Recently I have become involved with a lot of extra-opus activities… I just generated that phrase in Google Translate. I was aiming for something like “extra-curricular” but referring to outside-of-work activities. I’m sure there will be a couple of language buffs wincing because Google Translate either gets it right or it gets it very, very wrong!
Anyway, my rash of extra-orpus activities arose because recently I’ve been asking myself this question:
“When I am an old lady, what sort of story do I want to be telling my fellow golden oldies?”
As a result, I started doing a lot of things that I kept wanting to do but never actually bothered with. I’m now a member of the Green Party, I volunteer at a local theatre and homeless centre, I bought that painting I’ve been staring at in my favourite café for months, and last night I went to my first ballet class in 4 years. I am not trying to brag, but to me it is a dramatic change because for the past four years I have done nothing but work and study and occasionally visit a museum.
There are lots of reasons why I did these things but all 3 of them underwent the Old Lady Motivation Tool in order to come to fruition. I realised that, when I am old, I want to be the feisty one that badgers everyone to take to their zimmer frames and get down to the polling station. I would want to have that painting in my room so that, when people ask about it, I can say “ah, yes, that! I bought it from a café back in 2013 when I was writing my first novel. Such fond memories, they made the most amazing chai lattes and meringues!” I also want to be telling people that I danced until my joints got to old to handle it, not that I quit at 18 to go to uni and remembered it as a pipe-dream thereafter.
It applies to some of my recent life choices too. I will be a fully qualified EFL teacher in a month’s time and the second I get my certificate I will be applying for work overseas. Why? Well, first, the job prospects for a recent graduate are pretty terrible in Britain. I admit it, a large part of my motivation for doing this is the fact that I am constantly flirting with the bread line. But more importantly, I don’t want to be telling my aging friends that I played it safe, that I stayed on my island, chained to a desk job for security but never having enough money or enough time to visit a place and truly get to know it. In my experience, a week in a place is fantastical blur, almost like a literal pipe-dream; a whiz of colour and then you’re back at your desk wondering what on Earth just happened to you. I started looking for a way to get paid for living in places that interest me, and that way out is teaching abroad.
So! If you’re looking at a situation, wondering whether or not you should do it, ask yourself what kind of stories you want to be telling when age has turned you prune-like. More often than not it will make you choose the more interesting and adventurous option. Have fun!