As a secondary teacher, I have often found myself telling my pupils that secondary school is the beginning of the life they want to lead. I tell them that those all-important GCSEs will lead to an apprenticeship or A levels, that will lead to a career or a university place…and so on. As a school, we try to open our pupils’ minds to the wonderful opportunities and experiences that life has to offer. I was told once that we are preparing pupils for jobs that haven’t been invented yet. An amazing but scary thought. I actually think it is more than that though. We are trying to guide human beings who don’t even know who they are now, never mind who they want to be in the future. Being a teenager is tough.
I don’t disagree with the sentiments I tell my pupils though. Not entirely. For some, that it the path they will take and they will do it successfully. Those are the ex-pupils that we invite back each year to speak to our Year 11 Leavers: inspirational, motivated and successful.
But life isn’t simple, is it? For so many, leaving school is not the beginning. The pupils who do not get the results they need or those who have no idea who or what they want to be may take years to begin the life they want to lead. Or those that have gone astray, those whose lives are so complex that they aren’t ready to start living theirs whilst they are so busy dealing with the impact of others.
Being positive, I have accomplished much of what I have wanted. I went to university – the first one in my family to do so. I found myself becoming a teacher, realised that I am actually quite good at it and love (nearly) every minute of it. I married, bought a house, had children. I have supported my parents, watched my beautiful sisters marry and have children of their own. I am a proud aunty to two of the cutest little characters you have ever seen. I have travelled enough to appreciate the diversity of the world whilst still loving the sanctuary of this little island. Compared to so many people on this earth, I recognise how lucky I am. There is so much in my life that I do not want to change.
And yet there is so much in my life that I do! Am I so wrong for wanting more? I want to be the best that I can be- in so many ways I feel like I am failing! If my luck holds out, I am heading towards the middle of my life. And yet, I am fighting so hard to change the path that I am on. I don’t want to be the lonely, exhausted, overweight working mother of three, trapped in an unhappy marriage and so scared that she is missing those opportunities she so enthusiastically promotes as a mother and teacher.
One day, as an old woman looking at the family and friends around her, I want to be proud of the beginnings I gave my children. I want to be satisfied with the choices and mistakes I have made. I want the knowledge that I have lived a happy, full, life: filled with experiences and achievements and wonder.
I am starting from the middle. Somehow, I need to find balance between work and motherhood to find me. I need to lose weight once and for all so that I can be a healthy role model for my children: one who runs and treks and swims and plays football and climbs and rides bikes or horses and isn’t out of breath before she begins. I want to feel good in my skin. I want to rekindle those friendships that have somehow paled into the background of my working-mother life. I want to fulfil the dreams that I still have from my own childhood – see more of the world, write a novel, play the piano, learn to paint….and so many more.
The immediate future is a scary place for me. I have to traverse the minefield of separation and divorce and hope that my children do not become part of the depressing statistics for broken families. I want to one day look at the man I once loved and see happiness and not feel guilt. The thought of being a lonely divorcee scares me but so does the thought of ever trusting a man enough to love him. That path can wait.
So, I must somehow continue normality for my children whilst I begin carving a new life for us. A frightening and exciting prospect. Wish me luck.