My parents were born in the 1920s. Their parents lived through the Spanish flu and two world wars. Life was hard for them. My dad worked in a factory and hated it, but he had a family to support so he had no choice. He was brilliant at maths and art, and wanted to go to university, but I came along and that never happened. He was expected to work in the same place until he retired and then sit in his armchair until his life was at an end. My mother left school at 15.
I was my family’s hope – the first to ever attend university and graduate. I had much more choice of career and when/if to have a family than my parents did.
During my parents’ lifetimes, the expectations you had of a job were far narrower. You worked in order to put a roof over your head and support your family, not because it was fun and rewarding. You retired at 60/65 and then you could travel or garden or take up a hobby. Overseas holidays, multiple cars, lots of clothes were not generally in the picture if you were an average family.
Nowadays, people expect more from their lives. Women want to be able to combine education, career and family. People want to travel. Workers want jobs that they enjoy and which give them fulfilment. Expectations of your job are much higher. People change jobs and careers throughout their lifetimes. Grandparents are not ‘old’ and you can marry and have children much later on in life.
Younger generations are luckier (or are they?).
- if you can dream it you can do it
- you can be anything you want
- nothing is impossible
- life is too short for a job you don’t like.
are all well and good, but sometimes it is not that simple. It’s not that easy making a living as a writer/artist/actor/singer/influencer/YouTuber/model. Those who make it big in arts, sports or entertainment are a minute fraction of those who try. Sometimes you have to take a boring job in order to survive. Most people will never be millionaires (or is that billionaires these days as a million only goes so far…)
I don’t think there is any shame or failure in saying some things are impossible. Sometimes not getting what you want is the most amazing stroke of luck. Sometimes you find something different, but better. Sometimes your great passion has to be just a hobby – doing your singing in a church choir, acting as a hobby in local theatre productions, writing poetry on your blog or Instagram. Sometimes you are just not good enough at what you really want to do in order to make it your life.
I have heard people say they don’t want to work at McDonald’s because it is ‘beneath them’, or that they don’t want a job unless it is in their dream profession. Generally these dreams are tempered when someone starts a family or matures a little. I used to tell my students that even surgeons must have operations they hate performing (‘oh no, not another appendix). No job can be wonderful all the time. No life can be perfect all the time. And there are jobs that people don’t generally hanker after that have to be done for society to keep going. Those are the real heroes.
I wanted to be a writer, but I ended up working as a journalist and a language teacher. And in my spare time, I blog. I was never good enough to be successful as an author, but I have had a good life, a great career and a fantastic hobby. In a way, I am living my dream.
A quote that is often attributed to John Lennon was actually first used in 1957 in an issue of Reader’s Digest by a man named Allen Saunders. And it brilliantly sums it up
Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans