Recently on facebook I was invited to join a group organising a 20 year reunion for my old high school class. I resisted the urge to mention that it has so far only been 18 years since we graduated, but hey ho.
Ironically this happened around the same time I watched the 21 Jump Street movie for the first time. I couldn’t help but consider that if I were in high school now, I would have possibly been one of the popular kids. Instead I was bullied mercilessly pretty much the whole time. I did make a great group of friends along the way, but sadly when I graduated and went to college I lost touch with most of them. We’ve caught up since on facebook and even once in person, but the bond we had in our younger days is long since dead.
As all the popular kids began filling the group with their photos of times that once were, I started to wonder if I would even go along to anything that ended up being organised. My mind is still not made up – the last thing I want is to be stuck in a room full of people who hated me, so let’s play that one by ear. But also, it got me thinking about what I have and haven’t done in the last 20 years. The truth of the matter is, I realised on reflection, I’ve never lived up to my own high standards. I’m not where I thought I would be despite many years of trying to get there. It took me a long time to realise that this didn’t make me a failure – but instead that life cannot be planned. It has twists and turns in store for us that we can never plan for. In the end, the only thing you can strive for is happiness. Being happy and healthy puts success and failure into perspective.
I reached this conclusion by starting a list. A brief summary of what I have done, where I have been and what life has held in store for me over the last 20 years.
20 18 Years Gone By:
- After leaving high school I went to college. I had absolutely no thoughts on attending university because I considered it to be way out of my intellectual league (this was in the days before everyone went to university).
- After taking 2 A Levels and a couple of GCSEs I decided that actually I would attempt university so I stayed on at college and did another 2 A levels condensed into one year in order to qualify
- I started on my degree – BA Archaeology – at Leicester University. Soon realised that this was completely my environment, I was born to study!!
- In order to conserve money I became a hall sub-warden in my 2nd and 3rd years. By complete fluke I ended up becoming quite popular and my younger inmates worshiped me as a god. AS A GOD!!!!
- I won a scholarship to study abroad and spent a year at Flinders University in South Australia. Also used the opportunity to travel – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Tonga, USA.
- Whilst at Flinders I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had and am still close with, even if via the internet.
- Moved in with an awesome lady who became like a sister to me
- Ended up in relationship with a guy who, after many hours of reflection, I can say was possibly not a bad guy, but was certainly bad for me. Though it is quite possible I am being generous there.
- Moved back to the UK and graduated with 2:1 in BA Archaeology (International)
- Moved back to the south for a year. Worked as a barmaid and shop assistant and started taking a course in creative writing – which I hated and jacked in.
- The following year I returned to university, this time Nottingham University and began my MA in Greek Archaeology and History, specialising in Classical Sparta and prehistoric Greece, Crete and Cyclades
- Whilst at Nottingham I worked a couple of jobs to keep afloat, and met one of my closest friends and all time BFF
- Whilst writing up my dissertation I moved back to Leicester and in with a friend. This ended badly (you can read about it here).
- I ended up in a good job and living in a great house-share, but then my great grandmother died and I suddenly felt the need to return home.
- I moved back down south
- Tried to get a job in an archaeological unit but was told they would only take me on if I worked for them for free for 6 months, and maybe not even then. I soon realised that getting a job in my qualified area might not be that easy.
- By now one of my good friends from Australia had moved to the UK and we found a place to live together in Bristol. We became BFFs.
- We lived in Bristol with a complete stranger who became a dear friend and had a pretty awesome year or so of fantasticness. That was the year that was!
- A crazy online relationship (never before or since. Never ever again!!) made life bizarre for a short time and cost me a friend.
- Time moved on, people moved for work and in with partners.
- Around this time I met a young man (the Hubster). A friend of friends, and six years younger than me. He made it his mission to woo me and win me over. He succeeded.
- Meanwhile I’m jumping from temp job to shitty temp job, not finding anything that will actually use the knowledge and skill gained from my degrees. Time and again the feedback was over qualified and under experienced. Then the economy crashed.
- (pre-)Hubster and I decided to cut our losses and move to Cardiff. I was sick with a liver infection, and the change did me good.
- We lived in beautiful Cardiff Bay and both found temp jobs that paid enough for us to pay the rent. It didn’t really feel like work, more like a holiday.
- On the off chance I applied for a job in a Museum in Bath. Got the job. We moved back to Bristol.
- We got married. There was a Star Wars theme. It was kinda awesome.
- I took up burlesque and overtime became a locally known performer and producer.
- We took our belated honeymoon 🙂
- I independently published the novel I had been working on for the best part of ten years.
- For many reasons too long to go into, I left the Museum after 3 and half years. Back to moving from shitty job to shitty job.
- Moved around a few times.
- Started writing regularly for CoochieCrunch burlesque e-zine, and was also commissioned to write an article for the popular Burlesque Bible magazine.
- We finally settled in a lovely flat in a nice part of Bristol.
- A good friend and I pooled our skills and brand to produce Bristol’s first ever 3 day Burlesque Festival – so proud of what we achieved.
- After anxiety induced by terrible job, I finally had a stroke of luck and landed a good job at a law firm.
- After 4 years, I retired from performing and producing burlesque in order to concentrate more on writing and blogging, though I still remain a production consultant for the Bristol Burlesque Festival, and get involved where I can with the local scene and my many burlesque, pole-dance and drag friends in it.
- I continue to blog regularly and work on several different writing projects whilst working full-time. Life is good.
Regrets, I’ve had a few…
On paper that all looked pretty good. I’ve done a lot. Achieved things and been happy with them. But I’ve never been where I thought I would be.
In my formative years I presumed I would be in a good job, career storming ahead, with little thought to getting married and settling down. Through university I believed I would work in my chosen field in some way or another. And though I did manage to finally get a job in a Museum along the way, it wasn’t a role for which I had trained but one I ended up falling into (events and PR etc).
Would I have done things differently in hind sight? Possibly. I might have used the freedom of being single and newly graduated to apply for jobs further afield rather than limit myself to the few areas in which I was happy to live. I might have taken opportunities to volunteer more to build experience. I might have started a savings account. I might have gone travelling some more. But at the end of the day, none of that matters, because everything I did or didn’t do, everyone I met, loved, hated, lost – made me the person I am today. I am happy to be her.
In the reality of now I found my perfect partner and am happily married, I have a job I enjoy even if it isn’t exactly what I thought I’d be doing when I first stepped into that first class at university. I write when and where I can, which is a massive key to my happiness. I have good friends and close family. We live comfortably in our little home and all is well. I just sometimes have to remind myself of that.