Recline and Lament

Lately, despondent and melancholy have featured disproportionately in my internal dialogue.  All available explanations for this make me feel guilty.  So I’m going to stare my guilt in the eye and own it.  Yes, I am guilty of being someone with nothing to complain about who is not going to let that stop them, and I shall embrace my crimes against positivity on the internet because public wallowing in unjustified sorrow is mysteriously cathartic.  Hopefully, by the time this post is finished I will have ejected the lumpen feeling from my chest and replaced it with golden butterflies.

Where to begin?  It’s autumn, and while autumn is my favourite season, it is also a reminder of another year on the wane.  Another year in which I have achieved nothing useful in terms of my ambition to have a career rather than a succession of jobs.  Many of my friends are reasonably big-wigged now, which makes me feel like I am both stupider and lazier than them.  If they aren’t particularly big-wigged, they have at least one child.  They are doing something useful.

My current status is part-time employed in a hateful job.  The same job I left in order to wing my way to the other side of the world, and to which I swore I would never return.  I spend two days per week being patronised, derided and yelled at by planet-sized egos.  It is the very definition of back-sliding.

Research writing I was scheduled to be doing – unpaid – isn’t materialising according to the Chief Brain’s disseminated timetable. At some point I must invest an unspecified number of hours in writing, but I do not know when.  Neither have I seen work accepted for publication in print yet, despite the fact that the issue was due months ago. Resolution of these things is not in my control.  Who knows if discernible return on investment will ever come my way?   Knowing that it might happen means I can’t yet invest in a plan which involves full-time anything.  This is my choice, but it’s not an easy one.  I need my name on those publications.

I left a good job which I – despite the usual managerial idiocy – adored, to return to the UK.  While it is my home with all the familiar benefits that brings, there might as well have been a sign at the border saying WARNING: HERE LIE TATTERED REMNANTS OF MANY A CAREER.

I miss New Zealand.  The feeling has been growing for a while, and it’s reached gargantuan proportions.   I miss being able to drive out into the countryside and not see offensively-rude rich families and their SUVs, with Tarquin and Angelica in head to toe Ralph Lauren outerwear standing listlessly by while daddy shouts into a phone that yes he will deal with it first thing Monday morning.  I miss being a 15-minute bike ride from the office where I got paid a reasonable wage to do an interesting job I enjoyed and was good at.   I miss my NZ friends, and Facebook is a poor fucking substitute.

My UK friends have moved varying distances away (from 50 miles to 3,000 miles) and so I don’t see them much.  I have reconnected with other friends, but I thought things would be how they were when I left the UK, and they’re not.

We must live with the knowledge that we made the wrong decision which felt so right at the time, and what’s done is done.


I would like to have a child? children? but I always thought I should have a career first.  Time ticks unrelentingly, and if I got a dream job tomorrow, I would need to work at it for a year or so first, to shore up reasons for the employer to have me back (law or no, if they don’t want you they won’t keep you), and to get the maternity pay.  If I start a PhD next year I would be 37 when I finished and I am not sure I want to wait that long before trying to have a family.  I am not even sure I want a PhD, because Fickle could be my middle name.  Nevertheless, I have set up a meeting with a potential supervisor next week, because I need to feel I am doing something, and I don’t know what else to do.

I try to be happy.  For the sake of those around me I am Fake Happy, and the effort is exhausting.

Put all that in the blender and add a generous dollop of guilt.  What do I really have to be unhappy about?  I don’t have to work full time, I can spend two hours writing this and nobody is getting on my case.  I have a great house that’s bigger than I need, and a couple of holidays a year.  I have an excellent education.  I am healthy.  I can feed and clothe myself.  That is far, far more than most blisteringly hardworking people in this fucked up world could ever dream of.   I want them too to have everything I have.  I feel terrible that for no good reason as far as I can see, I have it and they don’t.

I have felt like this before, but this time is the longest tranche.  Usually when it happens, I feel better if I go to nature.  I’ve tentatively begun a collection of photographs of weird foresty things and this weekend I added to it.  Here is my collection:

Vancouver, 2010

Hatfield Forest, 2011

This time, I don’t feel better, and I’m not sure how to deal with that.


8 Responses to “Recline and Lament”

  1. 1 unmitigated me September 20, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I am thinking that a PhD is not something to attempt half-heartedly. I was almost 40 before the ‘job-string’ turned into a career, and I am fine with that now, but was a little down about it at the time. Maybe it’s time to expand your horizons? Return to starting point zero, and make a list of things you absolutely LOVE to do. Seriously LOVE. Then see where it takes you…

  2. 2 Mrs. G. September 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I’m with unmitigated in not going for a PhD just to go for a PhD. You don’t sound passionate about it. I’m not sure you are correct in assuming you should have a career before you have a child–you have had a career and you have a law degree from one of the finest learning institutions on this planet. But again, don’t have a child unless you are absolutely sure you want a child. Is moving back to NZ out of the question? You did seem unbelievably happy there. You and K. are young! Don’t let yourself be boxed in because once you do have kids that complicates the whole pick up and go opportunities. I wish I could give you a hug. It’s cool for you to be in a funk. Sometimes a period of the blues can bring about a new direction. Good God, woman, you need to change your Christmas plans, though. Otherwise I fear for the safety of you inlaws.

  3. 3 Jen September 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Ditto what everyone else is saying: You don’t sound like the PhD will rock your world, so why put yourself through that hell? Is it because you want the credential or because you genuinely have burning issues you’d like to research?

    As for NZ vs. the UK, why can’t you move back?

    As for children, that’s a tough one, but my advice is not to overthink and just plunge in or else you’ll never do it.

    Sending hugs, good thoughts, and virtual hot tea.

  4. 4 Jenn @ Juggling Life September 21, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Mrs. G. said it all–why can’t you go back to New Zealand if that is where your heart is?

    What you’ve described is what I’ve been hearing on Twitter called “firstworldproblems.” I like that term because it acknowledges our privilege and also the fact that it might still be a problem to US.

    • 5 Nic @ Life, Smudged. September 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you, internet buddies, for being supportive and kind in the face of my whining. I feel better simply for writing it down, but also because things said in the comments have made me think. First world problems – that is exactly what I have! They seem utterly nonsensical in the wider scheme of things, but still they are something I am struggling with.

      Unmitigated that’s a great suggestion and this weekend I am going to sit down and make a list of the things I love to do – there used to be lots of them, and I need to work more of them into my life. One of the things I LOVE to do is read politlcal science and political philosophy stuff, and I do have a burning research question that excites me. The problem is that in my head I’ve formulated this into a choice between a phd or a child, and if that were the case the phd seems more a cost than a benefit. It’s a false choice though, and I need to get that through my thick skull. I’m going to see how I feel after my meeting and if it goes badly, put the idea on a backburner. It’s definitely not to get the credential in front of my name, since I don’t care about that in the least. It’s about finding out the answer to my question and the joy of designing and carrying out the research. I am a massive nerd.

      There are so many reasons we can’t move back to NZ (right now), but in brief: K-man’s parents are both in their 70s, one of his brothers moved to Mexico last year – and it feels too awful if we also went to the literal opposite end of the globe right now; K-man finally after two years of heartache and striving, has a permanent job doing exactly what he wants to do and leaving would mean leaving that, for the unknown, again; we own our house that we love, and if we went to NZ we would NOT (based on experience) want to rent or want to rent out our house in the UK, so we would need to sell, which means pulling all our assets out of the UK and putting them into NZ and because of relative property prices and exchange rate fluctuations run the very high risk of not being able to afford to move back to the UK and own a house; the simple act of moving to the other side of the world costs a SHITLOAD of cash that we don’t have any more – see house purchase. My parents are also getting older, yada yada. So right now, it’s really not an option. In the future, maybe.

      Yesterday I decided to make lists of things I would accomplish, so I felt like I’d done something with my day. It’s starting to work.

  5. 6 cardinal September 23, 2011 at 6:14 am

    I’m hearing your yearning for NZ for the time you were happy, not that you need to return there now. I think your heart can sing where you are. You’ve been juggling a lot, and difficult elders, which suck all the life out of any moment. My advice is to step back and give your current setting a chance to make you content.

    Thinking Phd vs. child is nice on paper, but if you think there is a glimmer of wanting a child, know that there is no perfect time to have one. Children throw the biggest monkey wrench into everything, and you can never plan the perfect time. Even when you’ve planned it, there will be a glitch.

    This moment in time, of having parents on the decline, is so tricky that it makes every choice a challenge. If you make your list of what you love, and K-man has the same consideration, you can make your life happy wherever you are. I’m sending you good energy to help ease your mind.

  6. 7 Jonathan September 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I understand all about the “nothing to complain about, but not letting that stop them” thing.

    I also understand I should read your blog more, because it’s fantastic.

  7. 8 trash November 8, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Somebody else being worse off doesn’t negate the validity of your own experiences, first world benefits not withstanding.

    I echo much of what is already written, especially the points about all that study out of duty rather than joy and there is never a good time to have children.

    You have my empathy and also sympathy on the being on the wrong side of the world.

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