This Way, That Way, Over There. Finding Your Way In The World

I first shared a similar post to this on my wedding blog,  A Very Curious Wedding. I thought it might nestle nicely in with some of the other self development posts on this site, so I’m publishing an updated version of it here – I’m nice like that 🙂

There have been many periods during my mature years when I have found myself forensically dissecting my childhood. Maybe it’s because I have finally reached a time in my life when I know who I am and what I’m capable of, and I’m kind of fascinated by the shy little creature that used to be ‘me’.

When I start down the reminiscent route, I inevitably think about my time in education. My school days were some of the most frightening, puzzling, annoying and downright soul destroying times of my life. It’s hard to fit into society’s idea of academic excellence when your heart yearns to create. It’s even harder finding your way in the world when your mind keeps daydreaming.

Paper globes representing finding your way in the world.

I can remember very clearly sitting in a classroom, cross-legged on the floor as my teacher went from pupil to pupil asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

As my turn grew ever closer, my stomach began to tie itself in knots. Not only did I hate having to speak aloud in class, I had absolutely no idea what to say. I sat there in terrified silence as enthusiastic seven year olds shared their plans with ‘Miss’. The air was filled with shouts of, “hairdresser”, “ballerina”, “train driver”, etc.

Looking back on that day, apart from re-living the excruciating embarrassment of actually saying the first thing that came into my head when the teacher’s expectant gaze fell on me – “car painter” ( I’d been helping my dad to respray his car the day before and had rather enjoyed the experience), I always feel bloody annoyed.

You see I don’t believe in pigeonholing people, and to expect children to have their future mapped out at a young age seems monumentally unfair. I’m a big believer in personal development, sometimes it can take years to find out who you really are.

Not that there’s anything wrong with ambition and having a burning desire to enter a certain profession from a young age. Far from it; I’m always quite envious of anyone who always knew what they wanted to be. Life must be so much easier when your path is clearly marked. But a lot of us will always get just a little bit lost in the woods.

Just as my daughter did

My daughter, Rachel, used to get really stressed when she was younger. Like her mum, she struggled to forge a path. The pressure from society, school, peers, etc to choose a career was huge.

When she eventually went into meltdown and came to me in tears, I said to her, “If I told you to you go and buy a pair of shoes, they are the only shoes you will ever be able to wear, you can’t try them on before you buy them and if they don’t fit you, tough luck. How would you feel?”

“I’d say that was unfair, you have to try shoes on to see if they are comfortable,” was her answer.

“Think of a career in the same way,” I said. “You may have to try on a few to find the one you really love and that’s okay.”

And try she did. She enthusiastically threw herself in to a number of roles, before finding her own place in the world. It’s called A Taste Of Wonderland and she creates the most amazingly intricate and artistic cakes. She is also a young ambassador for the Prince’s Trust (#proudmum).

One of Rachel's creations

One of Rachel’s creations

For all you kindred souls out there who are wandering through the woods trying to find your way in the world and wondering which direction to take, here’s a bit of advice – it’s okay to take a few twists and turns. It may take you longer to find your way to Wonderland, but when you arrive you’ll be certain that you’ve found the right place, and you may even learn a lot from your journey.

Oh, and in case your wondering. If I had been forced to choose – my shoes would be black, shiny and have killer heels!




  1. June 23, 2016 / 10:52 am

    I’ve had to gather myself before making this comment Michelle. My eyes burned hot with stinging tears.
    Yesterday I kept my 3 kids home from school so we could go see a movie together. Sounds pretty much like bad parenting 101 doesn’t it? Well before anyone gets on their high horse allow me to explain. My son has been in floods of tears every morning since school went back from half term. He has nightmares & anxiety about going to school, doing homework & actually sitting in the classroom.
    He sounds a lot like you were, although I wouldn’t describe him as shy, more like introverted. He is only 9 & really not at all academic, in fact he is well below age related expectation. That’s a technical term apparently (insert eyeroll here). Coming to the end of another year of working as hard as he can, he just cracks.
    Instead of continuing to watch him fracture I decided we should all be naughty & have a fun day together. So he & I with his sisters went to the movies.
    After reading your post, I am convinced I did, not only the right thing, but also the best thing for my child. It hasn’t cured anything of course but it has given him some breathing space to gather himself. And you can rest assured I will keep doing whatever I have to so he doesn’t always feel overwhelmed.
    Thank you xxx
    p.s. He actually went into school willingly & with a smile on his face today.

    • June 26, 2016 / 11:29 am

      I’ve always thought that being a ‘good’ parent isn’t always about doing what we ‘should’ do. In other words, our children should come first and sometimes that means breaking the parenting rules.

      I’m a firm believer that our school system is an absolute load of utter sh*t (another technical term for you, ha). Our education system revolves around spewing out cogs for a machine that doesn’t even exist any more. The world needs creativity and imagination – the very attributes that are quashed by the overzealous, archaic belief that the passing of exams is the only way to prove and earn your place in society.

      If keeping your son out of school for one day meant that you actually made a difference to his wellbeing and own self worth then bravo to you for doing it!

      Life isn’t ‘one size fits all’ – your son is a square peg (just like millions of others, myself included) your refusal to force him to fit into a round hole should be applauded. He WILL find his way, and with parents like you and your husband guiding him and not forcing him down the expected path, he’ll get there sooner.

      Much love to you
      Michelle xxx

  2. June 23, 2016 / 2:18 pm

    Firstly, your blog is beautifully designed, it looks amazing. Secondly, your daughters cakes look amazing what a talent! Im sure your support allowed her the opportunity to explore something like that , rather than going down a perhaps more traditional route. As for careers and expectations, I’m 37 and still have no idea what I want to do! #brilliantblogposts

    • June 26, 2016 / 11:33 am

      I’m so glad you like the look of my blog. Sometimes when you are so close to a project and do everything yourself, it’s easy to get a bit ‘blind’ as to whether it looks good or not.

      I’m 51 and only just found out what I really love doing in life. At 48 I was still trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up 🙂

      Michelle xx

  3. June 25, 2016 / 9:29 am

    This is such great parenting advice. I love the shoe analogy (not just because I adore shoes!) but because it is SUCH an appropriate one. I’m going to remember that for future conversations with my little one. I’m really curious to see how he unfolds, and I hope to be as supportive, loving, and understanding as you are. xx

    PS: I think you should do a whole post on creativity featuring Rachel’s cakes sometime! The Alice in Wonderland one was incredible!

    • June 26, 2016 / 11:38 am

      That’s actually a great idea Lisa! I think quite a lot of readers would be interested to see more of Rachel’s cakes. I know I’m biased but she is one very talented young lady.

      Michelle xx

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