In retrospect it is clear to see that my current situation was an unexploded bomb waiting to be unearthed. Regardless of whether I had stayed in the UK or moved to Hong Kong, it was inevitable that at some point, I would have questioned my purpose and been drawn off the hamster wheel. In many ways, moving to Hong Kong was an escape from my draining job and a sense that I was struggling to see where I fitted into society any more. Finding I had secured a significantly more demanding job, and unwittingly, packed this sense of ‘not belonging’ into my suitcase, was the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.
This feeling of no longer ‘fitting in’ is connected to being in my early 40s and childless. You are conditioned from an early age to believe that your life should follow a structure comprising: going to school; completing university; securing a job; getting married; having kids; living happily ever after; the end. I believe that when you are unable to tick one of these boxes you feel in some ways you don’t belong. In our case fate has teased us with the hope of a family four times, and each time cruelly snatched that hope away. No longer having the emotional strength or inclination to open that chapter again, we are left with a feeling of ‘now what?’ We have involuntarily signed up to a minority group that we never wanted to join in the first place.
I have just read a book by Kasey Edward’s called “30-Something and Over it: What Happens When You Wake Up and Don’t Want to Go to Work… Ever Again” – I wonder what drew me to purchase this particular tome? In the book she cites a psychologist, Erik Erikson, who talks of life being split into stages and outlines what we need to do at each stage to be happy, fulfilled and functional. The seventh life stage, which starts when you reach your 30s, is called ‘Generativity vs Stagnation’. The premise is during this phase we need to dedicate ourselves to caring for, and passing on our skills and knowledge, to the next generation – or we stagnate. A depressing thought for a full-fledged member of the childless minority group. However it goes some way to explaining my feelings of dissatisfaction and purposelessness, and my current desire to ensure my life is serving something bigger than just me.
Now that the metaphorical bomb has exploded, the process I am going through is defining what my ‘baby’ is going to be so I can continue to lead a fulfilled and happy life, rediscover a sense of belonging, and not stagnate. I have no doubt I will find the answers and each day I am making little steps in the right direction – it is just a rather painful, but necessary, episode to work through.