May 14, 2011
Here is a question one of my friends posted on Facebook:
Why, when you are in your 20s and earlier, do you just breeze through life unpeturbed by events in the world but as you get older you take them on board more - what is it that changes?
My FB reply was as follows:
I think you grow out being self-absorbed. When I was young I was more interested in boyfriends and parties than tax. Having children made me less selfish I think.
But having given it further thought, I think it's more complicated than that. It's true that when I was a teenager, the world revolved around me. Everything that didn't directly affect me right now was of little interest. I used to watch the news at home with my parents and think, "This is so boring. Why do you watch this shit?" because I couldn't see how any of it had any bearing on ME and MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.
As I get older, I suppose I learned that my decisions have consequences.
When I was 22 I didn't have contents insurance, because I owned nothing of any value. Even if my flat had been burned to the ground, I would've just borrowed from the Bank of Mum & Dad and spent it on new clothes and CDs. It didn't matter if I was overdrawn, I had forever to pay it off. It didn't matter that I didn't have a pension, retirement was forever away. It didn't matter that I'd never really thought about a career, because I'd got a job, and that's all I needed to fund my lifestyle.
When I got pregnant everything changed. Over the next nine months, I paid off that overdraft. I stopped going out getting pissed. I learned how to cook. I started to care about what was going on in the world - notably 9/11, which happened when I was 7 months pregnant, but other things too. I had to be sensible, because I was going to have to care for a baby.
It's ten years later and I now know that you don't have to be sensible to care for a baby. Amazingly, they don't die if they get a bit cold, or if you feed them an hour late, or if they scream their heads off for ten minutes. I did not know this, and was the most anxious and stressy mother because of it. Although I am unlikely to ever have another child, I do think I would be a better parent second time around, and in a way I'm slightly sad that I won't have the opportunity to prove it.
I think there is some truth to the idea that you have more to lose. Mattgreen and I have jobs, we have a mortgage, we have a child and a dog, we have expectations and plans, if anything goes wrong then we could lose some/all of that. And I think people live in fear of that, and that's dangerous.
People don't want to move because they're 'settled'. They don't want to change jobs because 'the benefits are too good where I am'. They don't want to risk upheaval and change. They don't want to take a chance, because it could all go wrong and they might end up with nothing. I don't want to be like that. But equally I don't want to live in a bubble where nothing in the outside world penetrates my little existence.
I read yesterday that the last time the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1997. I was 22 years old. I have zero recollection of this. I obviously wasn't interested so it didn't even register on my radar. There's no way that something like that would pass me by now - even though I remain totally uninterested in Eurovision. I would see it on the front of papers, read it online, read it on Facebook, see it on TV at the gym, people might mention it in passing. How I missed it in 1997, I have no idea. I remember Labour's victory and Princess Diana's death so I obviously did see some news.
It's interesting. I think it's good to be aware of what goes on in the world, but not to the point where it cripples you. How do you even know if you've got the balance right?