‘[T]hose questioned said they expected people [at 35] to have reached milestones like buying a house, finding a partner and having a first child, but have several years to go before reaching the peak of their career at age 39…[it] is also an age when you can be at or around the peak of your earnings’.
At 33, I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that I’ve still got two good years left in me before commencing the slow march towards death (and six years left to become a globally-renowned something), but I’m always a bit depressed to have my progress as an adult measured by whether I’ve mated and whether I can buy stuff.
This is not my life. Neither, I suspect, is it the life of most ELTers – including the ones with spouses and houses.
Are we in this job because, as smug pseudo-philosopher Alain de Botton suggests, our lives have gone wrong? Or did we make choices to live differently? I thought my life had gone wrong when every other conversation I had in London was about getting married (I just hadn’t met the right man!), having children (my biological clock would soon start ticking!) and acquiring property (if I didn’t get my foot on the ladder sharpish I’d be sorry!). It’s only now, on the other side of the world, where I can create my own milestones and there’s nobody to insist that in time I’ll want the same things as them, that I feel my life is actually going right.
There’s a word for people like us: existential migrants. There’s even a (highly recommended) book about us, The End of Belonging by Greg Madison. According to the author – though I’m paraphrasing from Wikipedia here – we’re more apt to:
- embrace perspective-broadening experience
- prefer the strange or foreign to the familiar or conventional
- value difference, especially as a stimulus to personal awareness
- believe in the importance of trying to fulfill individual potential
- value freedom and independence
- view home as interaction, not as a fixed geographical place
That’s a life I can recognise; in fact I almost cried when I first read the book. So
, let’s have a wee chat. I
will always love you and I will always be your daughter, but we’re going to
have to agree to disagree on a few things. Britain
I want to be a 35 year-old who has thoroughly considered whether getting married and having children are the right things for me, rather than the taken-for-granted next steps. I only want to own a home if I can’t imagine not living in it forever, and I can actually afford to buy it. I want to give away practically everything I own on two year cycles (but not my iPhone and not my stuffed dinosaurs).
I want to be a 35 year-old (and 75 year-old) whose desire to move and move and move is stronger than the desire to make myself comfortable. I never want to feel that I’ve seen enough of the world or lose that beautiful, raw sensation of leaving and returning to different ‘homes’, knowing it’s true that you can never go home again.
I want to be a 35 year-old who understands that the people who come in and out of my life are a blessing but I can’t hold on to them. I want to enjoy my own company.
I want to be a 35 year-old who feels confident in the work I’ve chosen to pursue and who learns for the love of learning, not studies for the extra pound an hour. I want not to be freaked out by the prospect of no computers, no photocopier, no board, no books, no desks and no chairs. I want to keep those students in my life who make me cry with laughter, cry with despair, and open my eyes. I want to mentor and be mentored.
I want to be a 35 year-old who has carved out a life to suit me, not everyone else, and I want not to be scared. Except of clowns. This is only natural.
Did I become a TEFL teacher because my life had gone wrong? Yes - but not in the way Mr Bottom would have you believe. What do you want to be at 35? Or 75?