What do you want to be when you grow up?

This prompt from Post-40 Bloggers appealed to me, perhaps because as a child I was always nonplussed by the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? As an adult, I don’t think it is a particularly helpful question. Some questions, which might be more helpful in leading a young person to choose a suitable career include:-

What are your favourite subjects and your hobbies?

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My own experience of being asked the question in the title resulted in some memorable exchanges. The first was when someone asked me shortly after a family outing to Bertram Mills’ Circus at Olympia. I replied, “A trapeze artiste”. The horrified expression on my mother’s face said it all! I think she had something to say about it as well.

Later on my ambition was to be a writer. This did not go down well with my family either. A relative, who had been an English teacher, produced her copy of ‘The Young Visiters’ by Daisy Ashford aged nine. Her implied message was: if you can write like this, then perhaps! I was twelve. Other reasons not to pursue a career in writing were that self-employed writing didn’t pay enough to live on and I hadn’t a tough enough skin to be a journalist. It would have been considered impudent of me to voice my opinion that someone, who had a degree in English and was not working outside the home, ought to be writing for fun if for no other reason.

The fact that I had produced a ‘school magazine’ with a friend, including pictures from magazines alongside writing and puzzles we devised ourselves, when we were both ten years old, seemed to have been overlooked.

I was more fortunate than many young people in the careers advice, which was available in the area where I grew up. At the state girls’ school I attended from the age of eleven, there were regular visits from people, who told us about the kinds of things we should take into consideration, when choosing a job or a career. Did we want to work indoors or outside in all weathers? With animals or children? I remember a talk about the General Post Office (GPO) as it was then and the range of employment that the Post Office and telephone service provided and another about the Civil Service. I also received some one-to-one advice.

Unlike someone I met later, who told me she had become a teacher, because the only professional people she had met were teachers, I had also met at least one accountant, architect, civil servant, engineer, probation officer, stock-broker and a few clergy. I was happy to be able to eliminate Vicar from my list of possible careers as at that time women were not allowed to be fully-fledged clergy. (I didn’t consider being a deaconess or a nun.)

I spent many a free lunchtime in the tiny careers room browsing the lists of courses offered by universities all over England. The A-levels required for each were set out. The range of choice was bewildering.

After making various decisions and gaining some qualifications, I ended up with a challenging job, where some writing was required. I had made most of my decisions before someone made me aware that God is able to guide us to make good decisions if we ask. (Sometimes we can be guided without being aware of it.)

It is only since I left paid employment that I have been free to pursue my own interests in writing. The lack of encouragement from my family and the fact that I did not gain as good grades at O-level in English as in most other subjects has not helped my confidence in writing-related matters. My next step ought to be to move on from being a blogger to being an author. Then I might consider myself properly grown-up!

Looking back over my experience, I would advise any young person to consider the interests they had by the age of ten, twelve or (at the latest) before they have to choose between subjects for examinations. Which careers are related to those interests? Enjoyable paid work is surely best for the individual and society.

7

A to Z Challenge Reflections Post 2017

During this year’s challenge I was pleased to revisit some blogs I had found (or whose owners had found me) in previous A to Zs.

I also became aware of some new (to me) participants.

My list may not be complete, but I am adding some notes about each of the links I provide below in the hope that visitors to my blog will find some like-minded bloggers to visit and perhaps follow.

The A to Z Challenge’s founder Arlee Bird blogged about time at http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/

http://mailadventures.blogspot.co.uk/ This is a blog about all things connected with postcards, snail mail and stamps. http://mailadventures.blogspot.co.uk/p/links.html lists many more similar sites.

https://bobscotney.blogspot.co.uk/ Houses some real some not. (Bob is a blogger I began to follow last year). He also blogs about postage stamps each week.

https://sratteberry.wordpress.com/ Shawna completed the A to Z Challenge with aplomb. Her blog was new to me this year.

http://heartofareadywriter.blogspot.co.uk/ Linda blogged about hymns this time. I have been following her blog since a previous challenge.

https://lynnelives.wordpress.com/ Lynne joined the challenge late this year, but caught up and posted photos of her garden. (One advantage of a list-free challenge.)

http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/ Hilary is a veteran blogger. This year she looked at rare breeds of animals and used her imagination for the difficult letters. (Unicorn anyone?)

http://mainelywrite.blogspot.co.uk/ Donna found personalised registration plates and wrote verses- a fun challenge.

http://curiousasacathy.com/ Cathy sketched her way from A to Z.

http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/aprils-z-challenge-reveal.html Heavenly bodies (i.e. stars)

http://laurelgarver.blogspot.co.uk/ This is the blog of an author. I nearly missed her comment as it landed in spam. She issued a writing prompt each day.

https://wordwacker.wordpress.com/ Haiku word puzzles

https://lunanoctis.wordpress.com/  Natalie found me; she blogged about Musical groups.

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/ A blogger I discovered the first time I did the A to Z. Martha blogged about musicals.

https://seezooeyrun.wordpress.com/ Unlike me Gail is a Mormon. I first encountered her blog, when she A to Z’d about family history, something Mormons are experts at.

https://fortyandfantastique.wordpress.com/a-to-z-april-challenge/ a blogger I admire, this year blogging about the streets of Paris.

https://evelyneholingue.com/ Evelyne chose a French theme again this year – authors.

https://mymorningcupofcoffee.blogspot.co.uk/ Debby blogged about life in the 60s.

https://psaltermark.com/ Mark blogged about the Hebrew Bible.  In some ways his posts and mine complemented each other. There was only one letter for which we chose the same word. That day I had two words! I have been following Mark on Twitter for a while, but our posts were written completely independently.

https://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com/ John has completed the A to Z challenge previously.

I’d also like to thank the following people for their encouragement through the challenge:

Arlee Bird, http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/, Susanne Matthews https://mhsusannematthews.wordpress.com/, Rosemary http://charliebritten.wordpress.com/, Susan http://colormewriting.blogspot.co.uk/ (A to Z on parenting young adults), Captain Jill https://captjillsjourneys.wordpress.com/ (Travel), John Holton, who set up a place for WordPress bloggers to link their posts and did his A to Z on https://thesoundofonehandtyping.wordpress.com/, Donna a book blogger from A to Z http://www.girl-who-reads.com/, Lydia https://lydiahowe.com/ a writer and enthusiastic A to Zer, Beth https://bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress.com/ ,A.J. Sefton Author https://www.ajsefton.com/, Mandy http://blog.youreverydaytraveler.com/, Kaddu http://www.mysteriouskaddu.com/ Liam who posted Photos for the challenge https://othemts.wordpress.com/, Katy trail creations (lovely quilts) https://slfinnell1965.wordpress.com/, Marna https://authormarnareed.wordpress.com/ blogging about mythology in her second A to Z, Cathy http://curiousasacathy.com/ and others, who liked my posts without leaving a comment. Also a supportive follower on Twitter and Mark for numerous retweets.

Without a sign-up list I shared my posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the A to Z challenge page and associated Facebook page and the A to Z page on WordPress. Google+ was the least effective. It is impossible to tell where exactly on Facebook clicks to my blog originated.

It has been a worthwhile challenge. Whether I shall find the time, inspiration and energy to take part again next year remains to be seen. An list of my A to Z posts is on a page.

I intend to link this post to the A to Z Reflections posts on Monday 8th May.

Reflections of debris caught on a fence

Reflections of debris caught on a fence

My usual mixture of posts will resume on a weekly basis, beginning with What I read in April next Thursday.  I’d like to thank my non-A to Z-ing followers for their patience during April.

If you like my photo, why not visit Sue’s words and pictures?

2

Dealing with shyness

When I was a child (before some post-40 bloggers were born) there was an attitude left over from earlier times that children should be heard and not seen and only speak when they were spoken to.  For a quiet child it was easier to stare out of the window, lost in thought than to join in with conversation.  In company, for example a family meal at which another family was present, I could not get a word in edgeways.  I just listened – and sometimes remembered.

I was shy.  To go an errand was an ordeal.  In those days it involved going to the shop and waiting in a queue, before asking for the items required.  Going with a message to a neighbour was no better.  Shy people are not likely to knock hard on doors and few people had doorbells then.  Whether an interruption was welcome or not was something I considered, while waiting for a reply.  If the door wasn’t opened quickly, how long did I need to wait before trying to make more noise with the door-knocker?

There were times, when my shyness did not really show.  One teacher in particular used to ask one of the best readers to stand at the front and read to the class from a book, of which we each had been lent a copy.  My turn came round very frequently and I enjoyed doing this.  Looking back, I probably read accurately, but without a great deal of expression – it was definitely not a dramatic interpretation.  I can’t remember which books we read.

If I really wanted to do something, which needed the permission of an adult, I used to talk to Mum about it first as a way of plucking up the courage to do it.  An example was the time I realised that I could play the recorder (having been taught by a member of my family) well enough to join the group of older children playing in the morning assembly.  I needed to ask the music teacher.  One day I left the line of children and stood by her side as she played a march on the piano for us to leave the hall.  She indicated that I might speak and gave me permission to join the group.  No-one seemed to notice that I was slightly behind my classmates arriving back in the classroom, so plucking up courage had been a positive experience.

There were ways in which I did not really change for a long time.  I was always happiest with one other person, rather than in a larger group.  To speak my own words to a group of people was nerve-wracking.  The persistence necessary to complete what I was trying to say with more than one person to interrupt (and put me off) was perhaps a reason I have always found it easier to write than to speak.

I can remember the first telephone being installed at home.  Sometimes I was told to phone someone – perhaps the person, who taught me to play the recorder or a family friend, who had kindly remembered my birthday.  I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say if they asked me questions.  Using the phone was problematic if more than one person might answer it.  A form of words was required to deal with this eventuality.  There are good ones and worse ones.  For example, “Is so-and-so there, please?” might result in the answer “Yes!” or “No!”  If the former, there would be an anxious pause while the person came to the phone.  Otherwise, an explanation and request for a good time to phone might be needed.  Embarrassingly, the phone was in the living/dining room so that anyone in the family might be listening and preparing helpful comments about where I had gone wrong!  Nowadays, I prefer to ask whether I may speak to a person.  Sometimes I even say who I am.  I am also fairly good at recognising voices, when I answer the phone, although my brothers-in-law sound rather alike.

The first time I phoned a new friend from my secondary school her mother answered.  I asked to speak to the daughter.  However, I must have sounded a bit like a niece, who phoned from time to time.  The mother, whom I had not met, began a long conversation with me, which I found it hard to extricate myself from.  Everyone has to learn these sorts of social skills, but it is more difficult for an introvert faced with a very talkative adult on the other end of the phone!

I used to talk to Mum a lot as she liked to know what had been going on at school.  She always seemed outgoing, never at a loss for words and has been a good friend to many people during her long life.  Dad was very quiet, with a soft voice.

A teacher pushed me into taking two examinations with the English Speaking Board.  The idea was that it would improve examinees’ confidence and ability in situations in adult life, where it would be necessary to speak in public.  (I have told this story before.) The first time I entered I prepared a speech about my hobby of collecting, growing and propagating cacti and succulents.  I took a container with some growing in it as a visual aid.  Reading a prepared passage from a book and answering questions from the audience of other entrants and the examiner also featured.

The first exam resulted in a pass at a particular level.  Subsequent entries were for the next grade.  The following year I really did not want to take the exam, which required more preparation and another ordeal.  I couldn’t think of a subject to talk about.  In the end I opted for holidays, but didn’t prepare properly and failed the exam.  It would have been better not to have entered!  On the whole I was not a rebellious teenager, but I did rebel against learning how to project my voice.  It was only in 2013 that I decided it was about time I did something about this!

Nowadays people do not regard me as shy.  In fact I habitually talk to strangers on railway stations and trains.  At coffee mornings, I circulate and talk to a variety of people rather than sitting in one seat and only talking to those nearby.  If there are people I have not met before, I try to speak to them.  I have met some really interesting visitors to this village.  A retired Cambridge academic and his wife and the parents of a lady, who used to sing in a choir with me, spring to mind among others.

My shyness reduced slowly over time.  I was a Brownie, then a Girl Guide and a member of a youth group.  These all involved mixing with people.  Aged sixteen I spent four weeks in France conversing almost exclusively in French, although my accent was very English due to self-consciousness about practising pronunciation.

I left home at eighteen for student life about two hundred miles away.  At the interview for a female hall of residence, I was shown round with another young lady.  We were both shy and did not make conversation with each other and not much with the person showing us around.  First year students had to share a study/bedroom.  On arrival at the beginning of term we found that we were near neighbours, but not in the same room.  Some more outgoing girls had been placed with someone they met at their interview.

At university I became involved in the Christian Union and found that I was able to converse with people from all over the world, possibly because I had developed good listening skills through being quiet.

By the end of the time I was a student I had gained a reputation for being able to talk to anyone!  I regarded it as a compliment.

Sometimes I talk too much!  I hope I am seen as a friendly person.  If you are shy, try thinking about the people around you and what they might like to talk about.  It only takes one person to “break the ice”; it could be the quietest person in the room.

This was written in response to a writing prompt from post40bloggers.