This week, not only did I turn one year older, my dad also found a box of my old notebooks. Among the tatty pads filled with old college notes, shopping lists and drafted love letters was one from when I was nineteen. It contained my ‘Life Plan.’ Neatly written bullet points told me where I would be in ten years time. The laughter at my young naivety dissolved as I realised – that is now.
On my list were the usual get married, have children, make millions, along with some more questionable goals. Did I really think that it was so important to master applying fake tan? (Still not achieved this, but now I embrace my pale skin.)
It could be depressing looking back and realising I’m not where I imagined I should be, but after some careful thought, I realised – I don’t care. I like where I am now. I’m happy and I feel like I’ve earned it.
Divorce, refuges, lousy jobs and heartbreak weren’t on my list, but going through these things, have made me who I am now. You know what they say, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’
Without the disastrous marriage, I wouldn’t have my son who, despite taking the terrible twos to the extreme, I wouldn’t – couldn’t – be without.
If I hadn’t had my heart-broken by someone I can’t even remember, and been stuck in a rubbish office job where they treated me like dirt, I maybe wouldn’t have bitten the bullet and spent one of the happiest years of my life backpacking. I wouldn’t have made friends with people who encouraged me to move to London a year later.
Though London might not have been the fun packed time I expected, but I learned to stand on my own two feet. Travelling and living away from home are two very different things, as I learned the hard way. Sharing a studio flat with two people I didn’t really like forced me out into the city where I had some interesting experiences. Having said studio flat broken into and everything important to me stolen, made me accept defeat and move back up North.
If I hadn’t left a difficult marriage, I might not have been spurred on to take my writing seriously. I also realised that I’m stronger than I thought, which is the theme of my first novel.
So, yes. Life could have been different. I could be living the dream set out by my nineteen year old self. I could be married, with two children. I could own my own house, have a well paid job, holiday in the sun and drive a fancy car, all while wearing perfectly applied fake tan. It could have been different, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would have been better.