I don’t know what my future will look like
I spent last weekend down in Cornwall with a few friends, and while there I had a conversation that made me realise something: I have no idea what my future looks like.
I was walking along the coast path with one of my friends, and we were chatting about her life. She’s in a long-term relationship, and they’re thinking of moving to the fringes of London. They’re discussing having children, and she has a job she loves at a company she can see herself staying with for the foreseeable future. I’m summarizing, and it’s obviously not all smooth sailing, but as we were talking I could really picture her future. I could see what it will, most probably, look like. But when I tried to imagine my own, I couldn’t. And, I’m not going to lie, that unnerved me somewhat. I tucked the thought away, not wanting it to have a negative impact on my weekend, until I was on the train home. As we whipped passed the rough, dark grey sea off the Devonshire coast, and I bit into my final Cornish pasty, I let myself think about why it was exactly that I couldn’t picture my future in the same way I could my friend’s.
I realised that it comes down to the fact that there are so many unknowns in my life right now. As I said in a recent newsletter, everything feels like hope. I hope my business works out. I hope I enjoy living in Frome. I hope I make friends here. I’m hoping for a lot of things but that means I don’t actually know very much.
As much as I hate to admit to it, one of the biggest unknowns for me comes from being single. It can be hard to plan a future when you’re not sure if you will be sharing it with someone, and if you do, who they will be and what they will want from life. I’m a strong believer in not waiting for a magical, mystical someone to appear, and have worked hard to get to the stage where my happiness is not dependent on it, and I know that whether I meet someone, more than one someone, the wrong someone, or no someone at all, I will be ok. But it still leaves a very large unknown hole in my future. And I’m guessing that other single people in their thirties feel the same way. If you are in a committed relationship, like my friend, you can discuss and work out what you would both like to happen together, but if you have’t met that person yet, then it’s only ever an imaginary conversation with an imaginary person. Which, obviously, isn’t ideal.
This also feeds into another big unknown: children. I’m currently pretty apathetic about having them (I’m not someone who’s uterus clenches at the sight of a small snotty child) but I am open to the fact that that might change. Again it depends very much on if I meet someone I want to have them with, and who wants to have them himself. I’m not sure I’ll ever be certain and keen enough to have them on my own.
Then there’s work. I’m essentially starting a new business, even if it is based on my previous freelance work, and I have no idea what shape it will take, even six months from now. I have ideas, so many ideas, but until you start putting things into motion you don’t know what will stick and work out, and what won’t. And finally, I’ve recently moved to Frome. While I made the decision very much with the idea of staying here fairly long-term, I’ve only been here a month so it seems wildly optimistic to assume that it will be my home for life.
While this might all seem very specific to me, I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to imagine my future. Especially if, like me, you are taking a slightly more unusual track in life. When you are following the norm, you only have to open up Facebook to get an idea of what might be in store for you. If you have met someone, know you want children, and are climbing a career ladder with very clearly defined steps, then while there might be surprises along the way, and no one’s future is ever certain, it must, at least, feel a little clearer, a little more obvious.
I had an email in response to my latest newsletter from someone who said that she often feels like she is oscillating between being completely content and confident with her unconventional life, to feeling like she is teetering on the edge of a deep black hole. I can complete relate, and I think uncertainty about the future feeds into this anxiety.
When you decide to build a life on your terms, following your own definitions of success and happiness, and in your own way, it can sometimes feel like you are building a very complicated model airplane with Japanese instructions. The only thing, I think, that can help, is to hear other people’s stories of how they have built their model airplanes. Which is a big part of what motivated me to start my own podcast, There Are Other Ways, the first episode of which will go live on Monday. The tagline is “conversations about living life a little differently”, and it will be a series of interviews between me and people who have chosen to take a slightly less well trodden path in life.
From a purely selfish perspective, I’m hoping that these conversations will give me a little insight into what my own future might look like. I’ve always taken comfort in hearing other people’s stories. I remember one night, about a month before I left London to travel solo, lying awake with a stomach acidic and bumbling from anxiety, feverishly reading through blog posts from women who had travelled solo on my phone; seeking reassurance that they had survived, and telling myself that if they had found a way to make it work, so could I.
I’m really hoping that this podcast will show that there are many ways to live life a little differently, and many different ways to make it work. I hope that it will provide comfort, support and inspiration for people keen to explore a different way of living and working. And that while we might not know what our futures looks like right now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be wonderful.
The first episode, a conversation with freelance journalist, podcaster, and vegan travel and lifestyle blogger, Lucy Lucraft will go live on Monday!