Tuesday, 30 August 2011

What? Why?

I'm going to do 40 things, before I'm 40.

It started with a list on a blog, one of the many I read regularly, the name of which I can’t recall. I’ve never been fond of the concept of a bucket list. I’m not sure what was different about this list. Perhaps it was the fact that she had filled it with a mix of small and large, prosaic and touching, easy and hard things; and clearly goals that were relevant to her, that she had genuinely intended to do anyway, regardless of her approaching 40th. It included renovations and recipes, little jobs around the house, and simple things to do with the kids. Most bucket lists I’d seen before read like travel itineraries. I’m not a great traveller. While I sometimes fancy the idea of a nice holiday, and know there are places I wouldn’t mind visiting in person before I cop my clogs, I don’t think of these as real goals, and I have no great attachment to doing them or not.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t think of going somewhere as an achievement. Journeys interest me. Destinations don’t. Perhaps it’s because these goals are, in a sense, too easy. All I’d need is a babysitter, some cash and some time off work, and off I’d go. There’s no real investment of myself or my energies or talents.

I’m wondering if this particular way of looking at goals has anything to do with an introverted personality. I’m less interested in putting myself out in the world somewhere, and more in what I can spend my time doing. Clearly it appeals to me that this list will be particular to me, and will likely contain activities no one else would consider prioritising before their 40th. While I did send out a call to friends and families for ideas, I’m less interested in what other people think I should do (in the sense that I reject the notion that there’s validity in a universal list of “must do’s”, like books or places that someone has decided count as essential human experiences), and more interested in what I should do.

I don’t think there’s anything particular about turning 40 that triggered this. It’s a nice round number. I’ll be there soon. I'm 36 - did I mention that? No? Probably important. Sorry. It doesn’t bother me, although I have the impression that somehow our society expects me to be anxious about it, so it must mean something. This might change as I get close to 40; I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve always been the type of person who gets excited about projects. I’m looking forward to  retiring because I have so many hobbies waiting in the wings to be fully explored. Did I mention I'm 36? That's long term thinking for you. I usually have a dozen things on the go at once, in various stages of completion. Sometimes I throw myself into learning new things and then get bored, leaving a trail of unfinished jobs and unused equipment. Other interests last longer - I’m still obsessed with knitting after taking it up five years ago when I wanted to make a Gryffindor scarf. Now I knit lace and fairisle, design my own stuff, and merrily knit beanies for people I know who may or may not really want them. My partner is kindly tolerant of these fits of enthusiasm, although he’s well aware that I may lose all interest before I move on from talking about something to actually doing anything about it. He also wears his beanies. Bless him.  

A friend once remarked that I was the sort of person who is “always interested in things”. To me this was a flattering way of putting what I’d before tended to regard as an irritating tendency to jump wildly from one bright light to another, never quite an expert in anything, getting bored easily, and struggling to retain information I don’t find interesting. This character sketch is of course caricature. I’ve finished plenty of projects, some long and difficult, but if you glanced at my overflowing craft bookshelves or the box of cheese making equipment in the shed, you’d get the idea. 

Since we’ve had kids the amount of time I have to juggle my hobbies has shrunk, meaning I have to better prioritise what I’d like to spend my few spare hours doing. I’ve noticed that I increasingly start sentences by saying, “You know what we should do sometime when we have the time...” This usually elicits a well-deserved eye roll, or perhaps a bordering-on-hysterical giggle at the idea of having enough spare time to do more than catch our breaths. We do end up doing a few of these things, but others disappear into the virtual “to do” list never to reappear. At times when I do have a spare hour, and I’m sitting in my lazy boy, hands curled around a mug of tea, I feel like there are so many more productive things I could possibly be doing, if only I could focus on what they were and which were the most important to me. Did I mention my mother is a workaholic? I think she bred me as one too.

No comments:

Post a Comment