Friday, 4 June 2010

Arrested development

A recent post on TK's blog set me off on one of my thought adventures.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
It's a good question.

Had you asked me that when I was a kid, the answer was simple. I wanted to be Gerald Durrell! No, not like him. I wanted to be him. Not sure exactly how that was going to be arranged, but I was working on it. As evinced by the constant stream of sticklebacks, lizards, injured birds, mice, butterflies, caterpillars, both smooth and hairy, stick insects, frogspawn and hedgehogs that I brought home to the delight of my long-suffering mother.

Somewhere along the line, though, reality kicked in. I met Sartre, de Beauvoir, Brecht and Böll and discovered that I loved language as much as furry creatures. And then I found I could make a living out of it, and the animals were put on hold for a while.

I guess that is all part of the process of growing up.

A few months ago, I had a lovely email from someone who had read my blog. The words that really hit home in it were, "You were just kids when you met".
She was right; I was only 18 when R and I got together, although the first few years were somewhat tempestuous. I always say that we did the 7-year itch thing in reverse - it was touch and go for several years as to whether we would stick it out. But once we both admitted to ourselves - and each other - that we weren't going anywhere it was as though someone had thrown a switch and the rest, as they say, is history.

But when you become yoked to another at an early age, do you ever grow up fully as an individual? You certainly grow as part of a whole. But is the person you grow into as one of a couple, the person you could have become if you had remained single for longer? Did I miss out on my own development when I morphed into the R&J persona?

There are so many things that I used to rely on R to do. Not because I wasn't capable of doing them, but because it was easier to let him do them. I don't just mean getting things down from the top shelf or opening jam jars, but sorting out mortgages and insurance, inviting people to parties, keeping in touch with acquaintances. To a large extent I stopped doing painting and decorating, basic woodworking, looking after the cars - despite the fact that I probably had a better grounding in those jobs from my Dad than R did from his (who I suspect has never picked up a paintbrush in his life!).

Now he isn't here any more, it is almost as if I am having to grow up again. There are long-forgotten skills that have to be resurrected. I am forced, kicking and screaming, to do many of the things that I happily left to R. Necessity has made me look outwards again, rather than just concentrating on the little cocoon of our relationship.

I am becoming a whole person in my own right.
Even though I really don't want to be doing this, it is still happening.
Perhaps I am finally growing up.


  1. Interesting idea. You've got me thinking....

  2. Like your commenter above, I am thinking too.