Monday, 31 January 2011

Thought on the Almost Forgotten Roots of Plan C

I realised something the other day as I headed to London; Plan C is actually ‘The Great Escape Plan’ of my youth revisited. I never got further than ‘go to university somewhere else and never return’ so I’m not sure it was really a proper Plan more of a determined intention. When I was younger I fell in love with a great boy who grew to be an amazing man. We were only seventeen when we met but for both of us that was it. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes it was downright difficult but we worked through our problems and became a stronger couple and I’d like to think better people for it. This meant that whilst my friends were off ‘finding’ themselves moaning about boys and later men and wondering what to do with their lives mine was pretty much sussed. It sounds good now but it wasn’t what I had planned. Pre-Josh was a loner, happier reading my books than attempting to socialize (until I found alcohol but that’s a different story!) and felt trapped in the town I grew up in and when I was sixteen I was accepted by a university a hundred miles away and I planned to never live there again, only returning to visit my family. I didn’t know where I would go New Zealand has always held some fascination for me so I vaguely thought about going there but the where wasn’t important as I had four years of university to work that one out: it was the going from that mattered. Then three months before my grand escape I met Josh and everything changed. Five years later and we were living in a flat close to my old high school and I was doing a PhD in Glasgow. It wasn’t what I had planned and it was much better than I could have imagined pre-Josh but like most people I had my moments of 'what if' and 'the grass is always greener' thinking.

I’m fortunate I was in my mid twenties when I finally had the discussion with myself about what I had missed out on with no idea that what I had could be taken away from me never mind that it would be. I was offered a phone interview for a company in Zurich. To this day I have no idea what my chances of getting the job were but it seemed to be exactly the kind of job I thought I wanted and I would get to leave the country, finally I could leave my home town behind except by then I didn’t want to. Originally I had thought the labs were in England which was why I had sent them my CV but on hearing that they only had labs in Zurich I declined the interview. Had I perused that job it would have required a momentous move and I wasn’t sure if Josh would be able to get work out there. If he couldn’t he would be unemployed in a strange place and I would be working a demanding job which would require as much attention as my PhD had if not more and it didn’t seem like a good move for us. What I realised on that day was that if Josh were not with me then I would have gone for it with all I had but then if Josh had not been with me I would not have been in a position to apply in the first place. It was on this day I finally face what I had lost and in doing so was able to say yes I regret losing those chances but not for anything would I have it any other way as I had gained so much more. Part of would have liked to have met Josh later in life but if it came down to getting him at seventeen or not at all I seventeen won hands down. I might have done well at university without Josh I might not have, if I had then the career might have been more mentally demanding but I don’t think I would have been as happy. It was on this day I realised that what really I wanted was a less demanding job. I spent my whole life studying hard trying to keep up with people more intelligent and driven than I was and I wanted out. I wanted to have a normal life with my partner where we could have holidays and visit interesting places, buy a house and enjoy it and eventually have kids. I didn’t want to be a harassed and often absent parent so I chose a less demanding career path that wouldn’t split my focus so much but one I hoped would still keep my brain exercised. Well they do say the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

Of course the irony of that is now as I head toward thirty (I'll be twenty-nine next month) my friends have long ago found themselves and many of them their 'other halves' as well. They are settling down, making homes, travelling that same-but-different difficult continuous path of making it work because you know it’s worth the hassle and the arguments and they know the good times make up for all the bad. And me? Well I’m looking, not for anything in particular, I’m just looking. I’m seeing what the world has to offer and what’s out there. I know who I am and I know where I belong but it’ll be a long time before I’m there again so in the mean time I’m living something much closer to those other intentions I’d gladly let go of. I was right it’s not as good but it’s not so bad and it’ll give me something to tell him when we meet again. After all I can just imagine his response if all I had to say was "Well I got a dog."

The point is that I can only do this because before I knew that this ‘other’ life existed I had gladly put my youthful dreams away. It still hurts, I guess it always will. I so wanted to travel with him and see the world through his eyes as well as mine. I’ll never say as I did back then that this life is better than the one I wanted before but I can say it’s not so bad. I can say now that I am fortunate and not grimace, well not too much, and this time I’m not escaping or running away. I’m meandering along and seeing what’s there as I go because life’s too short to hurry. And because this time I’m not just going for myself I can say “Yes dear, we will go to Australia first because you always wanted to but after that we’re damn well going to New Zealand.” and know wherever I am I will never be there alone.