I have a friend who has this gentle, super perceptive way of expressing something that makes complete sense to me, but that I hadn't quite managed to formulate into a cohesive idea. When she comes out with one of these gem, I feel as if I knew it already, but that it lay, until this moment, just beyond my grasp. A few weeks ago, we were talking about work and what the future held for us, and she explained that she's had this realization that you can find a meaningful, enjoyable way of making a living, but that it might not necessarily be the thing that makes you tick. Perhaps that special love - be it writing, painting, sculpting, music, dancing, gardening, whatever - just has to be what you do when you aren't at work (the trick, of course, being to find a way to make just enough money to enable you the energy and time you need to devote to the unpaid pursuit). It seems so obvious, doesn't it? But I was like, wow, that's completely it! Why didn't I figure that out 15 years ago? Well because, when you're 20, the world is rather black or white, or it was for me. If I was going to write, I was going to win the Booker; if I was going to design clothes, I would be the next John Galliano; if I was going to make documentaries, they would be amazing and cutting edge, and I would write and direct them. There were no shades of grey; no compromises. To be honest, I still lack subtlety, but back then I was pretty extreme, and I walked away from lots of things because I wasn't willing to settle for less than my (great) expectations.
From time to time, it has occurred to me that it would be good to have a vocation - a practical skill that I could use to make an income, but that wouldn't use up all my time or suck my soul dry. There's also this inner voice, this snob, this uncompromising little devil, that says: "No, you're not that person. You have to do and be something serious. Have a career. Be fierce." Playing around with words and images will always be the thing that floats my boat - don't get me wrong - but I can see now that there might be something else too. If I can make money from writing, then that would be ideal, but I will still write, no matter what. For now, I can only just manage to find the smallest nooks of time in which to do that, motherhood being my extremely full-time job. In the future, this won't be the case, and I'm kind of excited by the possibilities.