Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Q = Quest

Six years ago, I was intent on reinventing myself. Rather belatedly I’d decided I would like to be a mother, but was facing the realisation that this is not as easy as we all expect it to be. And I was disillusioned with my life as a career woman. Even though New Zealand’s Governor-General, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, and the CEO of one of our largest companies were all women, my own head was banging firmly and painfully on the glass ceiling in the company where I was working.

I had spent 16 years working in the international arena - government and business. But although I’d had had some amazing experiences and loved moments of what I was doing, I felt taken for granted and was questioning where my future lay. By now it was very definitely work. Of course, more and more you heard people talking about being passionate about their work. I thought passion was for the bedroom, and never thought of finding it in my office with my colleagues. Shudder!

So I began a quest to find out what I should be doing with my life, what I was good at, what I loved. I’m still on that quest, having learned a few things on the way, and dabbled in a range of activities.

Motherhood it turned out was not for me. I suspect I always knew that (but that’s another post for another letter of the alphabet). However I discovered an ability to nurture, advise and help others based on my own brutally honest assessments of my own experiences. I also discovered how tremendously rewarding that was.

I learned I love to paint, and more latterly to write.

Work came to me in unexpected ways, and I became a consultant based on my expertise in working internationally and marketing. I learned I liked to teach, and was good at it. I established a new career as a company director, which has been stressful and crazy and satisfying.

I also established a small business planning travel itineraries. When friends would visit a place I had been I would ask them if they did X, tasted Y or bought Z. They would often say “I wish I could plan my trips like you” or in the case of my sister-in-law “I wish my husband could plan trips like you!” I would plan itineraries for people visiting Bangkok or for friends coming to New Zealand. I think it is best described that if your travel agent is your architect, I am the interior designer. So why not make a business out of it I thought? Unfortunately my consulting work took all my time, and I ended up neglecting my business badly. If it had been a child, I would have been charged with failing to provide the necessities of life and locked up. I haven’t given up on it, but it needs some serious resuscitation.

So here I am, in my mid-40s, I still don’t know what I should be when I grow up. Whilst I enjoy the balance in my life right now – volunteering, consulting, company director and blogger – I know the quest is not yet over. But the quest itself is endlessly fascinating, and maybe that is the point.


  1. Itinerary planning sounds like so much fun!

    I can dig it--wondering what to do when you grow up. I'm 33 and wondering the same thing.

  2. You think to make your living from tailoring,
    but then somehow money comes in
    through goldsmithing,
    which had never entered your mind.

    I don't know whether the Union I want will come
    through my effort, or my giving up effort,
    or from something completely separate
    from anything I do or don't do.

    —Rumi, "In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad"

  3. I too like the idea of planning travel itineraries for others. And the people I find most fascinating and admirable are those who continually reinvent themselves.

  4. "...but the quest itself is endlessly fascinating, and maybe that's the point." Well, mali, I think I've found a poem for you:

    ITHACA (by C.P. Cavafy)

    As you set out for Ithaka
    hope your road is a long one,
    full of adventure, full of discovery.
    Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
    angry Poseidon -don't be afraid of them:
    you'll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
    as long as a rare excitement
    stirs your spirit and your body.
    Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
    wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
    unless you bring them along inside your soul,
    unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

    Hope your road is a long one.
    May there be many summer mornings when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
    may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
    to buy fine things,
    mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    sensual perfume of every kind-
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    and may you visit many Egyptian cities
    to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

    Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
    Arriving there is what you're destined for.
    But don't hurry the journey at all.
    Better if it lasts for years,
    so you're old by the time you reach the island,
    wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
    not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
    Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
    Without her you wouldn't have set out.
    She has nothing left to give you now.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

  5. Such learned readers I have. You all get it - so much better than I.

  6. I never thought of itinerary planning as an occupation. Very interesting ...

    I think one of the affects of a lengthening lifespan is we all have more opportunities to reinvent ourselves than we ever thought would be possibly. I'm kind of in the middle of one of those myself ...

  7. Of course as the French might say: the more you change the more remain the same. In a good way.


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