Regrets, I’ve had a few…

No vegetables here!

A view across Bedfordshire earlier this month - (my Smallest Smallholding can't be seen)

A few weeks on since I found out that my regular work would be coming to an end, and here I am, out on my own in the “wilderness” of full time freelance work. It’s been really tough. Especially since we found out that our RSPCA rescue bunny Ozzy needs some major dental work. Which will cost hundreds. But what are you going to do? He’s worth it.

I’ve been hibernating away in the house, completely and utterly ignoring my Smallest Smallholding and only venturing out when the birds need feeding. And they’ve been getting through a LOT of food. The bitter cold and snow must have been tough and I cannot fathom where they would have found adequate food when other people’s gardens are so barren. Sometimes I wish more people took an interest and would try to feed the birds more often, and take the onus away from me. Not that I don’t enjoy seeing such a huge variety of birds on a daily basis – it makes it so much more *alive* out there.

But since my work and impending vet trips and finances have been greedily occupying so much of my time and my thoughts, little else has managed to penetrate my crowded brain. So it’s no surprise to learn that I’ve not got the potatoes chitting, not got the garlic on the go, and the vegetable beds remain empty and unfertilised. There is so much to do, and my determination is wavering at best, but I’m getting there. I’m trying to establish a routine whereby I get up, work intensely and then get a few other jobs done. And I include going out for a piece of cake as a “job”, thanks very much. The problem is, if you’ve never done it before, let me tell you that working from home (and for yourself) is really hard. There are so many temptations and distractions, especially when you need to be online. Technically, I should be working right now but I thought it was about time that I drummed out a blog post, updating you all on the “nothing interesting” that is my life at the moment. I also need to take a lot of breaks, because my back, ribs, shoulder and neck are being stubborn and fighting me all the time.

I haven’t forgotten about my last post and my ‘pipe dream’. I’m still mulling it over but I have to be a realist because finances are and will always be a huge issue. I’m not saying it’s an impossible venture but I’m also very aware of the obstacles facing me, and I do not stake all my life’s ambitions on something that may never happen. I would very much like it to happen but I have to have several contingency plans, where I can be content and not full of “what ifs” and regrets. Because I already have those. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

When I was 17, I went for an interview at Brasenose College at Oxford University to read English. I was up against independent and public-school types, pretty much all of which had studied Chaucer at length, whilst I had studied one stanza of Chaucer when I was 13. And yes, the interview covered a great deal of Chaucer. I did not impress. But they must have seem some merit because I was presented with the opportunity to re-interview at Lincoln College, Oxford. I declined. Why? Because I had Art A-Level (what a mistake and waste of time that was) coursework to finish and hand in the following week, because my teachers were pressuring me and would not “share” my time (“Your Theatre Studies rehearsals are important!” “Your Theatre Studies rehearsals are interfering with your English Literature studies!” “Your other subjects have to take a back seat, Art requires a lot of dedication!” yada yada yada), because I didn’t like a lot of the people I met at the interview (although some were lovely), because I was told that “this is what you’re studying for” (erm, no? I was studying to get my qualifications, not for Oxford), and because I hated the food in the dining hall. I was dog-tired of education, I was bitter and I wasn’t sure I’d fit in.

Looking back, I think I made a huge mistake, because now I will never know if Lincoln would have offered me something more and whether I would have made it. I might have felt more at home, I might have studied some fantastic subjects at a world-class university, and I might have gone into the world as an Oxford graduate. I might not be stuck in the dull, suburban town that I grew up in. I might not be fighting for every penny that I earn. I might not be embarrassed to tell people about my degree from the local university that hasn’t got the best reputation (and rightly so, in my experience).

But the thing is, you make your own bed and you have to lie in it. I was too young, too tired and not in the right place to make that kind of decision back then. I pretty much gave up going to school by the end, as everybody wanted a piece of me and I was “expected” to excel. I did well – three As and a C. BUT – there are people that I know that achieved average grades, and because of their determination, their work ethic and their propensity for networking, and their passion for their job – they’re doing really well.

And so the summary of my rambling is this: you can have all the qualifications and good grades in the world, but you still have to work hard to keep achieving, you still need to be focused and determined, and the chances are you’ll get there. And I stopped doing that when I left school.It was easy – study hard, get good grades. That was my goal. Now? I don’t know. I do know that if you give me a project that I love, and I’ll excel. I’ll work hard. I’ll be determined. I’ll push myself.

And so the problem is working out what I love, and making it into a viable career.

When I was at school, I swore blind that I’d never be a ‘desk jockey’. In my adult life, I tried it out of necessity and it a) crippled me (I’m really not built for desk work, ask my physio and osteopath) and b) sucked out my soul. When I was really young, I was convinced that I was going to change the world – I had dreams of rescuing animals, “saving” the environment, like some Boudicean vegetarian ultra-hip Greenpeace warrior in Stella McCartney (either that, or an author, an actor or singer, or why not all three?). I was either a raving narcissist, a fantasist, or just a bit quirky. And I hadn’t grasped the concept of “making a living” and “paying bills”, either.

Trouble is, in my mind I haven’t grown up much and I still want to achieve most of those things. I think I can accept that I’ll never be a professional singer, though. That’s fine. But the rest? Yes please.


How about you? What did you want to be when you were young? How does it compare now? Have you given up on those dreams?


  1. What a thought invoking post and I feel so sad that you have regrets.
    College/Uni wasn’t at all for me and I disappeared with a backpack for 4 years whilst my friends were studying. Workwise, I closed my business of 10 years in 2010 because it wasn’t making me happy an y more, since then I’ve worked local (poorly paid) jobs to pay the bills whilst I work towards creating an income from home, from the farm.
    Good luck x

  2. *humph* … I’m so sad you have regrets! but you are still young and able to turn your life around!

    But, are you sure you’re happy in your “dull suburban town”? Perhaps you need some time away… Well, that’s always been my way of sorting my head out anyway! Perhaps you only need to make a small change, like start a small business slowly with little steps right where you are. But then again, perhaps you need to make a big change – like go out there and spread your wings and see if you can’t find the road you are meant to be on…

    Whatever, I hope you find your way 🙂 and let’s face it, these months are never the best for feeling focused and inspired, so don’t be so hard on yourself… Spring is just around the corner – I can feel it in the air!


  3. I don’t have regrets because I don’t look back. I only look forward. There are soooo many choices in life that when one looks back it is just full of ‘what ifs’ and becomes depressing. If you look forward it’s full of hopes and plans and the prospect of lots of new adventures and experiences:))))

  4. Do buy/borrow “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It may well help you to decide just what you are capable of in life. I’m sorting of doing that right now and am finding it enormously helpful. Good luck!

  5. When I was 15 I wanted to be a vet, but I chose against study science at A level as I felt 6 years at uni to be a vet was too much… The irony is I found a subject I loved at A level (Sociology) and have followed that through to PhD studies, so Ive been at University longer than if I’d trained to be a vet. But do I regret it? Not one jot, Ive met great people and learnt important lessons. If Id been a vet I dont think I would have time to keep my own animals, and sometimes you have to make the decision between things you love to do and things you’ll do to earn a living, animals are my passion, and being able to enjoy them on my terms as a hobby works for me. Why not sing or act as a hobby?Just find a new guise for interests in your life, not necessarily in a work capacity. If you regret not pursuing Oxford, then why not apply there to do a Masters? I think dreams and ambitions change and develop, Im making a career change this year, and Im so excited about it, its scary yes, and its not something Id have thought to do as a school kid, or even as a graduate, but then I wouldnt have said I would have been an ‘academic’ when I grew up. I think if you remain open you can have a new dreams, ones you didnt even know you would have, but thats exciting. The whole worlds out there, try some things, enjoy finding out what you want to do, and even if you’re still none the wiser, at least you’ll have had a great journey along the way 🙂

  6. It has been strangely comforting for me to read a blog by someone else who was saying many of the things I’ve been thinking recently but maybe mostly because I’ve been a relatively happy (and fairly well paid) desk jockey all these years.

    My only advice: Don’t spend too long worrying about what is the right course of action. Take some action, any action and then learn as you go along. A great skill to develop for the future is adaptability so you can make the most of any opportunity

    Overall a very interesting post and I hope everything works out in the end, it normally does. Keep up the blog whatever happens as in the future I hope to get lots of handy tips from you..

  7. wow, some of what you wrote resonated with me though I am a bit older than you…and I got my dubious degree and MA from the same Uni I think…I did the desk job at that Uni for nearly 10yrs to pay the bills and towards the end would cry becasue I had to go in for another soul-crushing day…when I quit, running and scampering for the hills, it was like a bereavement though for a while and PT jobs sure as heck dont pay the same (though the Uni is notorious for paying slave wages even though they want you all to have at least a degree!)BUT I found that I had more time to do what I truly wanted to do, I spent less money, no ‘breakfast roll’ with the others in the office, no drinkies after work to wipe away the misery of the day, no cabs and taxis and buses, no ‘office attire’…I’ve creatively reused, and rejigged, I spend less therefore I need to earn less, and who says that you have to have a ‘career plan’ I say ‘twaddle’ you can have a different role every day or every hour so ‘regrets, yes I have a few’….but when I’m munching a strawberry sat in the garden whilst the rest of the world is watching a clock somewhere, things aint too bad x

  8. I also found it comforting to read this as i feel like I am in the same position.

    I was at Uni for a year, desperately unhappy and felt like I didn’t fit in and I know i went for the wrong reasons. I had to leave after my first year due to depression and family problems and the only thing I regret is not becoming a Veterinary nurse after A-Levels like my original plan had been.

    I was convinced I would never work in an office as i’d hate it but find myself in that exact position! I agree with Ez that sometimes you have to make choices. my job pays me enough so that we can save for a house deposit as a couple which will enable us to have rescue dogs and ex battery hens and have a better quality of life outside of my working life! I try to remember it’s not forever and at 27, I’m still young and my career isn’t over quite yet.

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