All the cool kids are doing it 2

We’re all surrounded by timeless gems of advice. You know, like ‘work to live, don’t live to work’, ‘do more of what makes you happy’, and my all time least favourite, ‘live each day like it’s your last’. The sparky comments which demand 2 seconds of your time to reevaluate, question if this is how you live and come to the conclusion that it’s not but of course you absolutely should and will change things. And do you? Well, I’m guessing if you’re anything like 99.999% of the population probably not.

To add to it, in recent years people seem to have started throwing around the term YOLO a lot. ‘A moto to live by’ someone once said to me which simply left me wondering if I could ever bring myself to say ‘YOLO’ out loud. For those of you who don’t know it means ‘you only live once’. I assume it’s still around, at least I assume it is still widely used by the Kardashians and their followers, but I casually entered my thirties accepting in the knowledge I’m not as down with the kids as I once was. A sister ten years your junior will do that to a girl.

Whether social icons are still YOLO’ing or not I do know it breeds a certain expectation of what our lives should be. We start to wonder if the life we should be living should be lived by a number of rules where work should actually be play; relationships always romantically fuelled and exciting in order to be worthwhile; and our children well-mannered, free-spirited, couscous eaters with craft corners and regular ‘interactive play’. All of the above we probably do have to a point just not all the time because in real life work is sometimes exactly that – hard, mundane, soulless work. Our relationships can be fraught with discussions around whether we should put the washing out or why, in God’s name why, did the other have to ruin the end of Ned Starkey’s existence in Game of Thrones with just 10 minutes to go? (seriously, Darren, why?) And as for our kids, my favourite parents are the ones that throw their hands up in the air and acknowledge that it’s far from easy or perfect.

So why are we all beating ourselves up? Perhaps because across the press and online there is so much rhetoric around people living the slow life. We all have our own ideas about what that means. Mine is of a man in his 40s strolling around on a Tuesday afternoon with his camera bag and takeaway coffee looking like he doesn’t have a care in the world or any reason to rush. Those are the people we look at and think, ‘wow, they must live a nice life’. And perhaps they do. It is assumed they have achieved success; they’ve found the balance.

But then again someone like Bill Gates (as I type this on a MacBook I really feel I should be saying Steve Jobs) worked hard to get to where he was and is. I imagine there have been very few Tuesday afternoons spent strolling through the park whilst devouring a pastry. Yet what he has achieved and his general success, none more so than his battle to rid the world of polio, is unquestionable.

There are so many examples of what and who we should be that it’s daunting. For a number of years I agonised over the lifestyle that would be suit me and wondering whether it could ever be achievable. What I should have been doing was working out a way to get there and it took me an embarrassing amount of time to realise it. Despite being annoyingly positive I genuinely hadn’t realised I’d slipped into that pattern of accepting that that’s how things were and everyone was probably in the same boat.

It was when I finally closed the door on my previous employment and stepped into Freshspace full-time that I realised how much I had been missing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in full-time employment, ‘punching a’ clock’ or being one person in a large organisation. And I never, ever want to be the type of overly-pretentious, self-employed prat (apologies, it took me a long time to think of a word that would obtain a U rating) that says there is. What I do know is that it didn’t fit with me and who I am. What Freshspace has returned to me is my sense of self as I live an imperfect but truly happy life.

I’ve learned a lot over the past year, some of it useful, some of it definitely not (did you know there are apparently no clocks in Las Vegas casinos?). But the one thing I’m now sure of is that the mark of success is very much happiness in your own life, whatever that should entail. Living the life you want to be living. The people that are – those are the ones I admire, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard any of them screeching YOLO as they dive head first into a ravine.

Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…if you do so, you are insulting yourself.

Bill Gates

Article by Eilidh Nicholls