I’ve technically graduated my MA programme. I always wanted to go to graduate school. I (wisely for my young age) chose to go in-state for college. I planned my track, my future. My eventual career. In part thanks to the trying circumstances of my time at UCL and in part due to the wider collapse of higher education (Google search: Adjunct Professor, Living Wage, Student Debt Crisis)…that’s not my path anymore. I will never be a professor. I will never have a phd. I will have to work hard in a job with manual labour, and find ways to get by on far far less than anyone ever promised me when I was growing up.
It’s been an incredibly painful year while I’ve struggled to come to terms with all that first paragraph encapsulates. I’m still struggling with the fact that much of my job at the moment can be reduced to food running and toilet-cleaning, with a side of craft beer expertise. I have grown to hate the goddamn N26 bus in the early mornings. I’m covered in bruises from kegs and strangely proud of them. I can lift a full 50L keg unaided, without a back brace. I love my coworkers.
It’s a very different life from the one I pictured myself having at 27. I feel like an overgrown adolescent, especially since so many people assume that bar work is only for those in university or people who never went. The vast majority of my coworkers are college-educated.
The most painful thing this year has been scaling down expectations. I used to wish for a big house with a big yard, like the one I grew up in. I pictured being able to repaint it however I wanted, and living near a cultural centre or a place with lots of green areas. I pictured living in a house with a kitchen like this one, in Point Reyes, People’s Republic of California.
I have my elusive MA now, but none of the trappings I thought might come with it. I still drink wine regularly, and I have the pleasures of a life that my ancestors could never have dreamed of (like cocktails at the Night Jar in London!). But I still have only a tiny room in what is most likely a slightly illegal houseshare. I look at beautiful houses, or even apartments, with envy. I have to wake up early after the night shift and getting to sleep at about 4AM to let the plumber in because our shower was broken for two days. I have to budget for a fire alarm and a bath plug, which I will then promptly forget at Sainsbury’s in my dazed four-hours-of-sleep phase.
I work 9-5. In Boulder, Colorado. Whilst living in London. My shift starts at 17:00 GMT today, and I’ll be done around 1 AM. Then the two hour commute.
My expectations are lowered for my life, however painfully. I don’t see that big house anymore. I see a tiny one. I don’t see a car. Certainly not a new one. I don’t see fancy clothes and a prestigious job.
I hope for my yellow teapot. I have one now. My expectations are lowered sufficiently to make me happy and content with this. I feel more adult for having bought it at John Lewis.
Oh, and I’m getting married in 19 days. I’m going be a big adult. With a yellow teapot. Expectation accomplished.
One thought on “My Yellow Teapot (Or: New Expectations)”
Well written and truthful, and not to be a parental contrarian, but let’s look at some additional things.
You ARE still young, less than half my age, which (more and more) leaves a LOT of years to do many things differently. When I was 27, I didn’t dream beyond my engineering career, being technical all my life, happy and carefree without the encumbrance of children. I did not know how fulfilling having a family was going to be, how wonderful it would be to chase my daughter all over the world, and I would not trade that path (that I could not see at 27) for anything.
Second, you have a penchant for excelling in things you do, whether you want to or not. You weren’t just a participant in the school paper, you were the editor-in-chief. You are not just a bar tender, but an aspiring cicerone. You are not just a bruised bar servant, but one of the strongest people in your establishment, male or female. Lifting 50L kegs is an accomplishment worthy of your cousin, The Judge, or your brother, Freight Train, yet it is you who does it day in and day out without fail. Your natural talents will shine in any situation.
And then, your vision of the future. Have I told you that I’ve dreamed of managing a sailboat rental place in the Caribbean since I was in my 20s? Not there yet, and not sure how it may materialize, but I haven’t given up. Vision is what drives us to achieve, and gives us motivation to excel. I cannot think of a time when I pictured my life as it is now. But I cannot think of a time when I have been more proud, more satisfied, more enthusiastic about the possibilities for my children than now.
You will find what you love to do, and your dreams will come true. If you do what you love, others will see your passion, recognize how good you are at it, and reward you in accordance with your dream. My goal has always been to say, “I can’t believe they PAY me to do this!,” and you will find you dream if you follow that road. Look at the owners of your workplace: who thought they could accomplish as much as they have? They did what they loved, they excelled, and they have realized some of their dreams.
The other thing about dreams is the uncertainty of time within them. The vision of the beautiful California kitchen can stay a lovely dream for a long time, and you CAN develop strategies to make it come true, wherever you are. Suppose it ends up being in Tuscany, not California? You have built the international experience to realize that possibility, something no one else in the Kane-Monroe-Knight family might ever have achieved. The world will continue to get smaller and smaller, and we will be just as proud and happy if the dream kitchen is in California, or Tuscany, or Kathmandu. Because it will be your dream, realized, in a particular way that makes it your own.
Think of the photo of GG with the cinnamon-bun braids, a farm girl in Michigan whose parents were from “the old country.” She dreamed of seeing the world, though there were plenty of voices that shouted, “You cannot do that!”. She explored the U.S. as a young woman, and Europe and Africa as a retiree. She could not see the exact path of her life, but she held the dream, and realized it in many ways. You will too.
I know it’s hard now. I remember the uncertainty of my 20s. And I had it easy: I was going to be an engineer! (Engineers are so black-and-white…) But that’s not what I became, and I’m still passionate about my life. Work is only one facet, look hard to see the whole jewel.
You’re a wonderful, beautiful, talented, loving person. You’re the smartest person I know, and that’s saying a lot. If people with much less talent and intelligence and sensitivity have figured life out, it’s only a matter of time before you do. I pray you find the patience to persist, that you don’t give up the dream that drives you forward, and that you try to not judge yourself by other people’s standards.
Follow your heart, my darling, it will not lead you astray.