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The C Word.

8a. The C Word EditLast night, my new friends, an American couple and I were sitting at a table in a restaurant in Burma, deciding what we wanted for dinner, chatting and getting to know each other.  “Where are you going after Burma?” they asked. I answered that I wanted to visit Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. They quizzed me further; “And after that? After travelling? What do you want to do as a career?”

“Not sure” I grinned. “Shall we get two dishes of rice or three?”

And just like that, the conversation turned back to food. I’ll admit, this is a question that up until the last few weeks paralysed me with fear. I absolutely dread this question. Unfortunately, meeting new people all the time means that on average, you’ll answer this question about 2943834857 times per day. I have a well-rehearsed script that begins with a quick reference to my degree (as if this somehow cements the fact that one day I will be in a respected, full-time job), then goes on to mention my love for children (and thus opens conversation up to the possibility of teaching) and how I want to help people (effectively making me sound like a hero). It concludes with me enthusiastically adding in something about how exciting it is to have so many options and some babble about how interested I am in so many things. I like to think I pull off the speech convincingly, but to be honest, it’s all a complete load of waffle.

That’s not to say that I don’t care about the future, I do, deeply. In fact, for the last four years, since graduating, this speech has been my lifeline. When I finished university, I knew only one thing. I wanted to travel. To raise some funds for this venture, I took on a temporary job at a cocktail bar. Temporary turned into four years when I realised the benefits that it came with. I worked. I travelled. I was fortunate enough to return to the same job as manager. I travelled again. I returned and then travelled some more.

Dancing on the bar. Not so bad...

Dancing on the bar. Not so bad…

Looking back, the job came with all sorts of advantages; flexible hours, a built-in social life, reasonable money (when you count in tips, and I worked my arse off for those), fantastic colleagues, creativity, opportunities to better your confidence, your organisational skills. In the future, I know I will remember only all of the ridiculously funny nights, the lock-ins, the private jokes, the pranks we played on each other. The wonderful memories we made. But, at the time, this is not enough. Working in the bar/restaurant industry is just simply not recognised as a career.

Unprompted, every day customers would ask me what I wanted to do with my life, and every day I would smile through my speech, convincing both them and myself that I am destined for bigger things than pouring pints and layering coffees. (I would like to add, I think I am excellent at both.)

Unbelievable talent...

Unbelievable talent…

In a glaring contrast to my life, some of my oldest and dearest friends are doctors, lawyers, therapists and hotshots in the city. They have excelled in every area that they have turned their hands to, swanning through with ease. And by ease, I don’t for a second mean that it has been easy; they have worked countless, long hours most likely tinged with doubt, stress and worry; but to the outside observer they have made it look like child’s play. I am in constant awe and admiration of their dedication and tenacity. And although they have never, ever made me feel any less of a success than them, it is hard not to compare yourself with their achievements. Which are you more impressed by? “I saved a life” vs “I changed a keg”

A while ago I went on a date with a guy I’d met through some mutual friends. He has been steadily climbing the career ladder since university and now holds a very high position in the company he works for. He was excitedly telling me about furniture that he had just purchased for his new (owned) flat. I listened with interest but could only tell him similar stories that my friends had told me about their flats.  “That’s nice that your friends still think you have something to offer even though you aren’t a working professional”, he said after I finished. I am genuinely sure that he did not mean to sound like such a tosser – he did, after all, invite me to go out with him despite my lack of palace and Phd. Needless to say however, I did suddenly become very busy after our first date and couldn’t possibly find the time for a second. Shame.

I know that I am extremely fortunate to have such supportive friends who do not measure success by level of education or salary. This support extends to my family who have been endlessly encouraging with my various other achievements – such as the aforementioned beautifully layered coffee. Ha ha.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the restaurant, back to ordering dinner and my two-word answer for “What do you want to do as a career?” Genuinely, now, for the first time in the last five years, I haven’t felt the need to spout off all of the potential careers I could go into. I haven’t felt the need to justify working in a bar with “Yeah, but I was manager for several of those years”, I haven’t felt the need to embellish any of the jobs or experiences I’ve had. I’m not sure what’s changed.

Perhaps it’s Burma. Burma seems to be the first country I’ve visited where nobody has asked me what I do, (or, more irritatingly, what my father does), or how much money I make. Nobody cares. The people here are content enough with you smiling at them. The only time of the day that has been important to me for the last few weeks (apart from breakfast time, of course – but that goes without saying), is what time the sun sets. (I’m gaining quite the collection of sunset pictures) There is that lovely sense of everything being okay and that things will just work themselves out.

As I write this, I am sat in a little coffee shop; it is the only café in the whole of the town that does real espresso. The reason? The owner is an incredibly serene Australian woman, possibly in her late sixties who’s been all over the world, and decided to set up shop a year ago. She’s lived here for 14 years, but decided it would be nice to open a café. So she did. Talking to her made it all seem very simple – I told her I wanted move to Australia after South East Asia and she replied with genuine delight “Ooh! Marvellous!” I told her that New Zealand was on the cards too. “Yes, marvellous there, too!” Of course, five minutes after our conversation, the words “Open a coffee shop in Burma” was quickly added to my (never-ending) bucket list. Because hey, why not? It’s a marvellous idea.

I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know where I want to be. I don’t know if this feeling of happy contentment will lift the second my feet touch western soil. All I know is that I need to finish this coffee soon – the sun is about to set.

Have you felt this way? Do you know what you want to do with your life? Any tips for me? Leave me a comment and maybe I’ll even buy you a coffee.

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25 Responses to The C Word.

  1. Givemeyourlindor March 9, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    I can see you being a teacher actually! Lucy, alot of people never get the experiences you do, life is for living, not purchasing a piece of land so you can die there.

    Great use of the shame put down too.

    • lucysmilesaway March 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

      I’m so honoured you read my blog! Loved all the clues too. You wonderful thing.
      Thank you so much. As a fully-fledged know-it-all, I’m legally bound to take your advice – no land will be purchased this year! As for being a teacher, do you promise to come in on “Bring your friend to work day?” xx

  2. Sarah Kennedy March 9, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Oh Lucy!!!! Reading this has made me feel so much better…I have just returned from 14 months away and many people I know and love are baffled when I relay how I have NO idea where and what I want to do – no idea but the fact I WANT TO TRAVEL! “Travel????” the look of confusion on their faces “but…’ve just been travelling????!” True. But it is a a big fat wide world and I am hoping to visit a lot of it! So yes I know what I am doing until April…and possibly even till September. But that’s it. No plans just regularly checking flights to the next destination! All I can offer as peace of mind is for every moment of doubt we have (about lack of the C.Word)…we have about a million of the WOW moments! Love your writing please keep it up (whilst I save crazy here at home to buy my next flight) xxxxx

    • lucysmilesaway March 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to read this and to know that there are other people who feel this way!
      I have been so fascinated by your journey (I promise I’m not stalking you!), and it looks like you have had the most amazing WOW moments. But of course, I would expect that from someone as fearless and open as you.
      Lots of luck on all the saving – can’t wait to read the facebook status on your next flight. Perhaps our paths will cross at some point! Lots of love xxx

  3. Gemma March 9, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

    All I got from that is that your coming to Australia!!!!! Come to australia!!!!! :) in all seriousness get someone to publish your amazingly entertaining blog and keep traveling.

    • lucysmilesaway March 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Thanks Gem!
      And yes!! I am coming to Australia! I think maybe around May-June time. My plan is Melbourne! And I believe that may just be your neck of the woods…? :)
      By the way, I STILL have the medical kit you gifted me, complete with instructions for all of the pills! You’re my life saver! xxx

  4. Glenn Bravy March 10, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    Hey Lucy,

    Good on you for still traveling! It was a pleasure to host you guys in Austin. Plan to catch up sometime if our paths ever cross again in the US (living in Kirkland, WA now) or abroad.

    Tally ho!

    • lucysmilesaway March 10, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      Howdy Glenn! The reason that I like Texas is pretty much solely down to you and spending what, about six hours in the swimming pool? Hahahaha! That would be fantastic to meet up again, I am already having withdrawal symptoms for the USA. I’m sure it wont be too long until I’m back Stateside, be awesome to catch up!

  5. Mum March 10, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Great blog – as always. I need to condense this down to a sentence or two as I am also continuingly being asked – “What does she want to do?” and have to pause before falling into some kind of failed mother nonsense thinking because my daughter does not yet have a mortage! Ha – we are so proud of you! x

    • lucysmilesaway March 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

      Ahah! This is the perfect advertising for me. Anytime anyone asks what I want to do, you can hand them a link to my blog. Bingo! With all of the people you know, I’ll have a readership the size of China soon.

      Don’t you eeeeeevvvver put the words ‘failed’ with the word mother. Please instead pick from the following : ‘best ever’, ‘inspirational;. ‘supportive beyond belief’, ‘infinite patience’, ‘warthog mosaicist’ (Is mosaicist a word? It should be). Anyway, love you and promise to make you proud, even without the mortgage! xxx

      • martinjones183 March 10, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

        Hi Lucy. (Your mother) Sally follows my blog too – and is a generous comment maker. I enjoyed your latest and your style. I reached the age of fifty and decided that I should have adventures: now on my second three-month assignment in the South African HIV programme – it’s never too late for anything that you want to do. But I didn’t want to look back at 75 and wish that I had…

        • lucysmilesaway April 30, 2014 at 11:28 am #

          Hey Martin,
          Thank you so much for the comment. I’ve just been working my way through your blogs and they are fantastic – what an interesting read.
          If I can do half of the interesting things your blog details when I’m 75, I’ll be happy!

  6. Paul Hawkins March 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    I was going to answer your questions, then there was so many comments to read that by the time I got to the comment box I’d forgotten them. That’s where I am now, staring at a white box like an old man who doesn’t know what he came in the room for.

    So, yes. Banana phone.

  7. Joella J March 12, 2014 at 4:18 am #

    Lucy, careers are over rated I think! Most people I know (including myself) don’t want to stay in their current jobs for the next 45 years anyway. Also, even though I currently have what is deemed to be a career, ( luckily it’s one that allows me to live and travel abroad) I still get asked questions like ‘when am I coming home?’ ‘When am I going to settle in one place?’ Etc! At least my closest friends and family have got used to my wanderlust by now. They’re never surprised when I announce I’m moving abroad again ha! The woman with the coffee shop in Burma sounds so cool. I want to be her when I grow up! Hope you continue to enjoy the rest of your time in Burma, I loved it so much.

    • lucysmilesaway April 30, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Joella! I’m so sorry, I didn’t even see this comment until now. I really need to up my wordpress abilities!
      Isn’t it funny how people’s lives look to different people? I read your blog and I am filled with awe and inspiration by every post – it seems like you really have such a perfect work-life-travel balance and I really enjoy reading your adventures. But, I suppose I can also imagine how it might feel for your friends and family at home who I am sure… just want you to come home!

  8. Michelle March 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    I just found your blog, and I really love this post!! :) I been abroad ever since I graduated too (well now I’m in grad school but doing it abroad! haha), and sometimes feel like lots of my friends are climbing the corporate ladder and it can sometimes feel like I’m falling behind. I know exactly what my career ambitions are though…but one of the most important things I want after I graduate is to move back to Australia. Backpacked and lived there a few years back, and still in love with that country!

    • lucysmilesaway April 30, 2014 at 11:31 am #

      Thank you so much Michelle – and thank you for heightening my excitement for Australia once again!
      That’s wonderful to hear that you know your career ambitions – I think that’s half of the problem solved and also something wonderful to look forward to.
      Really glad you enjoyed the post! xx

  9. Rebecca Carey March 23, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    Luce- you give so much to everyone who you come in contact with (and people you haven’t ever met judging by your blogs) just by being you. You don’t need some hotshot status to do good- you’re an incredibly kind, generous, selfless and warm-hearted person which brightens people’s day in everything you choose to do- including working behind a bar!!! At the same time, I know all too well how you feel, it’s a worry that has plagued me at home and on my travels. I’m sooo happy that Burma has made you feel that not knowing what’s next isn’t a bad thing at all…

    • lucysmilesaway April 30, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      Beautiful Becksy,
      Thank you so, so much for this comment. I cannot tell you how lovely it is to read and especially from someone who I admire and respect so much. It’s quite made my day.
      I think perhaps we should just admit that we don’t really want ‘real’ jobs and travel together! We could create our own dream jobs abroad! xx

  10. Katie Connell May 1, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    Lucy, I am so glad that someone else feels this way! Turning the wrong side of 25 this year whilst still having no clue what I’m going to do that’s ‘meaningful’ is a frightening prospect, not least because the years seem to be flying past. Thinking back the past two and a half years though, I actually wouldn’t change a minute of it, and I like to hope that the important things will wait.
    Anyway, what I actually meant to say was that I’m currently living in Melbourne – give me a shout if you do end up heading this way, cos we’ve definitely got a sofa if you need it! x

    • Lucy from Lucy's Miles Away May 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      Katie! So, so lovely to hear from you and very reassuring to hear that you’ve felt the same way! But it’s interesting – I look at your facebook every now and again and I always think to myself “Wow, she’s really got life figured out, she’s working, travelling, she’s living the dream!”. It’s interesting when you get someone else’s perspective on how your own life actually is.
      That would be amazing to come and inhabit your sofa! I know I have a vague plan which is “Go to Melbourne. Find work. Be happy” but absolutely no idea how to go around it. If it’s okay, I will most likely be messaging you with a helpless cry of “HOW DO I OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT?!” or something similar.

      ANYWAY, hope you’re having a wonderful time and so lovely to hear from you!

  11. Alexandra November 26, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    I have to consciously tell myself not to think about that dirty word almost everyday on my year off. Bad vibes, yo.


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