60s: I’m a work in progress

60s: I’m a work in progress

Work:

What kind of career’s advice did you get as a young woman?

I didn’t. I hadn’t a clue what to do when I left school. I was a bit of an impractical dreamer and really didn’t think about anything realistic at all. I lived in a world of idealized childish dreams of being a ballet dancer (for which I wasn’t trained) or writing a novel (which never got beyond page one). I was quite good at music but not to a professional standard. I used to read stories of famous women who had achieved something and knew I wanted to make a contribution to the good of the world, but what this could be in practice, I hadn’t a clue. In the end my brother made a suggestion which didn’t sound too crazy and unachievable and so I went with it (a career in science). For most girls where I grew up, a career was something you did between school and having children, though most moved with the times and went back to something after a career break.

What did you want to be when you left education?

I really didn’t know except that my thirst for knowledge was insatiable. I could have been a student forever, until my early thirties when my focus shifted

Did your mother work?

She had a career before marrying my father and during the war continued to work. She was a chiropodist and in the war also worked in plotting with the RAF. When I was at school she helped my father run his business and she had other jobs subsequently, usually in the business world.

Love & Relationships:

Do you think getting married is important?

I do now although I never really thought about it when I was younger. I think it gives a stability and context to life, and is both rewarding and challenging. My parents valued it highly and so I guess my views were very much shaped by them. I think companionship is important and there is much satisfaction in shared experiences and working together towards common goals.

What did you dream your future partner would be like when you were a little girl?

I didn’t have any such dreams. It always seemed a little odd that so many other girls I knew were so preoccupied with romance and marriage. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I didn’t think about it until I was in my twenties.

Is your relationship with your partner the same as your parents’ relationship?

Probably not as good because we are both rather prickly people, but we’ve stuck together through thick and thin and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Family:

How like your mother are you?

I probably grow more like her with age, but I have a much more fiery temperament. I have a daughter who is much more like her though.

What are your hopes for any daughters or young women you know?

That they will achieve their potential and hopefully find happiness and contentment in their lives.

Do you bring your son up the same way as your daughter? Do you think boys and girls should be brought up differently?

I don’t have sons. I think there would inevitably be some differences in practice but I would be led by their interests and aspirations, not any preconceived ideas about what is or is not suitable for them.

If you don’t have children, what have you been able to do that having children would have prevented you doing? What has your focus been?

I have children so this doesn’t count. I’m sure I would have gone all out for my career if I hadn’t had them, but I felt that with children, it was not really on for them to have both parents preoccupied by their careers, so I tailored mine to have time with them. It also gave me an excuse to spend time on non-career things.

Expectations and Dreams:

Who are your heroines and why?

I always had strong women role models. When I was at school, I loved reading about strong women who had achieved things – Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Gladys Alyward for example. I’ve continued to be inspired by strong women throughout my life, particularly those who have had to overcome huge obstacles to achieve what they have. I also had good role models within the family – my grandmother was in one of the earliest cohorts of Scottish female medical graduates, I had one great aunt who helped run the FANYs in WW1, another who was a nurse in Iraq in WW1 and beside this there were numerous other female relatives from Victorian times on who had been teachers and nurses  etc, both at home and abroad.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything particularly brave, although I am the primary carer for a family member with mental health issues and that sometimes seems to require a degree of courage that I never expected to have to exercise.

What drives you?

Intellectual curiosity, Christian faith, care for my family. I still wish I could do something amazing to change the world but I’m more likely to support others who are more suited to it than me.

What are your values?

Hmm, I never know what’s meant to be the answer to that question. My values are shaped both by my Christian faith and what I learned through my family. From my father I learnt about being upright, honest, transparent and hardworking. He never spoke in terms of rights but of privileges so we never took anything for granted. He also taught us to be independent and self-sufficient, but always to look out for others. From my mother I learned about loyalty and being loving and dependable. I guess all those things are important plus a lot more. I think with age I’ve also realized the importance of kindness and compassion. But I’m a work in progress and certainly don’t live up to all this to the degree I would like to. From my faith I’ve added things like trust, faith, courage, perseverance and care for others.

Age:

How old are you? 

68

What has been your favourite age to be and why?

Another hard question – every age has had its good and bad times. I’ve loved them all in retrospect for different reasons and torn my hair out in exasperation in the midst of it. I suppose one of the most exciting times of my life was in my late twenties when I discovered the world, travelling a lot and working in a developing country

Do you think it’s better to be young now than when you were young? (Or better now than when your parents were young?)

I think every generation has its good and bad times. I’m glad I grew up when I did. I think my children’s generation have enormous pressures on them in terms of expectations and stress that I didn’t have, not to mention things like cyber bullying etc, but they are also very savvy, competent and confident. I’m also delighted to have grown up in the age of antibiotics as I’m sure that otherwise I wouldn’t now be around to tell my story.

Obstacles:

What are the pros and cons of being a woman?

I’ve never thought about it much, except I suspect I’ve not always being taken as seriously as I should. But that’s probably as much personality as anything else.  I tend just to take life as it comes and deal with whatever needs dealing with as best I can. The only time I have experienced discrimination was when I had children and I was appalled by the way certain eg employers who had previously thought I was the most dependable and reliable highflyer changed their attitude and saw me as a liability.

What have been the biggest challenges in your life?

I married into a very eccentric family and I must say I increasingly find eccentricity quite a challenge. I also care for someone in the family with mental health issues.

Self-image – Body or Looks:

Why do you dress the way that you do?

It suits my lifestyle.

What would be your musical soundtrack?

I don’t go in for soundtracks but I love classical music as well as music from the thirties and forties (the time my parents were young). I grew up in the Pacific and I still love the old traditional westernised island music that was around in the 50s. But I always see music in a context, because it evokes something that is associated with positive feelings.

Do you have a life’s motto?

I probably should. If I chose one it would be something like this (from the OT book of Micah): To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Or my old school motto: By love serve.

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