Arrival? It's not just an ABBA album.
Two weeks ago I celebrated my 34th birthday. As I listened to my child contentedly tearing up a newspaper in the corner of my kitchen on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning, my increased age evoked a familiar feeling - I slipped back into a recurrent and pervasive thought I've had for the last twenty years (when my mental health first started to wobble). Despite having all three of the things I thought constituted 'arriving'- a house, a partner and a child, I'm still very much 'standing on the platform', to coin a bad James Morrison song name (I had to Google that, obviously). Such a seeming lack of appreciation is a fairly typical characteristic for me. I am a narcissist after all. But what may not be as obvious, is the underlying bed of guilt that is served up with it, like a potato rosti on the nineties Masterchef; I'm waiting to feel the way everyone else feels, about all the things everyone else does, and how dare I not be satisfied with my lot? Well, you have to wonder about the sincerity of someone who at times views drawing blood as a reason to feel good about themselves. I can honestly say that even I no longer know when I'm being sincere. This does not make me feel good about myself.
I know that the only real 'arrival' we have in life is at birth of course, and after that the pessimists amongst us would say we're just waiting to die, but cliches aside, aren't we all taught during our formative years that one day we'll somehow have it all? I've read that this may be symptomatic of the generation for whom there were no limits imposed by our talent (or lack thereof), resulting in certain disappointment once we realise it was all a lie. I was a classic big fish in a little pond back then; queen of the school music department (oh yes, great shakes!), darling of the drama class I took (stealing the crown from the boy who'd won every year for the previous 3) and pegged for Oxbridge (if you believe the best case scenario). The school librarian shed tears at my rendition of 'Keep The Home Fires Burning', whilst I was dressed as a nun in the school play. See - even now I'm leaking ego all over the place. But Oxbridge fell by the wayside, because my mental health got in the way. More about that later.
I've done a fair amount of achieving in my life thus far, albeit in quite an unconventional and mixed up way. I've sung for royals, had a fabricated story written about me in the Daily Mail, written for Channel 4, got a degree, written music for massive ad campaigns, successfully sued Adidas, breakfasted with Clint Mansell in LA and even turned down our national lothario, Russell Brand. Yet the nagging ambition lingers. I suspect if I had the £6million house and was one of music's timeless legends I'd still decide I wanted to retrain as a doctor. Every time I see something that sparks my interest, the ole brain pipes up to tell me this is definitely what I need to do in order to arrive. I just applied for a Masters degree even though I have a 13 month old, work a 50 hour employed week and run a self-employed business. All of which is simply this - A DISTRACTION. If I stand still for too long, I might actually have time to think. I was meant to be special, right?
Maybe this feeling of arrival will come with my forties. Maybe I'll have a sudden musical resurgence, revisit my youth and end up taking my son around the world on a bus with blacked out windows. Maybe I'll get promoted in my job. Maybe I'll go through IVF again and have another baby. Maybe I'll actually get married (I've been engaged since Christmas Day 2010). But the most likely scenario is that I'll do all of this in my mind. And then I'll write about it...