Saturday, 24 May 2014

Ritual, Rites of Passage and the Stories of our Lives

I have had an introspective few months. The end of my marriage, something I had once assumed was a permanent arrangement of mutually beneficial teamwork and friendship; losing my dear aunt Carole to cancer, which no-one really believed in their heart of hearts was actually going to happen; and seeing my children become mature and independent humans in their own lives... new types of relationships, good men, the births of several babies, too. Maybe it is because I feel secure and certain and have the time to think. Or perhaps it's just the alignment of the planets since I entered my forties.

Some of my friends are experiencing this too - women everywhere are feeling something happening - and we have had long conversations about death, faith, science, DNA wisdom and aboriginal serpent myths, the need for rites of passage for modern men and women, parenting, housework (as a metaphor for all sorts of things, and as a problem to be solved every single bloody day), the evolution of intelligence and so on. We hit upon great truths and say, "Quick, somebody write this down!" Often, this is while toddlers and/or teenagers tear the house apart and try their best to fall down the stairs and/or set fire to the kitchen. The teenagers roll their eyes at our musings because, as we once did, they already have all the answers.

Suddenly, (Ok not suddenly, really, but gradually over the last five months or so) I have a plan. I know what I need to do - and this has given me direction and ambition that I've never had before. Interestingly, the planets are realigning to reflect this: A brand-new-this-year, modern degree course at Bournemouth University that I discovered browsing their website. Mentioning to a friend that this is the exact anthropology degree I've always wanted, only they hadn't invented it yet. Her saying, "But that's so-and-so's baby, you met her the other night. You had an argument about slash and burn farming."  And most of all that I read so many anthropology books in my twenties that I know how little I know. Perhaps if I learn more, I will know even less and I love that. Whether I manage to do this course or not (money!) I know what my direction is.

Well maybe I won't ACTUALLY grow up.
Photo by Miira! 
I will always write, and I suspect that I will always write science for kids, because writing 800 words about swamps or sniffer dogs or the chemistry and geometry of bubbles is THE BEST JOB EVER. Writing for kids also keeps my writing grounded - it's all very well discussing neurons with a PHD friend, but if I can't talk in terms a child would understand, then most of the world will never benefit from my supposed wisdom. I have never liked the way some intellectuals make things harder than they really are. If you understand it, tell it simply. Don't hog the information.

I'm not about to rush off and have adventures in modern anthropology just yet, as the boys (mature and self-sufficient know-it-alls though they are) will need stews and laundry services and (oh the horror) sensible bedtimes and (say it isn't so) computer limits for several more years. But when they go off to have their own lives, I will be ready to have mine.

I've finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.


planetnomad said...

Fantastic! Congrats. Will look forward to hearing more about it.

Nan Sheppard said...

I will no doubt keep everyone entertained with regular anthropological musings :)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Three cheers for your next chapter in life! What fun to discover it!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Very cool to find that next direction in life. I hope to be that lucky soon--but you deserve it after all the drama you've endured.