what on earth are you doing

Henry & Tilly's raison d'être: chasing seagulls


Henry said to me yesterday: Mum what did you want to be when you grew up? 

Who knows where these questions come from, but the answer was straightforward, "I always wanted to be a writer." To which he said, "well you should write something then shouldn't you."

Yes, thank you Henry.

I have old notebooks full of lists. 

Lists of who I wanted to be when I didn't know who I was. Remember nineteen? or hell, twenty-five? I kept a diary from the time I was twelve, almost daily until I was thirty, when I stopped. I ran out of words. In some ways I told myself I was too busy living to write about it. They are journals full of adolescent wordy sketches of who I thought I should be, wanted to be, didn't want to be. Heartfelt poetry. Heartbreaks and life-stopping crushes. 

I'm a little bit terrified of that big box of journals. It moves around with us, and I guess one day I'll re-read them. Who really wants to get back inside their twenty-one-year-old head? 

And am I a grown up yet? 

I find myself rifling through notebooks, finding snippets of my Grand Plans. And I find myself genuinely surprised that actually in many ways I'm living pretty close to it. 

I'm not really a person who asks someone what they 'do', I'm much more interested in what they're wearing.

*Eye roll*. I am the absolute least fashionable person ever. But if you'd told me at seventeen my passion would be for a dark swarthy man in checked shirts I'd have snorted impolitely. Tall, blonde, boho or with the band, I would have told you. Alternative. It was probably on a list. 

I would have also told you I was Pirate, not Navy (ever played that game? Which are you?)

I'm so not. I wish I was Pirate. SO Navy.

And as for what I'm doing. Trying to keep the washing under control. That wasn't on a list. Scraping playdough off the floor. Also not on the list. Staggering from another night of completely crap sleep, one sick child (poor chucking Tilds), one cold child (as firmly as I tuck in Henry's blankets…) and one teething child. Awesome!

Even so. I can see the dogs doing a check of the verandah in the dark, through the window. I have a sewing machine and a stash to bust and a kitchen with an oven and flour and sugar in the pantry and a bookshelf full of books and children (currently) asleep and a dark and swarthy absolutely beautiful Pirate (who think he's Navy) reading the newspaper on the couch. 

And here I am. Writing. 

So, you. What do you want to be when you grow up?


23 Comments on “what on earth are you doing

July 6, 2011 at 4:50 am

Lovely post. I often wished that I had kept my diary’s from when I was younger or perhaps if I did re-read any of them know would I really :/ I don’t keep anything like that now so my deepest thoughts are never uncovered.

Have a lovely week
Leah x

July 6, 2011 at 5:34 am

Fi, this is fabulous. Can you tell us about the Pirate/Navy thing, please?

And can a medieval chickie blog about something foodie? Go on a crusade, perhaps, and write home?

Love you.

July 6, 2011 at 6:43 am

Not familar with pirate vs navy – please explain!
It’s funny how life turns out isn’t it. I figured I’d be child-free and working overseas as a diplomat at 30. I’m not. And I’m happy I’m not.

July 6, 2011 at 8:17 am

I too would always have said writer but now, as a mother of three, my dream is honestly to be the mother I can be. I want to look back and know I made an effort at every turn to give each of my boys a life to cherish and to remember.

mental chew
July 6, 2011 at 8:43 am

A teacher…did that. Traveler…good start. SCUBA diver…check. Mom….oh yes, the best part of what I do. I wanted to spend my weekends outside and live where the trees meet the sea. Who knew that would happen! Now I want to dabble in photography and become GOOD at it. I want to learn how to sew…well. I want to be a creative mom…total work in progress. I have to go change. diaper first.

Greg Twemlow
July 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hey Fiona Great post yet again – Ive been meaning to send you a friend’s link for ages now and your post prompted it because you are both writing about writing at the moment:

Hope you enjoy as she already enjoys yours.

Linda Woodrow
July 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

Sometimes I look at my life and think, if my 20 year old me could see me now, she would think that all her dreams came true. Not quite the way she intended, but via some long and circuitous routes. I’d like to think my 80 year old self will have the same experience.

July 6, 2011 at 10:45 am


Are you a rule-breaker or a rule-follower? Do you sail out on your own on potentially treacherous high seas or do you operate within a more typical set of plans? Are you disobedient and a risk-taker or do you like to be organised and predictable?

(I mean really, how awesome if we could actually simplify ourselves and the world this easily, right?)

It’s a game sometimes played by big organizations in training sessions. (Where they’re trying to spot the pirates!)

July 6, 2011 at 10:45 am

hear hear!

July 6, 2011 at 10:49 am

Thanks for this Greg xx

July 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

To be honest, I had those diaries, and I burnt them. Yep, a big old bonfire. Lots of people were shocked at my lack of sentimentality, but to me it felt like a massive relief. I’d been carrying them around in a box for a long time, from house to house, but never opening it. I knew that I used to write in those diaries when I was feeling passionate, whether it was anger, hapiness, heartache, whatever. I found the thought of all those emotions bouncing around in that box totally exhausting. It was so liberating to burn the damn things, I’ve not regreted that decision so far.

July 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Who do I want to be…? Hmmm… everything I am, I’ve realised! I wrote a post about this very thing just the other day, so I thought SNAP, when I read this 🙂 (And thanks to Greg, you’ve come by my words, which makes me very glad—thank you for stopping by!)

I kept a journal, just like you, faithfully from 12 to 30 (when children arrived). And just like you, they’re in boxes somewhere, with all my history and passions, adventures, worries, sorrows, joys stored away. I’ve kept a sporadic journal for years, and have my little online world of words; I’ve written stories, essays, had some published, and yet all this time… I’ve been waiting to be a writer. Only to realise, with such clarity the other day, I am a writer already, have always been. It was a beautiful discovery.

I love your words here, Fi. I love the writer you already are.

(and I think I’m a Pirate 🙂 )

International Woman of Mystery
July 6, 2011 at 10:04 pm


July 6, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I really enjoyed this post (and every other post – I read your blog every day). I’m 21, and I’ve just finished my degree in Professional Writing. I have no idea what my future holds but I’m hoping that I end up somewhere lovely like where you are now.

July 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Hey cool! The where has less impact than the who. I’m so damn glad I picked the funny guy. Nice to meet you Tegan.

July 7, 2011 at 2:55 am

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed so far with my dream life: performing musician, music teacher, mentor, and married to an amazing guy who is also a musician! But I don’t know if I’ve grown up yet…. how does one figure that out?

green ink
July 7, 2011 at 7:39 am

I too have kept diaries faithfully since I was about 11…the last few years have been a bit more sporadic, probably because I am happy, life is full and rich. If the 17 year old me could see me now, I think she would be very very happy. Even on the days I forget my umbrella and have to walk home in the rain, I am living a life I once upon a time could only have dreamed about.

I love your words and your writing. You are a wonderful writer. xx

July 7, 2011 at 8:20 am

Love this post Fi. In my twenties I rediscovered my teenage diaries and was so embarrassed and irritated by some of it that I threw some of them out! It makes me sad to think of it, I hope I’m more tolerant of growth and change now. Like so many others I definitely didn’t want to be a housewife, but here I am choosing it now!!

July 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

oh glorious post. I have no idea about pirate/navy but get the idea. I so know what you mean. I don’t like blue eyed men (hmm, except the one I am spending my life with) etc etc.
Oh, and with the writing. Yes, better get writing hadn’t we!
Thanks, I needed an inspire.

Estelle C
July 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

I did the same. Why relive teenage angst? Now they’re burnt and gone I still have the vague memories but not the details. Don’t need them! I found it liberating.

Estelle C
July 8, 2011 at 11:33 am

Navy. Probably the Admiral. I always wanted to be right where I am now (though it looked a little different… my husband was supposed to be taller.. and never as perfect) but never believed I would get here. Chance meetings, questionable decisions and fate have led me here. Good fortune more than good management! Keep writing Fi, I’m waiting for that time machine tale…. modern woman sneezes in a cathedral and finds herself back in 1450 France… oh the intrigue! Will she find her way back to the 21st century? Or does her destiny lie in the past….? a must read!!

July 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Every once in awhile my son will ask me what I want to be when I grow up…I am just happy that he thinks I can still be whatever I want to be, even at my age…almost 40, yikes!

This is a great post Fiona!

July 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I always wanted to design wallpaper and textiles. It’s still on my list and I am getting closer, but at a slower pace since the little person arrived in our life. Bravo to you for writing such such a great blog whilst juggling four pirates. Always a pleasure to read.


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