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  • Writer's pictureAmber

All the Things I Thought I Would Have Done

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering I am definitely a bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew kind of person, I didn't succeed in getting through them all! There were some extenuating circumstances, but still, I should probably be disappointed with myself, right? I mean what kind of person sets goals and then just completely fails to reach them? Oh wait, that would be me.

The trouble with getting older/growing up, for me anyway, is that I'm still trying to figure out that boundary between flexibility and self-discipline. I know I'm capable of doing a lot, but somehow I still manage to scrape in at the last minute, and it's not a recent development. I was always the last to finish my drawings in art class, taking them home to be completed most of the time; I vividly recall sewing buttons for a craft competition (homeschooler alert!) the night it was due to be handed in for judging, despite having had two months to work on it. My essays were always in on time at uni, but I was forever behind with my reading, cramming my brain full on the train on the way back into Oxford for tutorials. It's like I have all these ideas and no clue how to manage my time around them, or allow for the inevitable interruptions, also known as Life Happening. I make schedules and plans and I can organise to a minute detail; I can pull off a huge party, or food for thirty people in a morning, or a corporate seminar. But when it comes to personal life goals, I always seem to be behind. And what is this self-imposed timetable I am trying to keep up with?

My 27th birthday was last Saturday, the 6th of June. I was discussing this blog post with the husband who cheekily pointed out that it was funny I would be writing about growing up when I'd had a Neverland-themed birthday party, i.e. a celebration based around a boy who never grows up. I hadn't really thought of it that way - I just wanted a pirate ship and bonfire and to be a mermaid, and clearly don't see those why those things should be exclusively for children! - but I had to acknowledge a degree of incidental irony. There I was, swanning around in an elaborate homemade costume and blue wig, garden littered with little bamboo-framed tepees and plastic bows and arrows and glass jars with candles in them, my own personal Neverland - and my list ignored, my goals unreached, and as yet no job to go to the following Monday.

It sounds so irresponsible, so careless when I read it back. I like to think those are terms most people I know would not apply to me. But sometimes you can't control all the cards you're dealt, or you don't know how to play them, or quite simply you get it wrong, and the best you can do is have a few parties along the way while you're figuring it out. It doesn't mean I'm not going to try to improve myself, or hit some of those targets, even if they're late. But at the same time, I've realised there's a lot we hold onto that may not be good for us, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. And that's where I was at when I wrote this.

All the things I thought I would have done

Live in a box

Which I take out and browse sometimes.

It's stored where no one else can find it

Although I let a few close friends have a peek

Once in a while.

Regret sits proudly in one corner,

Relief in another;

Ambivalence and forgetfulness

Can be found at the bottom

If I rummage.

There's a lot of junk

But some things I'm not ready to throw away yet.

It's difficult to detach ambition from sentiment

As they have become tangled over the years,

Mainly with my childhood memorabilia.

Notes from adults who no longer feature in my life,

Opinions lettered in bold ink,

Awaiting trial.

Bright-coloured thoughts wrapped around University papers

And daydreams hurriedly scrawled

In endless notebooks,

None of them full from cover to cover.

I think I keep the box because

I don't know whether I've finished with it.

Whether something I can work with

Will surface from amidst the dross.

Whether my vain hopes

Are extinguished sufficiently

For me to move on,

Find new ones.

The fact is, I've spent the last few years sifting through those hopes, opinions, daydreams, plans. And I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one who finds themselves looking backwards almost as much as they look forwards, because sometimes it's really hard to tell what's worth holding onto and what isn't.

The one thing I am set on is finding a way to prioritise the goals I definitely know are important, because those are the ones I don't want to fail on. As for the rest, I may have to wait and see.

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