This is the view from our kitchen window, and I sometimes wonder what life would be like with a different view.
Not from a different house (although I do think about that often enough), but a view from a different life, through a different set of eyes. And not because I don’t like my life, because I do. But in idle moments I think about what it would be like to be someone else for a while.
I know I’m not alone, because Victoria Wood wrote a song about this very thing. It makes me laugh every time I hear it, because it’s so true. She sings about not wanting to be reincarnated as a famous historical figure, but rather as just another ordinary woman, with a different ordinary life. And I understand, because that’s what I want too.
I’ve had a surprising number of jobs in my life. I’ve worked in a newsagents, a factory, and a nightclub. I’ve worked for a conservation charity, handed out leaflets for a hairdresser, and taken notes in lectures for deaf students. I’ve written reports for construction industry seminars. I’ve been a personal assistant, taught economics to undergraduates, and for a short time I was self employed as a Victorian. I even spent a day as a lingerie model. Many of those jobs I’ve enjoyed, and some I’ve loathed, but all have given me a glimpse into what it might be like to be somebody else.
Years ago at a family Christmas do, the conversation turned to dancing. I made some wild declaration (as I do now and then) that I was going to leave work and become a ballerina (while twirling ineptly around the room). ‘You can’t be a ballerina!’ I was told, ‘you need to start when you’re a child!’
I seem to remember declaring ‘I can do whatever I want!’ and being told I couldn’t be an astronaut, a physicist, and a variety of other eminent professions. My young cousin joined in, telling me ‘you can’t be an elephant!’ (there’s a certain logic to that, at least…).
My family of course were right – given my age and lack of athletic background or any interest in science, it’s unlikely I’m going to make it as a professional astronaut or ballerina any time soon. But my interest in wanting to know what it’s like to be those things will never go away, and might explain my desire to do so many different things at once and never settle on any particular thing. Even if I won’t be an astronaut, I can learn a little about the stars, maybe even dress up in a space suit once in a while, and get a feel for what it might be like.
Because I can’t live all those other lives, I sometimes imagine I’m looking at my own life from the outside. Have you ever tried doing this? It’s fascinating. Just observe yourself, even on a dull day, and watch the little things you do automatically, and think about why you do them. It’s almost as good as observing someone else.
Today, for example, I watched myself lie in bed for almost an hour after the alarm went off, and then run to the bus stop and eat my breakfast on the bus (and if the me from ten years ago had seen myself I would have rolled my eyes in horror). I saw myself get excited about a potential new project, and my disappointment after I was told it wasn’t possible. I ate leftover risotto for lunch, and donated ten forks to the communal kitchen as I was fed up eating my lunch with a spoon.
Nobody else saw me sneak to the cafe for a sweet treat this afternoon, and nobody saw me make a hot chocolate and put 20p in our saving-up-to-replace-the-hot-chocolate pot (because I’ll happily pay £2.50 for a hot chocolate in a cafe, but somehow paying £2.50 for a jar of hot chocolate that will make 15 cups feels extortionate). Nobody saw me make a gantt chart that only I will ever see. Nobody saw what I wrote (and then deleted) in response to some reviewers’ comments on an article I’d written.
When I was younger, I used to imagine that when you died, you and all your friends got to sit and watch a video of your entire life, start to finish, in real time. I loved the idea of showing other people all the tiny details of my life that they’d missed out on, and I loved the idea of seeing theirs. I didn’t think too much about the practicalities (would my friends all be dead at the same time? How would we ever have enough time to watch everyone else’s lives in real time? Would it actually be really boring??) I was too focused on thinking about how fascinating it would be.
Maybe that’s what I’m doing here, trying to pin down some of what I do to show somebody else. I’m quite obsessive about writing things down sometimes – I keep this blog, but I also write elsewhere on several different forums, and in emails, and letters, and usually have at least a couple of notebooks on the go. I make myself charts and lists and am forever declaring goals and intentions and ticking things off.
Why? Am I afraid of forgetting what things are like? I do love to read what I wrote when I was younger, and often curse myself for having been such a poor diary writer as a teenager (they’re full of typical teenager things – mostly ‘it’s not fair!’ and ‘they don’t understand!’). Am I trying to justify what I do? (I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job of that!)
Maybe, since I can’t live everyone else’s lives, I’m just trying to make sure anyone else can read a piece of mine, just like I love to do with other people’s.
What about you? Are you as nosey as me? I’d love it if you told me something about yourself!
I am certainly nosey, which is why I haunt Facebook and occasionally lurk on another forum I think. I love hearing about other people’s lives, and yours is the kind of life that inspires me to ‘just do it!’ I don’t know whether I ever told you this, but you inspired me to wake up my ‘crafty’ side which had been dormant for so many years. I spend many an hour doing ordinary things like knitting and making things.
I love your passion for the ordinary, it’s the ordinary after all that is the most important in this world of ours. It’s the ordinary that underpins everything else. I’ve been reading (and writing) about the world wars, mostly WW1, it wasn’t the heroes who ‘went bravely over the top’ who won the war. if indeed anyone can actually ‘win’ such an atrocious event. It was the people at home who carried on doing the mundane ordinary things that kept people fed, clothed and warm. People, women, children, older people and the disabled, in every country that was engaged in these wars, all put their shoulder to the wheel and did the ordinary things that was so very necessary.
I would like to point out, one of the advantages of being able to write things down in an articulate way. You CAN be an elephant if you so wish, or a physicist, or a ballerina.
Thank you for the link to the song – it made me smile so much… as Victoria Wood often does.
If more people had a desire to put themselves into the place of other (ordinary) people I think we would have a much better world.
Love the song! And reading about other people’s lives. So many people seem to have much more sensible lives than me and I like to hear about them…wouldn’t want to live them though!
Kyle’s been wondering a lot lately what it would be like to be a kitten. I’ve mostly been wondering what it would be like if I packed everything up and went to live in an old rundown farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and home-schooled the boys! I love the idea of the whole-life video, to share all those moments, good and bad, that no-one ever sees.
Very thought provoking! I’m convinced that when I left charity management I should have got a science degree and gone to the Mojave Desert to work in the private space sector … my grasp of detail is terrible, so I wouldn’t have done terribly well, but it would’ve been a lot of fun 🙂
I love blog reading because I can read so many different views and experiences, it is both fascinating and inspiring. I love Victoria’s song too. I have recently been looking into my family tree and found the truth differs much from the exotic family legends that have been related to me since childhood. Instead of wild gypsies and aristocrats I have discovered a German baker, A 300 year old shepherd in Norfolk, a scientist, several farm labourers and ladies in service, several doctors too! and a midwife, soldiers, a suffragette, a clock maker…ordinary people (except maybe the scientist, he sounded a bit extraordinary), It has been a wonderful gift to learn and think about all of this, to imagine what their lives were like. I felt so sad for my great grandmother who lost four of her ten children to childhood disease, I felt sad too for the young soldiers that did not get out of the trenches alive and the great uncle that lost his wife and four children (one a baby he’d not yet met, as he was serving abroad) to a bomb. But there was joy as well as tragedy, a champion fell runner was found as well as persons that lived to the ripe old ages of 102 and 105! I wonder, have you had the chance to look into your roots? It’s something I feel I can highly recommend. Gosh, I have written the hind leg off a donkey here.
I liked this post, it has given me much to ponder. Your life sounds so rich and varied, I am glad you are sharing some of it here with us.
All the best
I can happily send you three small boys if you want to be me for a week!