Hi readers, I just fancied putting a few thoughts down – I’m sure you know the feeling! It’s a dilemma, the roots of which go at least as far back as my school careers fair in 2006.
Back then, I wasn’t sure where my varied interests would take me. I enjoyed aspects of a lot of my subjects – the vibrant recall of History, the cold logic of Maths and Physics, the human understanding of Physical Education and Biology (admittedly, the former also included the chance to play football on a regular basis)… Perhaps most of all, I loved the creative writing we did in English Language, a subject my school didn’t offer beyond GCSE. This was understandable as we were expected to fight our way into top universities, the likes of which didn’t value Language at all compared to its Literature counterpart. But I didn’t want it for university; I wanted it for me. A charismatic chemical engineer at the careers fair had sold me on his job’s combination of scientific knowledge and practical application. Maths, Physics and Chemistry were the requisite A level subjects, ones I was good at, and that seemed to be my future direction settled. But the chance to write more stories by taking an unrelated AS level? Yes please! Did I move schools to have that chance? No…
I took general engineering at uni in the end – a course that had its moments, and the near-guarantee of a job was certainly a perk, but I had lost something amongst the dry numbers and clinical calculations that comprised so much of my daily work. Where was the freedom, the ambiguity, the madness? Where had that creative spark gone? It was fairly early on in my degree that my Life Plan took shape. My heart and head warred so, as the sensible security of the engineering sector drew me from the wild creator I considered myself. The plan was thus: I would embrace a ‘normal life’ for a while, taking the prestige and payroll of engineering, while keeping my writing as a well-practised hobby. Then, when my mid-thirties rolled around, I promised myself a real shot at becoming an author – a sabbatical long enough to give getting published a go. If I didn’t work out, a hobby it would remain and my life’s purpose would be derived from outside the 9 to 5 construct. Succeed, and…
A lot of my friends have graduated into the real world now, and among them lies a particular inspiration to me: William Sirl.
Long story short, but Will is an old friend, one of the first I made at secondary school and who’s stuck by me since. We’ve a long history of creativity together – from holding an informal after-school poetry club (admittedly partially to impress girls) to planning a sketch show and most prominently, constantly creating and embodying characters in improvised comedic scenes. Hilarity and invention are constant companions of ours. For me, this activity is part of the fun that defines our friendship; for him, improv is the dream he’s actively pursuing. Will lives in London, spends half his time unemployed, hops between hostels and sofas and edges closer to his dream every evening, step by step, gig by workshop. The contrast between our lives, it seems to me, could not be greater. And I am so jealous. What of? His talent for his craft, his carefree lifestyle? No. I’m jealous of his courage. I am paralysed by fear: fear of giving up my comfortable, easy, middle-of-the-road existence to dare, to dream and to value what I love over the realistic, responsible rewards I feel I should be hoarding in its place.
Will I stick to my Life Plan? Do it sooner, later, not at all? Who knows. Its presence keeps me going for now.
[Thanks to Jodie Louise and her thoughts on writing for inspiring me to publish this well after it was written – the aforementioned fear had kept it hidden until now!]