My father was so relieved when I announced at age 14 that I wanted to be a lawyer. He had grown up in near-poverty, left school at 12 and was a self-made millionaire in later life and had desperately wanted me to get the benefit of a good education and a secure career. Sadly, after attending a law school open day at one of the city’s best universities, my law career was already over. I couldn’t imagine anything more boring.
By the time I finished my senior year of high school I had new options, although I still couldn’t narrow them down to one choice. When I applied for university my first choice was a Bachelor of Business with a Public Relations major, my second choice was the same degree but with a Marketing major (because it would enable me to switch to PR after a year), my third choice was a Photography degree, and my fourth choice was a Bachelor of Social Work. Random, I know, but my best friend’s mum was a psychic and told me I’d become a social worker. That kind of enlightened career guidance is hard to ignore.
A year into my Marketing degree, Warner Bros Movie Studio had opened nearby and with it, a whole new world of film possibilities. I was absolutely going to be a Film Producer. I switched my major to Film and Television Production and greatly enjoyed the next couple of years. Graduating with excellent production management and photography experience, I was ready to tackle the world of film and/or television.
Well, almost. First I wanted to travel to London for a year like so many young Aussies before me, and decided to become a ‘temp’ until I left, doing short and long term assignments as a receptionist, secretary, data entry typist, project assistant. This way, I could save money more quickly than if I’d become a runner on a film set and I also wouldn’t be letting my employer down by leaving after only two years (I know, company loyalty was an entirely different kettle of fish back then). Almost every company I temped with offered me a permanent job but I turned them all down. I didn’t want to settle for some office job when a much more fabulous future awaited me.
Not long after my boyfriend and I arrived in London, I had the opportunity to work on a cruise ship and snapped it up. Five months later I was back in London, temping in offices again. The ship job I’d taken was not what I’d hoped and although I’d been offered several opportunities on my return to London ─ a Cruise Staff position for the same cruise line, a Resident Entertainer position in a UK holiday park, and a Mountbatten Internship in New York City ─ I had to stay in London for six months until a close friend’s wedding, and then I could do whichever one of these I liked. Of course, life had other plans, and I met and married a lovely man and moved back to Australia–forgetting all about my lofty dreams and settling into a marketing and public relations career.
I had a brief fling with a singing career in my spare time, starting a covers band and getting an ensemble part in a fantastic amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I went from being the Marketing and PR Manager for a tourism company to a Senior Account Executive at a growing PR agency. Life was great. Until I realised that although they pretend to be all nice and friendly, the stereotype of women in PR agencies as backstabbing, competitive bitches existed for a reason, and I quit without another job to go to.
In the meantime, my marriage had ended amicably, and I knew I had to do something special with my life. At the age of 31, I decided to pursue all those opportunities I had abandoned years ago, and as an aspiring singer, focused on the ‘performance’-related ones. I worked on a cruise ship again in the Cruise Staff team, I lived in Paris until I realised there were limited opportunities for singing and loads of opportunities for drinking and drugs (which I don’t do)… so I moved back to London and spent a fortune on singing, dancing, acting and accent lessons, with my eyes focused firmly on the West End stage. I even moved to New York and spent a semester at Broadway Dance Center, trying (and failing) not to embarrass myself in front of a slew of talented young dancers from around the world.
My musical career was not to be however. I had clearly left it way too late, and at the auditions I attended, I was competing against women who’d been training as ‘triple threats’ their whole life. I did end up getting a job as a Resident Entertainer at a UK holiday park though, and I spent my time learning the piano and planning my one-woman cabaret show. Once again life had other ideas. I met my husband Andres (you can read about that here). We fell in love and got engaged within six weeks, ran away in the middle of the night, moved to Ecuador and got married, and ended up back in Australia again after nearly five years away.
Days after doing a radio announcer course with a new vision of becoming a radio DJ, I found out I was pregnant. We were going to have a family and I needed to work again. I found myself back in marketing… years after declaring “I’ll never work in an office again!” But when you have a family and commitments you do what you have to, and I was grateful to have steady income and an opportunity to buy our family home.
Nearly four years later, I’m at another crossroads. While working at my day job, I spent my nights writing my novel, Sex, Lies, and Cruising, which I self-published last year with the dream of eventually becoming a full-time author. This was Hard. Work. Despite getting it distributed into major chains and bookstores across the country (which is near impossible when you’re self-published, so I am proud of that) and getting an experienced literary agent, the traditional publishing industry is changing and a publishing deal hasn’t materialised. I’ve spent four years on that book, writing, editing, promoting, and the idea that it isn’t commercially successful kills me. I want to finish the sequel and then write the next one, but I simply can’t imagine writing them on top of my day job, when I come home so devoid of energy and creativity. I enjoy marketing and have even started my own freelance marketing consultancy and copywriting service… but quite honestly, I’m not sure it’s what I want to do forever.
So here I am, wondering “What do I want to be when I grow up?” There are so many things I’d like to be ─ a movie scriptwriter, a film set designer, a relationship coach, an online entrepreneur with a 4-hour workweek, a one-legged trapeze artist (okay, that last one was a joke) ─ and I’ve asked God/the universe to tell me what exactly I am actually meant to do with my life. What is my purpose? After all, I’m 41 now and sadly, not getting any younger. At least that’s what my sun spots are telling me.
Last Thursday I even provided God/the universe with a list of signs he could produce to indicate that my next planned venture is the right one. So far I’ve had no response.
So what am I going to be when I grow up? I still have no idea. Do you?