When you look back on your adult years, there are accepted moments of ‘change’.
When you go to University, when you go travelling, when you get your first job, when you become a parent…
The Student (or should I say ‘The Graduate’!)’s next post (which I’ll post tomorrow) is a classic example of this. Her life is changing in all kinds of ways right now – she’s leaving education, she’s moving across the country, and she’s making decisions about her future career.
This weekend I also have some major life changes ahead. The biggest I’ve faced in recent years. Three years ago, I returned from three years bumming around the world, working as a nanny in a ski resort, and scuba diving in my summers, and came home to a full-time banking job. I moved back to the town I grew up in, and the farthest I moved during those three years was a few miles out to a nearby village.
Tomorrow I’ll be moving 50 miles to London. And on Monday, I will leave the reliable world of banking to attempt the uncertain life of a freelance writer.
These grand times of change may be the most noticeable, however as I reflect on the past three years, it’s incredible how much I’ve changed, whilst seeming to sit still.
Today marks the year anniversary of my second date with Henley Boy. Don’t worry, it’s not a date I’ve fixed in my diary – I only worked it out because I know my friends’ wedding anniversary, and the date I started my blog! Which means tomorrow, the day I move to London, is the anniversary of Henley Boy’s sack-off, a thoughtless act which inadvertently changed my life. How incredibly ironic and unplanned is that?
I look back at 29 year-old me, sitting alone in my flat that Friday night, wondering what I’d done wrong to make someone change his tune so suddenly and abruptly, I feel years older in a lot of ways. I’d always assumed I understood guys, and that I wasn’t naïve. Turns out I was naïve in my assumptions about understanding men!
The thing is, every day we learn new things. We just don’t always appreciate it. It’s something we come to expect of children, because the changes in them are so apparent, but the things we learn as adults are far more subtle. When I came home from travelling in 2011, I went into my first office job. I was genuinely more at home in the Amazon jungle. In the past three years, I’ve learned more about human interaction and politics than I ever did at school or university.
I was a naïve Cambridge graduate, who had grown up in a meritocratic world. You earned your place at university with your A-Levels. You earned your degree with blood, sweat and tears, and 16+ hour days in the library. You earned your grad scheme role based on your time at university.
After a three-year detour across a few continents, I ended up back in an office, where meritocracy was rarely applied. Promotion involved politics. And if you spoke out against those politics, you placed a black mark against your name. I quickly learned, the hard way, that my honest, passionate, nature does not go down well with everyone. And being good at something isn’t always enough. As a result I was forced to make decisions as to whether my own integrity was of more importance to me than my professional reputation.
In an office environment, surrounded by hundreds of people, you can’t help but learn about other people. Some are people you wouldn’t choose to socialise with, if you weren’t forced to by the strictures of work. Others are people you would befriend wherever you met them. You see people change according to the role their placed in – some thrive, others fail.
And it’s not dissimilar to the dating world. You will always go on dates which don’t turn out how you expect. Dates with men or women who you wouldn’t have ever crossed paths with under any other circumstances. Dates with people who will grow to become your friends.
You also see people change according to the situation. I’ve always thought the best way to see someone’s true colours is to watch what happens when something doesn’t go exactly to plan. That tells me far more about a man than a date where everything is timed to perfection. Because in reality, how often is life perfect?!
It’s funny, because whenever I’ve celebrated my birthday, I’ve remarked how I don’t feel any different. How I’m still exactly the same as when I was 19, just in an older body. But that’s not true at all. And the reality is that even at 30, I’m still learning valuable lessons about other people. I’ve always been far too trusting. I’ve always been taught to see the good in people before the bad. And I’ve always been taught to take things on face value. But the more experience you get of life, the more you come to appreciate that isn’t always the case. And you come to understand just how differently two people can interpret the same situation, action or gesture.
A good example of this is my Bridget Jones post a few weeks ago.
The Independent’s i newspaper had quoted me as saying “being single is a bonus”. Whilst I get that they were trying to embody the positivity of my attitude towards being single and dating, I certainly never used the word ‘bonus’. Being single isn’t a bonus. It can be fun, and it’s not something you should be upset or embarrassed about. It’s certainly not some kind of lesser state of existence! Which was what I had tried to voice to the Independent’s journalist!
I spoke to Jeremy Sheffield a few days later, and by complete coincidence, he referred to the quote (not realising it was me). Interestingly he’d taken the expression how the Independent had meant it to be taken – as a positive statement, and he had been really inspired by it – despite the use of the word ‘bonus’.
I wrote a post on this blog that same day, arguing that we are not a ‘Bridget Jones generation’ – a label the same journalist had used. I used examples from things Bridget does, and compared them to myself and my single friends. I pointed out the heavy focus in Bridget’s diary on calorie-counting, cigarettes smoked, and units of alcohol drunk (normally alone), and explained that none of those things seemed to apply to the single 30-somethings I know in 2014. Yes we drink, but normally only socially, no none of us smoke, and none of us calorie-count any more. It was something we may have done in our early twenties, but most of my single friends are happy and content in themselves. Which I think is a real positive. They’re not blaming themselves for being single, or seeing it as a sum of their own failures, which Bridget often seemed to do.
I thought it was a positive post – it was certainly written as such.
And yet another blogger took a couple of choice words – mainly my reference to Bridget drinking alone at home – and penned an angry response back about drinking alone. Ironically AFTER querying it over Twitter, and after I made clear I wasn’t in any way judging – I was simply comparing and contrasting my knowledge of single 30-somethings and Bridget, in order to conclude that we’re NOT a Bridget Jones generation!
The blogger’s (I feel unnecessary) post in response also prompted me to write a post about Blogger Etiquette, which I’ll post next week.
However going back to this post – we are always learning, and always changing. Often our reactions to things are affected by the mood we’re in, or by external circumstances.
We all get things wrong. We all make decisions at times, thinking we’re doing the right thing, only to look back and see just how wrong we got it.
The key to being an adult is to properly learn from our mistakes, and not make them again. Use the knowledge. Use the change of perspective, and move forward.
Someone commented today that my 30 Dates challenge was a way of getting back at Henley Boy and all men. It was nothing of the sorts. It was a way of pushing myself forward, at a time when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sulk.
I thought I knew where I was with HB. I didn’t at all. At the time, a year ago today, when he sacked me off, I thought all my dreams had fallen flat. I’d met the ‘perfect man’ and rather than dating him, I would never speak to him again.
But look how much can change in a year. Because of that sack off, I write a dating blog, which thousands of people read each day. Because of that sack off, I’m changing my career, and moving to London. Because of that sack off, I understand men so much more, and above all, understand myself, and my own needs far more than I did this time last year.
What a difference a year can make!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx