? Are they judging my parenting skills? The one that annoyed my most, am I boring now? Most of my friends at the time were not having kids and so I convinced myself they were bored with me. Most of the time I couldn't go out and when I did, all I did was talk about my babies. Sometime after becoming a parent it felt like I had lost my identity altogether, my life was changing nappies, feeding, burping. Of course I adored my children, but I forgot what it was like just being me.
When I turned thirty my neighbor (then in her early forties) told me that I would really enjoy my thirties, that they had been her best decade yet. It has taken three years, but now I know exactly what she meant. Suddenly I have 'me' back. To be honest I'm unsure as to how I rediscovered myself, it may be due to the fact that my children are old enough now that I can go out and enjoy myself without the need to talk about them all the time. It may be because now my friends have caught up and are parents too, we are all in the same boat. It may be because I know that my kids are growing up just fine? But given I seem to have lost my anxieties not just about being a parent, but those that stopped me becoming 'me' also, I suspect it has something to do with simply growing up.
I have come to realise that I no longer care about what people think of me. That's not to say that I am going to go completely off the rails, but I see that it isn't up to anyone else, we can live where we want to live, we can be what we want to be. If we make others proud of who we have become, then that is great, but if we are proud of ourselves, than that is perfection. We don't live our lives for anybody else, we live them for ourselves and you know what? I have started googling house boats again.