Band-Aid for a Broken Leg
A couple months ago, my friend gave me this book as a gift for chauffeuring her around Johannesburg:
“Thank you! This looks really interesting,” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, I saw the part about being single and it immediately reminded me of you,” she answered.
A short pause.
“I’m single by choice.”
“Sure, sure,” she sniggered.
Regardless of her reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I could definitely relate to many of Damien Brown’s experiences in Africa. As a doctor, however, his job is much more exciting than mine and actually interesting to read about.
Maybe this is cruel, but I’m going to give away the ending.
The last page says something like,
“(Oh… and other ways to stay single? Move back in with your parents. Then write a book.)”
“Great,” I thought. I’m moving back in with my parents when I return to Canada (hopefully only for 3 weeks, but still) and lots of people (no publishers, mostly family) have told me I should consider writing a book. Staying single, however, is not on my agenda.
If you’ve never worked overseas – or maybe even if you have – you might find Brown’s emphasis on being single at odds with the rest of his book. He jokes about it a few times, but does it really deserve a shout out on the cover?
I think it’s common, though, for development workers to worry slightly about their future. I turned 25 a month ago and entering my mid-20’s has been more sobering that I thought it would be. I look at many of my friends and I see successful young adults with high paying jobs and long term relationships. They’re buying apartments while I’m trying to figure out how to budget for another 2 years of school.
It’s easy for that worry to get slightly out of control. Occasionally I freak out along the lines of “Oh god, I’m 25 now! I need to get my act together! I want to get married! I want to have kids! What am I doing going back to school? Isn’t it healthier to pop out your babies before you’re 30? I ONLY HAVE 5 MORE YEARS TO FALL IN LOVE, GET A DECENT JOB, AND BEAR 3 CHILDREN!!!!! If I get a Master’s that’s another 2 years. And volunteering with EWB would be another year. And I want to date for at least a year before I get engaged, then it’ll probably take a year to plan the wedding but ugh I hate planning and even if I to schedule my time I’ll probably do it all in the last month anyways and become a total bridezilla. Then he’ll probably cancel the whole thing and I’ll have to start the whole dating thing from scratch. And I want to have a good job before I get preggers so that I get decent maternity benefits. Plus I want a workplace baby shower – they usually give awesome gifts….”
You see? Absolutely crazy. Before I even realize that my brain is freaking out, in my head I’m already 52-years-old with a 2ft long beard and living in a mud hut with 80 cats. It’s not a good image, to say the least.
It can be difficult to go off the beaten path and redefine your own version of “success” and “fulfillment.” For me, it’s tough not to compare my life to my friends’: it feels like they’re growing into responsible adults while I’m still adventuring and avoiding commitments.
At the same time, however, I recognize that I’m much happier with my current lifestyle than I ever would have been in a “real” job and climbing the corporate ladder.
Also much more broke.
But that’s cool. It means I can’t afford cats.