What do you want to be?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  How many times were you asked that as a child?  If you were anything like me, you really had no idea of what the options were, let alone what you wanted to do, beyond be successful and happy in your choice.  I had no idea when I would be ‘grown up’ and with the passage of time, that milestone seemed to keep moving into the distance ahead of me, much the same as a mirage.

Journey

I was also flummoxed by too many ideas.  I toyed with being an actor, a journalist, a psychologist, working in advertising, and perhaps being a social worker.  I definitely knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher, or a nurse (conventional female choices at that time) and although interested in sciences, this was not a field in which I excelled academically.  Actually, my academic achievements were not terribly high in any area by the time that I finished high school and I had totally lost confidence in myself and my abilities, as had done my parents.

There are a range of career advisers available today that didn’t exist at that time.  However, the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES for those who remember) did have an adviser for school leavers and my mother sent me off to undertake their testing and interview process.  From memory, I don’t think that I was handed a career in a box, or given any real practical suggestions.  What stunned me though was the interviewer saying that “I don’t know why you are thinking of social work.  Your results indicate that you don’t like people.”

I was both astonished and demoralised by this assertion and although I thought that she must be wrong, was pushed off balance.  What followed was a period of drifting in and out of courses that I took because I didn’t know what else to do, dropping out, travelling a bit, odd jobs here and there and finally falling into the property industry.  Along the way, I have acquired a few degrees and qualifications, worked in real estate sales, had my own agency, sold and built houses, have been a research analyst and a property adviser for various corporations and government departments.  It just sort of happened.  There have also been some business start-ups in that time, and a lot of lessons learnt.

All along though, I said to myself, I wonder what I will be when I grow up?  I’m a few decades along from when I first posed this question, and I’m still not totally sure when the grown up thing happens, but I have learnt a few things along the way.  Besides acquiring a range of business skills and experiences, (how I wish I’d had those business smarts when younger) I also know that being older doesn’t mean that decisions are any easier.  I also know that circumstances change at any age, whether by choice or factors outside of your control, and know that decisions on what to do next can still be over-whelming.

Friends and family all have different opinions and usually none of their suggestions really light your fire.  It can be easier not to consult them and just to agonise on the options on your own.  At least then you only have your own conflicted voice to listen to and not half a dozen others.

Some of my own experiences in this area Decisionshave led me to pursue training in coaching, focussing on those key transitional times in our lives. It complements work that I have exploring with Life Choices – how to make the decisions that are right for us. I wish that I’d had help like this earlier in life. Stay tuned for further detail that I would love to share with you on my journey of decision-making discovery.

A key area of interest is helping people to make decisions at transitional times in their lives.  It might be having to change career direction or having to re-invent yourself or it may be at other major transitional changes.  The biggies are birth, marriage, children, , divorce, death but there are other variations that are just as important when we are grappling with our decisions.

I’m also really interested in learning how others manage their decision making processes.  If you have time, leave a response and share it with us all.

 

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

Draw to the Coast

Do you ever dream of a sea change? I do … frequently. Apparently the term sea change is uniquely Australian. This is one of the things that I learnt in a seminar yesterday.

The Australian population is one of the most mobile in the western world, and we move commonly at times of life’s transitions. A female born at the beginning of this century has a live expectancy of 79 years. The closer she gets to that age however, the more her expectancy extends as by that time she has passed some of the earlier hurdles that could potentially cut her off at the pass, such as childhood or child birth. By the time this female reaches retirement age of 65 therefore, she still has 1/3 of her life to live. Makes you think about financial provision for the third age, doesn’t it? We have to provide for ourselves for such a long time for those who travel life as a solo venture, it’s even more important and just a little bit harder.

The time of retirement is one of those mobility triggers, as retirement is not necessarily spent in the same place as when one was in the work force. That means leaving a place of known community and probably established support. The choice of new location therefore is important as it needs to be somewhere that also offers support and the sort of links that might be required. Some people might think of moving to where the kids are, but given the mobility that I mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that the kids will stay put. Following them can be a bad bet and not terribly practical. A sea change can seem attractive when making these sorts of decisions.

It’s not all about retirement of course. Some people make the move to the coast at other times of life. They may live at the coast, but work elsewhere. There are those who work FIFO (fly in fly out) or DIDO (drive in drive out) and those who telecommute. Some even manage to get employment in the new location. The smaller size of the coastal communities is attractive – also age-friendly communities. It’s not uncommon for some people, in or around the 40s, to buy a second home on the coast. It is either used as an investment or as a holiday home in the short term, but long term there is the intention to use it as a retirement home.

Demographers predict that Australia has another fifty years of being skewed towards an ageing population. It is further anticipated that the draw to the coast will be significant over this period. It wont be an end-of-life movement but part of a cycle of migration. There may then be a return to the city in later years when greater support is required, particularly of a medical nature.

Older people today enter retirement with significant lifestyle aspirations. Even though they may percolate towards the coast, good transport options between there and the city are important. Also other community facilities such as the medical support previously mentioned, sporting, gyms, entertainment (coffee!!!) educational facilities, and libraries etc.

Coastal markets are lifestyle markets. As such they have always been popular through currently they are going through a weak spot. This follows the softening of real estate prices in most states. Inland prices tend to be a bit cheaper and so some people opt for the tree change instead and regional centres are currently undergoing a resurgence.

I love the Adelaide Hills, but the draw for me has always been towards the ocean. I have long dreamed of a dual existence – a city-based apartment and the home down on the coast to which I could retreat. I think of a smaller community and the bracing walks or paddling in the shallows. Coffee whilst the waves crash on the shore just metres away from the beach-front Kaf. Working on my writing, calmed by the ebb and flow that takes place outside my window. Some dream.

This weekend I am staying in a coastal village located about 1 hour 40 minutes south of Adelaide. It has a beautiful bay although the wind can bracing as it sweeps up from the South Pole. This is just rental accommodation – the YHA in fact. This hostel is having a half-price Spring sale. Perfect for me as I booked quickly enough to secure the Suite, which is a cut above the usual hostel accommodation.

I’m going to chill, to drink some coffee, to go for a walk along the beach and I’ll explore the local galleries and shops. I could even catch a movie this evening in an adjacent town that is large enough to sport a cinema. Depends what is showing. I’ve just had a quick peak at the website and might do the late afternoon session of Red Dog.

I’m also going to look at a local subdivision. I have visited this place before and was intrigued enough to monitor progress with interest and get regular email updates. It is not waterfront, but is set back from the beach by 200 metres or so. A tunnel takes a walking/cycling path under an adjacent main road and leads to the beach. The family who have subdivided their agricultural land have a dream of developing a precinct that has wetlands, a restoration of the local ecology, and with all dwellings built on strictly monitored environmentally sustainable principles. They have progressed well so far. Houses look out onto lagoons which have attracted local birds, amphibians, and yabbies. Flinders University is monitoring the progress. The houses all look interesting and it has a strong community feel.

There’s no way I can afford this but it ticks a lot of boxes for me. After all I am now in late 50s and relate well to the lifestyle transitional issues that the demographers are talking about. I also want more space in which to breathe. There’s no harm in just having another look, is there? If I could just somehow manage to buy the land in the first instance and build up some equity for a while before building … Perhaps a lateral solution will present itself. We’ll see.

Another comment about change was made in my seminar. Actually it was a quote by Charles Darwin.
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent, but those who are the most responsive to change.” Makes you think.


Opportunity Cost – to Alice and back

Opportunity cost – a positive teamed with a negative as in the cost benefit analysis.  On her blog Tortoise Tales, Tortoise Mum has coordinated a blog hop on this topic.  Be sure to read what the others have written too.

 I‘ve had plenty of time to ponder the choices that I have made and whether I should have followed the high road or the low road.  Many of those decisions I did make were not necessarily the best ones (strategic thinking not being my strong point) but I acknowledge that each road has resulted in significant learning opportunities and experiences that have ultimately been beneficial.

 Indulging in the tantalising Sliding Doors scenario and ‘what if?’ I have pinpointed what was probably for me the most defining decision of my life.  I was in my early twenties and decided to go travelling.  The plan was to drive up through the centre of Australia to Darwin, work there for a while in the Greek gambling clubs where a young blond female who could run fast could make a reasonable amount of money, and to then set off on the usual overland trip of that time, up through Asia, and progressing through the sub-continent, the Middle East, Europe and the UK.

 I didn’t set off alone – I had a younger sister with me.  We were driving in a 1958 Morris Major Elite called Blossom and were full of youthful confidence and exuberance.  We didn’t get far as substantial rains washed out the Stuart Highway and the floods that we travelled through infiltrated the car.  We finally arrived in Alice Springs in a car with no brakes and not much money for us.  Fixing the car and getting a job to pay for it all saw me staying in Alice a bit longer than I anticipated.  Seven years longer in fact. My sister, who wasn’t the car owner, soon moved on but I stayed put.

 There were a lot of things that happened in those seven years.  I got my pilot’s licence and flew around much of Central Australia.  I started two businesses, the first in soft furnishings and the second in real estate.  Knowing that getting established in real estate would take some time, I also negotiated agencies for modular homes and started selling those as well.  In response to customer request, I also project managed construction of the homes, both in town and out bush.  I landed a contract for 33 small modular units on Aboriginal settlements, and spent days in driving around remote areas, sleeping in the back of my station wagon and supervising delivery and construction of those units.  It was a unique experience and introduced me to aboriginal culture in a way not possible in the towns.

 I built my own home in Alice as well, subcontracting out the construction but doing a lot of the grunt work myself.  Building the kitchen, installing all the air-conditioning ducting – things like that.  Saved myself a heap of money and of course derived personal satisfaction as well.  Carving a garden out of that compacted hard ground was yet another achievement, and I grew some beautiful roses.

 This took up all of my twenties.  It was a strange time in retrospect.  It was also quite a lonely time.  I loved the country and getting out of town and felt such a strong affinity for the Centralian area.  I had more acquaintances than strong friendships though.  In spite of the fact that men outweighed women, there was quantity but not necessarily quality. 

 There were passing relationships and some memorable affairs, but none of them lasted very long, except for one.  It was still disastrous.  I engaged this man as a sub-contractor on the houses that I built and there was something about him that caught my eye from day one.  Perhaps the twinkly blue eyes, the physical strength and solid build, the irrepressible laugh, or the way that he turned up the heat as he looked at you.  He oozed the X factor.  I wasn’t the only one of course, as I was soon to discover he conquered wherever he went and left a trail of devastation in his wake.  There was something about me that kept him coming back for more as well.  Both of us knew that together we had no future, but we could never quite let each other go.  I was the one who ended up with the broken heart though.  Not just broken but totally disintegrated.  Still, many years later he ended up fathering my child but that is another story altogether.

 As I approached thirty, I knew that if I didn’t get out of town soon, I would be stuck in Alice and would drift into a solitary life that I didn’t want and would always regret.  I sold up and closed businesses, let the house and headed south, determined to get some further education and a piece of paper that would give me more choices in life. 

 The Adelaide that I returned to was different to the one that I had left.  My friends had partnered up and moved on.  Paths that once converged were now far apart and our different experiences separated us.  Call me naïve but I was a bit surprised to learn that a woman entering her thirties does not have anywhere near the appeal that a woman does in her twenties.  Also, making the transition from business woman to student meant a loss of status and connections.  I was older than fellow students and had little in common with them, and no longer had networks in a city in which networks were everything.   It was a time of confusing transition.

 That period is now many years ago, and yes I got that piece of paper and a few more besides.  I did have more choices and I have travelled in a variety of directions since then and continue to do so.  I have often reflected on those years in Alice though and the impact that they had on how my life panned out.  It was a spur of the moment decision to stay there, prompted by flooded roads, a car without brakes and no money.  I have always felt though that staying in that town for so long through those years of my life was a significant factor in my not forming a regular partnership as did all the friends that I left behind.  Had I not stayed so long in a place in which I was unlikely to find a compatible partner, I may have found the relationship and family life that I had always assumed would be a reality.  Instead I have had a child on my own, and years later at that.

 Edith Piaf sang of no regrets (Non, je ne regrette rien) and she’s right.  There’s nothing to be gained from dwelling in yesterday.  Sometimes though I wonder what would have been if I’d kept on driving.

Other posts that are participating in the blog hop on Opportunity Costs: click here to view the list.