Thursday, 14 July 2011

When I Grow Up I'm Going to Be...

(WIP ~ Circus illustration, as yet untitled) 
I was one of those people who, when asked as a child what they wanted to be when they grew up, had no idea.  Well, what I mean to say is that I knew deep down what I wanted to do, but I never dared to admit it out loud.  I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to draw pictures for books.

I have to admit that I didn't have the courage to follow my heart back then and I wandered aimlessly through my teens without a clue of which career would substitute what I really wanted to do, and one which would please my family.  There was a very strong feeling back then of having to make one single career choice that would span a lifetime.  Somehow inside, I knew that this was not only an impossible decison to make at the age of 16, but also a  ridiculous one.
All of my friends seemed to have Plans.  They knew they wanted to be in Catering, or Beauty Therapy.  They wanted to be Social Workers, Nurses, Engineers and Mechanics and they all enrolled on the appropriate courses whilst I took on three A-levels, two in subjects I didn't even really like.  

And so I began to pretend.  I pretended I wanted to have a career in art history and I applied to Sheffield Polytechnic for a course in the History of Art, Film and Theatre.  I wasn't very excited by it, I just felt that I was pleasing a whole heap of people by doing this.  Needless to say, when my grades weren't high enough to be accepted for the course, I wasn't too disappointed.  

It seemed the next stage was to find some form of employment, and so continuing to ignore my deepest desires, I pretended I wanted to be a receptionist and I went out and got a job being a receptionist.  It didn't fulfill me - and I hated wearing a suit (I'm absolutely not a suit person).  The people who I worked with were great, but the job itself was dull and I turned into one of those people who become an automaton 5 days of the week and only came alive on a friday evening when it was time to go to the pub with my friends.  I would get a tight knot in my belly on Sunday evening too - the party was over for another weekend; it was time to go back to work.
I knew I couldn't go on like that.  I couldn't slumber away week in, week out, counting down the days of this precious life waiting for my retirement where I'd finally have the time to do what I wanted to do.

Following the path of convention and pleasing other people had led me right off track.  I was in my mid thirties before I began to live the life I had always dreamed of living, and it's all happened with a million little baby steps too.  My careers advisor would have had a fit because I had heaps of jobs before I got to this point ~ I was a chambermaid, waitress, shop assistant, tele-sales assistant (that one lasted half a day), payroll officer, sign maker...but they all helped to shape me in some way, and they all helped me identify the things that I didn't want to do in my life.

I wonder how many people in the world gave up on their dreams and desires because they weren't encouraged, they were scared, they didn't know how to begin or they were worried that their folks might not approve?

I wanted to write this post because I sometimes receive emails from people who tell me that they wish they had done with their lives what I am doing with mine; but that they've left it too late, that it's easy for people like me.
I wanted to write that age doesn't have to be an obstruction for following your desires.  Even if you have spent your life doing Something Else, it's not too late and it can be easy for you too, you just have to take the first tiny step and give it a try.

As well as these kind of emails, I've also had some from people who are in their sixties and seventies and have just started taking dancing classes and painting lessons.  I've had one from someone who has been too busy parenting for twenty years to create, and has just done their first drawing again after all that time. 
I absolutely love to hear stories like these, of people taking a chance to rediscover their creative spirit and do what they love.  You can start living the life you've always dreamed of, right now in tiny chunks wherever you are in life.  Just think of one little thing that you could do today that would begin to make this real for you.  I'm not telling you to hand in your notice at work, or turn your life upside down, but I am inviting you infuse a little bit of what you dream of doing into your life now.  What about it?  What are you waiting for?

If you'd like to start, a great place to begin is the Being Creative Project.  It's a group where me and a whole heap of other people share art and support one another during the process.  You can find out more by clicking the link above, and don't forget when you sign up to the mailing list, you receive a free copy of my mini e-book!

I'll be back, hopefully very soon with a bit of a CROCHET REVEAL...not wanting to give the game away too much, I am referring to a BLANKET that looks a bit like this...

Oh the's only needing a couple of rows and it's done!! Oh, and lots of ends to be weaved in, but hey-ho it shall be completely worth it methinks!

I'll see you soon - have a gorgeous, sun~filled weekend!

Much love, and thank you for visiting and reading,

Julia x


  1. What a beautiful post Julia. I always wanted to be a nurse as a little girl and my headmistress at grammer school told me it was a total waste of my education to go into nursing! Needless to say I became a nurse, then a midwife and loved every minute of it. I chose to childmind while my family grew up and cared for 35 little darlings [it could have been said I wasted my nursing career?] and when my family were all grown up and independant I retrained as a tailoress and now run my own sewing business and love every minute of it.
    I guess I'm just one of those lucky people who have always followed my dreams and really love the challenges I get every I def don't think I have wasted any of my life time experiences as I use them all every day :-)
    A x

  2. A fantastic post! I have to agree, it is completely unreasonable to choose a life-long career at such a young age. I also had the whole thing of pleasing people and ended out just going through course catalogues and choosing something that sounded interesting. Luckily for me I love the uni course, walthough I'm not happy with the job I'm in now, so I will definitely have to change what I'm doing - but I have a year to decide what to do!
    I do remember my first idea of a job when I was in primary school - I wanted to run a corner shop so I could et all the 10p mix sweeties!! :) x

  3. Great post Julia. I was in my late forties/early fifties before I changed career to what I really wanted to do and I'm only just realising that dream at 54 so it's never too late. I've done shop work, catering, office work, accounts, teaching and being a full time mum on the way and although I wish I'd followed an art/textiles/fashion path earlier on, I don't regret any of the things I've done. They make me who I am.

  4. Julia,
    This is just so beautifully written. Perhaps you should also consider writing a book. "Discovering Your Creative Self" could be the title!

  5. Great post Julia. I think it ridiculous that youngsters of 16 or younger, are meant to know what they want to do for the WHOLE of their working life. At that age, you've experienced very little when it comes to finding a career path. I fell into secretarial work at 15 because it was either that or working in a Mullards valve factory, the fish processing plant on the docks, or Woolworths, or similar retail outlet. I knew, even then, I wanted to work by myself, not on a production line, not with other women. Even then, I didn't like the company of women en masse, or more than two at a time in my case! But I actually liked secretarial work, so it wasn't too much of a bind... by the time I was 19, having worked my way up from junior clerk to PA in a national company and then my own secretarial business at 20, I'd done what I wanted. Housewifery and mummyness then took over.
    At fifty I gsve up a my private practice in counselling, sold my car and followed the real dream of being a writer. Now I have other dreams I wish I had followed, architect, social historian, but know these will remain pipedreams.
    But the main thing about reaching 60, is that I stopped pretending. I realise that most of my adult life I have behaved as was expected of me, by society, others outside and inside my family (namely my father). I realise now, I should never have followed the life path I have, I wasn't, am not, suited to it really. But we make choices to make life easier and smoother. This isn't to say I am unhappy, I am more than happy being who I am, where I am, and who I am with. But I would tell anyone who has a dream, who is in a position to pursue it... JUST DO IT! Be true to yourself is a very trite saying these days, but it's true nonetheless.

  6. Fear is a powerful... fear of the unknown, fear of change, of guessing it wrong... It's what keeps me going to work at my stable job in an office everyday, when I'd prefer to be drawing pictures and making clay mice at home.... *sigh. I give high praise to all that are brave enough to take the chance and follow your hearts and dreams. I will keep trying to pluck up my courage and follow your lead!

  7. Dear Julia, it was good to read your thoughts again! I was like that at school and then doing works with not much interest. Now it's too late to study new work and also here it's impossible - but I try to make the best as I can by myself - and if nothing else, just for my own pleasure!
    I'm waiting to join this months summer theme!
    xxx Teje

  8. Great post Julia. When I was little, all I wanted to be wsas a nurse. When it came to leaving school, mum made me leave at 16 and get a job. I remember telling my careers teacher that the only thing I didnt want to do was work in an office - and its the only thing ive ever done - always feeling like a square peg in a round hole. One day, when I'm not such a wage slave, i'll find my true vocation. xxxx

  9. Julia, it was great fun to read this post of yours, and to measure my own youthful choices aside yours.

    I also have always considered myself an artist, from childhood, no matter what sorts of practical career and other advice might have been cast before my life path.

    I'm much older than you, and still rely on other income sources, yet cling to my original deeper identification.

    How I do hope that younger folks will find earlier pathways to add strength to their dreams.

    Best wishes...your post are all quite welcome reading.

  10. Absolutely brilliant post! I bet it is so relevant to so many people! I always enjoyed drawing but I always thought I was not good enough.... So I went to the university to become an economist, then an interpreter, then I worked as an office manager, and Interior designer, and only at the age of 30 I came back to drawing... And only now I started to think that may be I am good enough after all!And only now I am starting to follow my heart!

  11. My career advisor at school simply stated, 'nursing or office work' as though they were the only 2 jobs in the world. I knew there was more to it than that but what can a 16 year old living in a poor area with no experience of life know how to find out? We all have to follow whatever options are open to us at particular times in our lives but I'm very lucky now to be in a postion where I've began to follow my dreams. Thankyou Julia! :)xx

  12. Lovely post. I wish I knew what I wanted to be but I never did and I always kept changing my mind. Now, I'm being a mum and that suits me fine for now. But I don't know what after this.. Lovely looking blanket. x

  13. What a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I spent years (from about the age of 9) dreaming of being a school teacher. Then because I was a high achiever my teachers persuaded me to go to university to get a degree first and then train as a teacher. So, I followed their advice, not knowing any better, and struggled to find a degree I wanted to do and suddenly I found my grades dropped, I became very depressed, and I spent the next 4 years of my education trying to deal with the feelings of not quite fitting in.

    After graduating I went through various jobs and although I enjoyed aspects of them I always felt something was missing. I don't think I am cut out for a "career" as such, as I am too much of a person who likes to do a bit of this and a bit of that.

    I started a small venture last year making and selling jewellery as again this is something someone suggested I should try. I enjoyed it, but again it wasn't quite what I wanted to do.

    I am a writer at heart, but I also love to create all sorts of things and have interests in many differing fields. I still have no idea how to incorporate them all into my life and work, but I guess there is time. I do find myself compromising a lot though, thinking that I cannot make a living from my work and so have to have jobs on the side to help pay the way, which of course cuts back on the time I have for following my passion.

    Learning to follow a dream is hard, which is why it is so great to read posts like this from those who have taken that leap and found their way :)

    P.S. I have been thinking of joining Be Creative as I love the idea, but with a baby due in September and my ability to get my mind focussed on anything right now I am not sure if joining now is the best thing. I will join in at some point though x

  14. To Frances - an artist is someone who makes art. Otherwise we are letting the concept of money define who we are. That leads us to be defined by others - if other people like my art then they buy it and I am an artist. Conversely if no one does then I am not. Considering many 'artists' died penniless as they could not sell their work and had to wait for acclaim until death I think this is silly. So yes Frances you are an artist.

    A lot of time is spent messing about caring about what others think of us. But you know really mostly they couldn't care less - they are too busy wondering how the world sees them to worry about me.

    I don't want to be anything, why should we be defined by the 'work' that we do? I just want to be me. That is all I am. I am not a nurse or teacher or artist or mother to name a few things - I am some or none of the above and I get paid for none of them. Life is what happens while you are busy making plans. (not sure who said that). Defining myself by narrow parameters has never interested me. I am multi faceted and multi talented as is every one. Why should I want to label myself or define myself in such limiting ways as to only want one thing in life? I prefer to meet it head on, to make friends with serendipity and enjoy the ride. That is how I express myself fully.

    To have a 'dream' many are narrow focused and set on only one pathway. That is relatively easy despite the knocks as you just doggedly follow a blinkered path, trying not to be sidetracked. Some of us like to be side tracked though and being pinned down to one thing is my idea of hell! We are all different and I think we should recognise this.

  15. Hi Julia, I didn't know what I wanted to be either. Went to art college but dropped out before finishing and never got back into it. At the age of 52 I have just completed a 2 year A level in Textiles and am eagerly awaiting my results. I am taking part in your Being Creative Project and hope to post my creation soon. Donna

  16. Thanks for your positive words, I have forgotten what I wanted to do when I was young. I thought I wanted to be a vet (teenage years, I think), but I am allergic to animals. I would like to make things, but cannot make a living playing with wool, fabric etc.


  17. Thanks for sharing. I've never known what I wanted to do career wise and still struggle with it to this day. I have also had so many different jobs along different career paths. And currently I'm in a job I like more than others I've ever had, so I feel comfortable staying for the moment. I wish I could work out what would be fulfilling for me but I am open to changing paths whenever the time feels right. xx

  18. Hello,
    Thank you for this post.
    So clear and, it's a real pleasure to see who you are now.
    You have "gold in your fingers and in your mind".
    I wish I will escape from my job. So I have much to do.
    Best regards and thank you again, your blog is fabulous.
    Julie (from France)


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