I have been pondering a lot of things recently that relate to the nature of human behaviour. What is it that motivates people to do what they do? My first thoughts would be religion, a sense of righteousness, or moral obligations. We learn from our peers. The most influential of these will most likely be our parents or parental carers when we are children. As we grow older we begin to learn from our friends, and then from colleagues and acquaintances.
I was raised to believe that once I reached the age of 18, I would become a responsible, independent adult. This is true in the practical sense. Although I lived with my parents until I went to university at the age of 19, I got a job, paid my way and begun to learn about being an adult. But that wasn’t it.
Throughout my twenties I seemed to experience a huge variety of emotions, beliefs and ideals. I drifted through 3 years of study at university with the naive and misguided belief that when I graduated I would easily obtain a glamorous, well-paid and successful job in the media industry that would subsequently become my career. I had no practical experience on which to ground this idea. My college tutors told me it would happen, and I believed them.
Naturally, when the dream career didn’t materialize immediately after graduation, I got a bit depressed. I turned those feelings inwards, and spent a good few years chastising myself and feeling like a failure. By the age of 25 I was working an entry level office administration job, and I could have got it without the university degree and all that debt. Instead I had no money because I was paying off a credit card and overdraft, and I had to pay for rent, a car and all the associated living costs.
It took a while for me to realise I was in the wrong place, spiritually speaking. OK, so I made a few errors of judgement. I did what was necessary to earn a living and get myself in a private rented apartment with my fiance as we both wanted. I chose to move to Manchester with him because we both love the city, even though my career prospects might have fared better in London. I even turned down offers of work experience because I needed to earn money to pay my way.
It is only now, as I enter my thirties, that I can finally calm down and stop calling myself a failure. Why was I a failure? To my mind, it was because I got myself in debt doing a degree that was labelled the ‘burger bar degree’ by various British newspapers and news agencies. I am proud of my achievements. My A-Level results were not brilliant, and it was my own fault. I admit that I could have tried a lot harder and gotten better grades. But I didn’t know that at the time. I was young, carefree, and having fun with my friends.
I still managed to get a BA Hons degree, and I worked hard along with my fiance to live independently and build a family. Now, we own our home, we both work in careers that make us happy, we are finally getting on top of our combined debts, and we are preparing to bring a second child into our family. I would say that is pretty damn good!
I will never stop defining myself by what I do. It seems inherent within our society, and it is a hard habit to break. Somehow we seem to feel comfortable or even safe with labels. Right now I am embracing the label of ‘mother’ and ‘author.’ What are your labels, and how do you feel about them really?