I have just had a coffee with an old school friend sat in the rain in front of Bath Abbey and we both chatted through what’s happened to each other in the past 18 years and put the world to rights. It felt good.
I left feeling pumped about our life choices and decisions we’ve both made to live life on our own terms not the timeline society tells us we should. This girl gave up a sensible job to go work with lions and tigers a while back, I love her for this.
We’re told to go to school, college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, work our asses off for some ungrateful boss for years and then enjoy our lives when we retire. Fuck that shit!
Don’t get me wrong, I bought into some of this. And remember feeling the pressure when I graduated that in the next ten year’s I had to build a career, get married, buy a house, have a kid.
I wanted to buy a place before having kids. I remember having a conversation with my gran about this when I was maybe 25/26. She lectured me kindly (Love you gran and know you read this) about how she brought up 3 kids in a one bed flat in wherever and finished the call with ‘oh you’re going to be one of those older mothers’. She made it sound like a cancer.
The thing is for women particularly it is often mathematically impossible to do all of these things without parental financial support or marrying rich.
I did get married, built a career and desperately wanted that house, well city flat actually. But despite 10 years slogging away in London and doing alright – more than alright, it was still mathematically improbably to ever save enough for a deposit. Even when multiples of my income started to make sense for mortgage purposes, and I could afford to pay a mortgage comfortably – that illusive deposit was always just out of reach. Social mobility is fucked in the UK.
Yes, I could have compromised and lived out in the sticks, commuted 2-3 hours a day but really, the hours I worked meant that was just a hellish prospect which would mean I didn’t have a life. And what’s the point in getting in the most amount of debt you’ll ever likely get into in your life for something that isn’t the dream.
I was very almost conned to do that govt Help to Buy scheme until I figured out all the properties that I wanted were massively overvalued compared to what was available on the open market.
Thankfully, I came to my senses before I committed to a £600,000 2 bed flat 40-60 minutes out of town, which was at least £100,000 more expensive than a similar, higher spec flat round the corner not on the scheme. And £150,000 more than the period property down the road I really would have wanted. If you don’t have plenty of cold hard cash to put down, they will make you pay some other way…
I took that working class chip off my shoulder and realised instead of being pissed I couldn’t afford to buy a place in the city I worked 70 hours a week in – I had this revelation that I didn’t have a mortgage or any kids to worry about. I was free to go anywhere and had nothing tying me down.
Yes I am married, but my husband has had itchy feet for years. When I finally realised I didn’t want to work for someone’s fleeting approval and quit my job. My husband asked where we were going. He had his bags packed and was ready for an adventure. Work was keeping me tied to the UK and maybe it didn’t need to anymore…
We upped sticks and tried something new. Knowing if all went to shit I could go back to doing what I’d always done but if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. And that for me wasn’t enough, I wasn’t satisfied, it wasn’t success.
My mum was awesome and counselled me early to live my life before I settled down. So much so in fact she freaked out when I got engaged before Uni and was worried I’d give up all my ambition and settle. She had words with my fiancé and politely warned him if I didn’t graduate everyone would blame him, and probably also threatened to box his ears. In return, he promised he wouldn’t marry me until after I graduated and only then if I got a first class honours degree.
He kept that promise to my mum who never lived to see me graduate. And when everyone asked at my graduation when we were getting married – we said we were off to go travelling instead – the wedding could wait a bit until we got back and had saved some bucks, I needed a little time out after a tough year.
We’ve travelled, I’ve travelled. We’ve both done lots of cool things. We now live abroad like I always dreamed and I still travel and work but on my own terms.
I’ve never bought into that bullshit about waiting until retirement to live life. My mum never made retirement, she died at 42. My husband’s uncle did everything right and only had 10 days of retirement before he was diagnosed with something terrible and died 6 weeks later.
We’re living our best lives now, unsure what the future holds but excited about the possibilities.
I’m often told to live life to some imaginary timetable that society tells us is best – fuck that shit!
Right now with the world in a mess we’re also told to write off this entire year and stay put until 2021 or 2022 when the world is safer and we can once again travel. Again, fuck that shit!
It is hard to keep moving when the world wants us to stand still, but rent and bills still need to be paid and so for me at least – with no safety net – the show must go on for as long as I can.
I have no issues with continuing to travel to work, responsibly of course. Continuing to frequent bars, restaurant and hotels – which have all the right hygiene measures in place and that genuinely won’t survive to 2021 if everyone stays home. This COVID-19 shit is with us for a while and sadly not enough of us have the security blanket to stay home until this storm has passed.
I say all this with love and no judgement, this is about my life choices not yours, my life choices are not a damnation of others’ choices. We each need to make peace with the kind of life we want and the sacrifices we’re prepared to make – the freedoms we’re willing to give up to live a life that makes us feel safe, secure and happy. But I’m comfortable with my choices.