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Wasted Time ?

I’m supposed to be writing an assignment about cultural encounters in Africa, doing some reading and writing about prefaces, getting the kids’ school uniforms washed and dried, making lunch, paying someone’s wages that works for my husband, finding safe activities for a five-year-old, nagging two adolescents about their bedrooms because it’s the end of the month and therefore monthly allowance day. On top of that the clear-up after what can only be described as a mini-tornado needs attending to and the whole house could do with a vacuum (but then, couldn’t it always?).

So… with all that to do, I have plonked myself in front of the computer instead while the mini-tornado thumps around destroying goodness knows what…

I’m wondering about my life and where I am and if I did all this in the right order; if starting to write at forty is too late or if my whole life was heading toward this and I’m right on track. Do you believe in fate, providence, what-will-be-will-be? I don’t. I believe I’m where I am now because of a serious of choices, experiences, hormones, lucky breaks, unlucky breaks, apathy at times, being in the right or the wrong place at the right or wrong time. But most of all I think I’m where I am now because of my soul, my instincts and my needs.
As a young child I read a lot, more than a lot. The only other children I knew that read as much as I did were my sisters. Above all else I loved fairy tales. Not just the happy ever after ones. I enjoyed all of them and the experience of getting lost in a totally other world. I was a quiet, shy, dreamer.
At fourteen I didn’t know what I would do with my life. I loved writing and inventing situations in my head. But it never occurred to me that being A Writer would be something that I could actually do.

Now here’s the bit that will have you shouting ‘Why, Rachel? Why?!?’
At sixteen my English teacher said I was one of two pupils that she had chosen from the school to go on a creative writing course. I said ‘Er, no…. It’s okay thanks. I don’t think I’ll go’ (or words to that effect)

Lack of self-belief? Nerves? Shyness? Fear of failure? Fear of the unknown? An overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t possibly go to a strange place on my own and mix with a bunch of strangers and stay away from home? Yeah probably. I had also retreated a little further into my shell from a nasty dose of teenage girl style bullying (you know the kind) and therefore was finding that my lack of enthusiasm for anything school-related was giving some adults the wrong impression of me.

I wish I could have overcome all those mini-hurdles. Oh – I could slap me!

So three years later I was working in a pub. Genius.

But I did meet the man who would become my husband while working there. We did have three beautiful children together and climb up the property ladder enough to become financially safe together and we did start a business together. Lovely. Settled. Complete. Happily ever after?
Well, no. Not entirely.
Have you ever felt like you were in the wrong place? I was being the best housewife I could be. The best mother I could be. I took over all the bookwork for our shop and was busy all the time. I started doing all the things I thought I should do – toddler groups, mixing with other people with children, one-heck-of-a-lot of really dull domestic stuff – and being a perfectionist I was very tough on myself about doing it all well. I started to notice I wasn’t having many conversations with people and when I did, they weren’t very interesting. I also noticed, that despite my best efforts I wasn’t really satisfied that I was doing everything well enough. And I began to see myself as dull. On the few occasions we went out as a couple people would ask me to define myself: ‘So, Rachel, what do you do?’ Do I give a list of all the little things I do? Or do I just say ‘Oh you know – housewife, mum, the most demanding, unpaid job in the country’
I became even more shy and self-conscious. And I realised that people who had successful businesses or academic qualifications weren’t interested in me. I was just someone’s wife and mother. And when you don’t even believe you’re doing that well it’s depressing.
A series of things have happened that have brought me back to writing. I haven’t dug out the old ‘Rachel who might have been a writer if she’d made more effort’. This is the new Rachel who has suffered and been influenced by loss, disappointment, misunderstanding, grief and who has observed life. I have watched how families work – and don’t work. I have longed for an outlet when my father recently died after suffering terribly with leukaemia, I have listened to the sound of my mother’s heart breaking when she talks. I have felt the most enormous frustration and real tangible pain of being misunderstood again and again and again … And I NEED to write it all down.

So here I am. Maybe I was just a little longer in the brewing than some. After all ‘real’ and ‘ale’ are words you can make from the letters of my name.
Forty, fragile, frustrated and fuming, but still fizzing and frothing!

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a wonderful post. Congratulations on going back to something you love. Good luck!
    PS. It’s never too late to do something for yourself x


  2. Amanda O'Dell #

    Doing something that you find fulfilling is never a waste of time, and the time it’s taken to get to this point is what makes you who you are – and that’s what gives you the experiences that are making you want to write so badly. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow – so make the most of today.


  3. Go for it, Rachel… you have more passion, knowledge and life than you realise… let it out!


  4. nice post – I reckon everything’s just as it should be.

    “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” – Jean de La Fontaine


  5. oh rachel, what a great and very honest post. I could identify with almost every word of what you wrote! I am older than you at 48 and have only started taking my writing seriously in the last year! So I am hoping that it is never too late! I am the mother, housewife and supporter of husbands business too… but you know I firmly believe (and I know its a cliche) that life is a journey. Nothing stays the same for too long. You are where you are with all your experiences and baggage and it will be all that that will make you a great writer. That and being to capture the essence of the human condition as you did in this post! Wonderful…


  6. Gilly Nkeiruka a215 #

    Rachel I really loved reading this, once again you touched my heart. I hope we can meet in real life one day, Gx


    • Rachel #

      Thanks all of you for such fab comments. I really appreciate it.


  7. I can definitely relate (not so much about the writing talent from a younger age), but about finding your true self.

    I think that all the things and hurt you went to have probably now prepared you to be a great writer. Most of the best authors, songwriters and artists are great because of the pain they have gone through not in spite of it. Remeber that!


  8. I can relate to some of this. Bullied at school, letting any opportunities pass me by in order to fly under the radar? Check. Mum? Check – though a single parent and disabled, a whole world of otherness there! Loved writing when younger? Check.

    Thing is, a lot of writers come to writing when they are older and have ‘lived life.’ I came across some of my schoolday writings, and oh my! The stories were awful, full of telling rather than showing. Thin plots. Even thinner characters. I would not wish to unleash these stories on anyone, but I did. *Embarrassed* So coming to writing later in life, when you’ve read widely and lived happy, sad, devastating, even dull, should prepare you for interesting prose. Or that’s how I see it, anyway.

    Go for it! Claim some of you back from the gaping jaws of domesticity! After all, the mini-tornado is happy destroying, you be happy writing 😀


  9. Tam #

    I think you come to writing when you’re ready – I dabbled for years but when I sat down to give it a proper go in 2008, it was exactly the right time and all those experiences, good and bad, made it easier.

    So get writing 🙂


  10. I started seriously writing later than you, at 45. I’ve taken just about every writing course the OU had to offer. I’ve had a few small things published and at 50, I’m just revising my first novel, which has many semi-autobiographical elements from an up and down life.

    It’s never too late, after all wasn’t Mary Wesley first published at 70?



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