The one piece of advice that changed my life
As a wise philosopher* once said: ‘Ask for money, and get advice. Ask for advice, and get money twice.’
Being someone who frequently finds themselves in one or another life or death dilemma, I find that I am too often seeking the advice of others to help me make those crossroad decisions (or, more often than not, shoehorning my friends’ opinions to justify the ones I’ve already made).
The problem with this being, dutiful and easily swayed as I am, that I find my life philosophy flits from pillar to post as rapidly as my fortunes seem to rise and fall. Mum says she doesn’t see me in primary teaching? Out the window with that career path. Receive a favourable observation from a tutor? I’m destined to be a head teacher. Fortune teller** thinks I’ve chosen the wrong degree path? I knew I was meant to be a scientist! With my ideas so easily influenced by those around me, it can sometimes be difficult to take stock and think what is it that I really want?
At this juncture, we must turn to an Isobel older and wiser than myself. You’ll probably know Isy Suttie as Dobby in Peep Show, but she’s come back on my radar in an oh-so cooler and more relatable way with the arrival of her book ‘The Actual One’.
In an excerpt in the Daily Mail, she explains a magic little piece of advice given to her by a friend, which has helped her (and now me) through many a tricky decision:
‘[W]hen you are unsure of a decision you should look at a photo of yourself as a child, smiling. Ask yourself if you want that cheeky little girl to grow up and be with the guy in question, or the job in question.’
So simple, right? But so effective.
We all have a cherished photo from our childhood – you know, the one you actively encourage your parents to show everyone, rather than the pre-teen monstrousities that you put face down when your uni friends come to visit.
Mine is me with dandelion hair, wearing a hand-me-down dress for my 2nd birthday party that was held in my back garden with a grand total of two guests. The trike was a present, and I spent a good chunk of the day gleefully cycling it forwards into the garage wall and backwards into the fence, laughing like it was the first time every time.
When I look at the photo of that little girl, my heart melts a tiny bit, and I think how much I owe it to that happy little cherub to make the life I’m leading now one that she would want to live.
Do I want that little girl to grow up to be with someone who doesn’t really care about her, or to work somewhere where her childhood (or adult) passions are slowly squashed out of her? Of course not! I want her to have everything, and boy am I going to work hard to make sure that she gets it.
So, if a time comes where you’re just not sure of the way, or a niggle, however small, has started to creep its way into your subconscious, try it out. Find the photo of you that makes you grin from ear to ear, and ask what do I want for her? You might be surprised what you find.
** To be honest even I was dubious about this one. I’m still waiting for the parking ticket she predicted to materialise.