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Been meaning to post this for ages.

Our nephew recently spent 6 months at sea, returning home a couple of months ago. He joined the Merchant Navy student programme last year and this was his first time away (I’m sure there is a proper navy term for that mind you…). He spent most of his time shuttling between the UK, the north-east coast of Africa and Brazil, criss-crossing the Atlantic many times. We’re all very proud of him, and very happy that he is loving every minute of it, well almost…

And you know what else I am? Jealous. Very jealous.

I feel bad even admitting it, to be honest, but it’s true. I told him as much and he nodded along politely as, no doubt, I’m not the only person who’ll have said this to him.

He has seen things I will likely never see, been places I’ll likely never be, and has caused me to ponder my own life. Do I want to spend it sat behind a desk? I’ve got another 30 years or so before I retire, and that presumes I’ll retire early, but I can honestly say the thought of sitting at a computer for all that time fills me with dread. There is so much more to life than this.

And so the pendulum swings again. A few months ago I was revved up, career-focussed, and planning on an MA of all things! What folly. Yet, as I sit here looking out over back garden as the rain drizzles down, I find myself daydreaming and plotting. What WOULD I do, what COULD I do?

As ever, reality nags at the back of my head. Bills to pay, the lifestyle we enjoy isn’t the cheapest, and being constantly stretched is now a way of life. We have debt, like most, but it’s controlled and lowering all the time. One distant day we’ll have none but the mortgage, and the car probably, and then what? Is that the time to pursue something new?

But what? I have many skills, I know my capabilities, and I know I’m smart enough to pick up most things. But that only broadens the scope.

I could write for a living perhaps? Go freelance, and pick and choose my jobs to fit round other activites, new hobbies, or perhaps new studies for a new direction.

But that still leaves the what.

And then, after some time, I realise that I’m actually quite happy with my life and my job. Whilst I would love to be in a position to travel more, things aren’t all that bad, and I still have time on my side.

Count your blessings and all that.

But don’t stop dreaming…

4 comments

  1. I know a forklift driver where I work who was (I think) in the Merchant Navy and then worked on oil tankers for BP and he has literally been to every place in the world with a port.

    I always try and make sure I grab a coffee break or go for a smoke when he does so he can regale me with stories of the sea, even though he does sometimes go a little bit Uncle Albert – “During the war…” 🙂

    If only they taught us what we wanted to be when we grew up at school though. I went to college cos everyone else did and studied stuff I wasn’t that bothered about and got some A levels and got a job. It was only about 2 years into my current job I was struck by a thunderbolt and actually knew what I wanted to be – and it had sod all to do with my job!

    So now I’m doing an Open University degree in Physics and plan to have my Ph.d by the time I’m 40. Perhaps I’ll work for NASA, maybe ESO, but it sure as hell will be doing something I actually want to do.

    “If you don’t have a dream…” and all that 😀

  2. I’ve lived in mortal fear of settling in a career or place in life where I’m merely content instead of excited and happy.

    I’ve now finished school, am working full time at the job I set out to have, and could very easily stay here for the rest of my days. I should be exceptionally happy with where I am, but I’m more worried than anything.

    Growing up I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew the type of person I wanted to grow into. I wanted to be that interesting old guy who seemed to have lived a dozen different lives.

    Many days I wish I was sailing the open seas instead of programming in front of a computer, but I’m sure if I was sailing the open seas I’d have days where I’d wish I was just sitting in front of a computer. It’s hard to find that pleasant middle-ground.

  3. There was an interesting programme on “Analysis” on Radio 4 the other night (it’s probably still there as a podcast):
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/programmes/analysis/default.stm

    One thing it mentioned was that human beings can’t help but try and form memory into a story… when we remember our pasts we retell it in the form of a story: a narrative.

    This made me think about how we might work out what we want to do with our lives, and in a sense what we need is a story: an interest we’re passionate about; ourselves as the hero; overcoming an obstacle; having a revelation; and experiencing a change… a lesson we can recount to our juniors in the grand old tradition of the fireside storyteller… we’ve all got a book in us, so it’s said.

    It seems the more we “advance”, the less easy it is. Most of life seems to be heading towards being almost entirely “online”; ourselves as blobs plugged into machines, producing and consuming.
    I think many of us WANT to have varied, interesting lives, as we did before the Information Revolution.
    My own story has been one of ten years at top unis “striving for greatness”; somewhere along the line I realised I was “pretending” to be interested; and really, every job I really want to do is a “sub-degree”-level one.

    I wonder, with the government so keen to pile so many people into uni to make us “productive staff” of “UK PLC” in response to the evils of globalisation, perhaps they ought to make it easy and desirable for us to retrain several times in our lives in a wide range of different careers… architect, fisherman, nurse; why not?

    Having said that, we’re entering rough seas economically now; so we didn’t ought to romanticise careers; but we all as a country need to hit the brakes and stop destroying ourselves in the quest for money.

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