Updated: Jan 30
As a young girl I used to spend hours conjuring up daydreams of what I could be when I was older; mermaid, princess, cowgirl gradually faded in favour of the more achievable image of myself as … a wedding planner and host. My childhood was spent in a large house in the country with extensive grounds and plenty of buildings I mentally repurposed into ‘quirky’ reception venues. Extensive use of braziers and fairy lights dressed things up in my imagination while practical issues such as toilet facilities and kitchens were somewhat glossed over in favour of concentrating on the ‘wow’ factor.
We had a (very dilapidated) horse-drawn carriage, though no horse, and the use of a tiny, very pretty, church (with no heating) half a mile away which could be used if the wedding party was not too large. I would get carried away for hours working out logistics of accommodation, transport, food, flowers, photography, stationery; creating and refining until I had a formula I believed would deliver a magical wedding day.
I didn’t know it at the time but this choice of career appealed because, in the way I imagined it, I would be doing things that I’m good at and find fulfilling, even enjoyable: interviewing people to find out what they want, organising the delivery of that vision, creating an environment that draws people in and allows them to relax and have fun, exceeding expectations, evoking magic. Conjuring up an image of myself in this role made me feel excited, immersed, motivated.
And by the time I was leaving secondary school, I’d forgotten all about it, or maybe dismissed it as a childish dream that didn’t qualify as a ‘proper’ job; whatever, it didn’t feature on the vast and empty horizon of my future as I scanned for any hint of what I could do next.
Bereft of any strong inclination, the logical answer was to spend a few more years in the warm embrace of education. The question of how I would earn my living and what I would do with my time was stuffed between the pages of an English Literature degree (default choice of best subject) and another 4 years passed during which I drifted further and further away from the instinctive pull towards activities aligned with my innate abilities.
Graduation only brought the issue of ‘not knowing’ into sharper focus and, again, it was a default decision to find employment in a familiar environment. I wanted and needed to make money so I landed a job in a bookshop having had to dig deep and ask for it during a day volunteering to help them stocktake. The swirling anxiety of not having a secure future abated somewhat and yet I still had a feeling that I wasn’t on the right path; it met my immediate requirements of regular income in a civilised environment (although you’d be surprised what goes on in a bookshop!) but there was something I was ignoring, a lack of fulfilment I was pushing down with the increasingly familiar soothing overdose of sugary treats.
A chance conversation with a part-time staff member cracked open a door I would never have considered if I hadn’t just served yet another customer looking for a book in a specific colour to match their new wallpaper. From bookseller to student, again; this time a Masters degree in business and information technology – two subjects that would have caused the mermaid wedding planner to blanche and turn tail in disgust at the apparent abandonment of creativity and magic. Two subjects, on the surface, designed for the logical, rational, A to Z by the shortest route thinker and doer; no room for the dreaming, feeling, intuitive being.
But even within the corporate container it transpired there was a pathway that allowed the cowgirl some of the freedoms she craved and the events organiser an outlet. It turns out that the job of a Business Analyst encapsulates elements of requirements gathering, planning and delivery that an imaginary wedding planner loves to do; not quite in the same way or with the same subject matter but the satisfaction of making people happy by producing something that helps them is a pretty good substitute.… Until it isn’t.
Until the unmet needs start making themselves known; first as intermittent whispers, then louder and stronger until they’re impossible to ignore. And that’s when the path Home gets interesting.
photo credit: David Walsh-Kemmis @ Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery