Thursday, 18 December 2008


I need some ambitions. I was listening to radio 4's 6:30 silliness programme yesterday, which sort of focused on the fact that the comedian hadn't achieved his (less than serious) 18-year-old self's ambitions by the age of 35. And I sat wondering whether I actually HAVE any ambitions. I guess this is a musing better suited to New Year's, but I tend to look at just the year ahead then, rather than further. And maybe I should look further. If I had something to work for, then maybe I'd feel there was a bit of a point.

Am I unusual in not knowing where to start with this? Next year I'll be 25. Ten years after that, I'll be 35. That's half way through the Bible's threescore years and ten. A bit less than that if we use today's standard 80+ life expectancy. I'd really rather be dead by 75 than deteriorate into my 90s, but that's a whole other debate for another day. What will I be doing? What do I WANT to be doing? I don't think I know. Things that I want change on a daily basis, from the every day little things like 'I want to make gnocchi today/tomorrow/when I have time), to pie-in-the-sky dreams - the 'Maybe I could do thats' and the 'Wouldn't it be cool ifs'... Most of them come to nothing, but maybe if I gave them substance by writing them down, they'd become something. Stop them evaporating purely because I don't remember them often enough. I don't have a very good memory. I used to have, but it evaporated a year or two back, possibly through lack of use since I'd started writing things down pretty religiously; the recent gaps here have mostly been covered by the paper diary. Again, side-tracked.

Well. Here's a shot at it.

  1. To start with, an anti-ambition. I don't want to be doing something 'expected'. I'm contrary. I'll always order something different from the person next to me in a restaurant. I want things to be unusual. I know that that perhaps isn't obvious in most of the way I live my life - my clothes tend to be similar to other people's, but at least they're a different colour (unless I'm forced into wearing something particularly conventional, like the damn suit or my chapel clothes at college). I haven't, until recently anyway, behaved in a way that suggested I'm anything other than the entirely unremarkable product of a slightly old fashioned, very English, privileged background. I sing in a church choir. That sounds like the height of fusty English conventionality, but in a small way it's a revolt against a judgemental culture I feel amongst the loosely Guardian-reader type world I move in - where religion is Marx's crutch to the masses and therefore sneered at. Oh this is what I tell myself. I don't believe in too many chunks of doctrine to be able to call myself Christian (let's start with believing there is a God and work up from there), but the music is powerful and a high art in itself. As well as servicing a need in myself to be singing, continuing to go is a support of the fact that I think religion, used wisely, has a place in the modern world. And that even if it doesn't, it is a beautiful idea that has generated beautiful thinking and beautiful creativity, and so shouldn't be sneered at. It's odd, more and more of the people I sang with at Robinson, who were never very pro- or anti- religious at the time seem to be leaning towards the pro- camp, though there are exceptions. Perhaps I should actually address the religion question again, one of these days. I think I know the answer, and there is a problem around opening cans of worms, but still. Again. A whole different conversation. So the anti-ambition here is not to be married with two children and a dog, living in a north London suburb and earning something over £45k sitting in front of a computer in the City. Some of those things, combined with something quirky - well fine. That would be different. And different is important. I am not going to live a boring life.
  2. I want to have lived in a different country for a while. I don't know where. This is quite a new one for me - when I came back from India, I was thoroughly decided that the UK was the place for me, where I felt at home and where I understood how things worked, and India had scared me even while I adored it. I guess the States would be good. I've never wanted to go in a serious way before, but they've just achieved a change of government, and Stephen Fry seduced me... I've begun to be bored here, and some of the other things that have happened recently have already pushed me out of my comfort zone. But the water outside the breakwater has proved less choppy than I had expected, at least so far, and now I want to see what it's like outside the bay... Leaving Cambridge will be the first tack of that trip. I LIKE Cambridge, don't get me wrong. It's got a bit awkward just recently, and I want out for a bit to clear my head and mix with some different people for a while, but that's a different thing. I would like to go somewhere bigger and more exciting while I'm young and I can. Besides, Cambridge will empty more of the people I care about in the next year or two. I just want a change. The two things I'll miss are the easy access mates, and Great St Marys - I really haven't come across a better church choir that admits women. That will be a depressing loss.
  3. I want to have had a high-powered job of some sort. I just lack the drive to go out and do this though; there is drive when it's social things I'm doing for my friends, but most of the work-for-money things I could do don't attract me at the moment. I should look harder. I want to play at being important for a bit. Deconstructing 'high-powered' is a bit of a conundrum, though. I've always enjoyed being the centre of a crazy web of people and demands, and I would like to be able to translate that into something I get paid for, which just isn't the case at the moment. What I have now, while it can be intellectually interesting, which is good, doesn't need enough from me in terms of effort and activity to keep me engaged. It might be that I'm looking in the wrong place - it's not bluechip that I'm after necessarily, just something that demands all of my time and for which I'm prepared to generate the energy to follow through. I suspect this will be an ambition I don't achieve, but we'll see.
  4. Besides, ambition 3 sort of conflicts with ambition 4. This is only recently a concrete ambition, but it's an attractive concept I've been kicking around for a while. I want to have a piece of creative writing published. I've had a few articles printed in a sort of amateur way, on occasion, and a couple of pictures online, but I want to try and write something worth actually printing on paper. Poetry, or something in prose if I work up the courage. We'll see. So I guess if it ever took off, then this would feed in to ambition 3. Million to one chance. But I'm feeling proactive about writing at the moment, as might be obvious from the quickfire posts of the last few days.
  5. In ten years' time, I want to have a long term partner. I think. I don't want that at the moment, which is novel in itself - it's really been the last 6 months, and possibly not even that, when I've really felt content with my freedom and my own company. I have the wanderlust. I want to go out and meet people and play and not be tied down to anyone or anywhere. I want to explore. But I do want to be with someone, sometime. Probably not someone particularly conventional in what they want out of life or how they look at the world - I'm pretty sure I'm not really conventional in those things in many ways. I want to be happy and relaxed and confident in what I'm doing and who I'm with, and busy and engaged with the world and what's happening in it. Those things are hardly unusual, but I think that the things that might take me there are not things that would take anyone else there.
It's kind of reassuring to know that I can put down a few things that I want from my life. It will feel crap in ten years' time when I haven't achieved those things, though. But perhaps I can say I'm allowed not to have achieved them if I can substitute them with something else? As I said before, things I want change ALL the time. I have the attention span of a kitten.


  1. Trying to enjoy life one day at a time can be a perfectly admirable ambition, you know: accept that and you might then find it's the only one you need...

    Have you ever looked at Taoist (or Daoist) philosophy, at all?

  2. None at all - have read a bit of Buddhist stuff which I suspect is similar in parts. What should I read?

    I want to have dreams, I think. Things I could do. I don't want to be content with the way things are all the time, because that way leads stagnation without great care. But filling every moment with worthwhile living is something I'm aiming for, definitely.

  3. A significant aspect of Daoism is the learning of it by example. I know most of what I know from practising Tai Chi for a few years - and I'd recommend that anyway ;)

    Otherwise, Wikipedia's a good start, followed by an abridged translation of Sun Tsu's "Art of War" (with a commentary). Perhaps a more literary mind than mine could cope with jumping straight into the Dao de Jing, but that would certainly have scared *me* off 5 years ago...