Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Yellow doesn’t really suit me anyway

on September 30, 2014

Along with my colleagues, I spent most of today attempting to be motivated by our annual(ish) conference.  We had two guest speakers: someone who was involved with the British cycling team, and a former world-class runner.  This was followed by two hours of clapping endless streams of other people receiving awards, which was more than a little demoralising.

The sprinter talked about different people who have inspired him on his athletic journey, and about teamwork, and showed us a clip of him winning a race.  I imagine it must be nice to be paid to show people clips of your successes and then be applauded for them, thirty years later.  When I have an Olympic medal to talk about, I’ll let you know.

More interesting was hearing about how the British cycling team went from winning one Olympic medal in 76 years to being arguably the best cyclists in the world, and the strategy which achieved that.  Some of this was unsurprising; other parts involved reference to your inner chimp.  What stayed with me was her comments on commitment.  If you ask cyclists if they are willing to commit to winning the Tour de France, most of them will say yes.  But if you ask them to commit to missing school holidays and all their children’s birthdays, to losing pounds of weight and eating a special diet, to training for six hours a day, very few cyclists will commit to that, to what it really takes to win the Tour de France.

As soon as she mentioned missing holidays and birthdays, I recoiled – I cannot imagine choosing to miss that time with my children.  And I realised that it’s ok not to want to commit to winning the Tour de France.  Actually, I’ve never wanted to win the Tour de France, beyond the obvious fact that I’d like to win everything in the world ever.  Cycling is not my thing.  But aside from that, there are many other things I don’t really want to commit to just now.  And maybe that’s ok too.

I spend a lot of time feeling inadequate.  I don’t engage with world events much; I am not fighting poverty, campaigning about injustice, working to solve climate change.  I am not writing a novel.  All I am doing is working and bringing up children, and I’m not even doing those things well.  I only have one life and I feel I am wasting it.

But in reality, looking after a three- and nearly-five-year-old is hard.  It’s time-consuming and demands energy, and I want to do it well.  Just now, that is what I am committed to doing.  Whatever sacrifices it takes, I’m there.  I’m committed to my job, because it gives me an opportunity to make a difference for the people I work for, and even there I need to focus on doing the bits where I can make a difference and achieve something.  And I’m committed to Quakerism, because when I sit in Meeting, in silence and when listening to people speak, I believe in the potential for goodness, and I believe there is some hope.

When I was younger, I was busy.  I was changing the world.  I stayed up late talking and doing.  I was hard-working and creative and I had dreams and ideas.  And one day I may do that again.  But just now, I’m committed to the things I need to do, and the things I can do, and to doing them well.  The Tour de France, and everything else, will have to wait.


6 responses to “Yellow doesn’t really suit me anyway

  1. clare richardson says:

    As ever, I love your post. What you do makes a real difference to two young children and the people you support at work – and who you are makes a real difference to your friends. Glad to be one of them. xxx


  2. JL says:

    I can identify with a lot of that. I feel I should be helping my family out a lot more, some of whom have pretty big struggles to contend with in life. But they all live 200+ miles away and I feel like I can barely cope with keeping the wheels from falling off the increasingly rickety and difficult to steer life off my own. Two kids, even with two adults to handle them, is distressingly hard work … and I see myself as petty good with kids.

    Stick on in there … I am sure that one day we will both be able to reconstruct some of the life we dreamed of respectively. (Though I’m not sure my wife is ever going to agree to the chickens idea …)

    • I like the idea of chickens, but I think the reality would be quite different. I am contemplating getting some fish, as I think the girls would like them, and there is a definite appeal to being responsible for something which just needs feeding and cleaning occasionally and never has tantrums or presents emotional challenges. It’s starting to feel like an easy win (until someome pours milk into the tank, I expect).

      Two children is definitely difficult, and I think this early stage is particularly demanding. I do love it though. I love how they want to tell me things, and that I am so central to their life, and that we have a lot of fun together. I think when you have two children close together, when the smallest one starts getting bigger, it makes a huge difference to how much easier it gets. I’m not sure that that makes any sense at all outside my head, though.

  3. Hearten Soul says:

    Great blog. Honestly I don’t know many people who spend much time fighting poverty, campaigning about injustice or working to solve climate change. There are some people whose jobs mean some of this. There are people like me who get a few emails, sign a few petitions and share a few links on Facebook. This might look good but it is the fruit of a few minutes – not the sort of commitment you’re talking about. You are doing great – children arr exhausting and anyone who combines care for kids with a job that makes a difference is more awesome than most.

    • I spent my twenties involved with a campaigning organisation, so have been surrounded by people who were passionately committed to doing all those things – organising campaign actions, researching and writing policies, motivating other people to campaign – all those things, with some success. And I still see what they’re doing on Facebook, and a lot of them are still doing those things. Friends have recently been to court after being arrested for blocking the entrance to an arms fair, and I’m really proud of them. I think adjusting to having children and then becoming a single parent and dealing with everything which has come with that has taken up so much mental energy that I’ve not had much room for anything else. And I try to limit the amount of things I am concerned with, because it gets overwhelming. I am hoping to emerge from this phase at some point and rediscover the world, and I am enjoying the opportunity that Quakerism gives me to re-engage with politics and justice issues through a new perspective. I think perhaps one of the benefits which comes with getting a bit older is having slightly more patience with life!

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