Middleagedmum.com: Mild Angst About What I Should Have Done…

Strand House, Rye

Not buying (or distracting myself so much with) clothes for a year is having a strange affect on my thinking. As I do less clothes shopping and more of the other things I enjoy, I find myself thinking about what might have been if I had taken a different career path through life. Although I absolutely love what I do, my grown up brain seems drawn to this train of thought. it’s not about changing careers, it’s more a mild angst or nostalgic yearning for all the things I might have done if I’d have done something different. Is it just me?

It all started on a recent trip to Rye and a visit to my favourite antique shop, Strand House. As I pottered around Keith and Michele’s lovely store fighting back the urge to buy everything, I thought to myself ‘I could have done this’. Buying and selling old furniture and decoratives would have been right up my street, I spend far too much time as it is at Sunbury Park Antiques Fair and I could probably start a small shop with all the stuff in our garage. Perhaps I should have taken my teenage love of rummaging around Bath Saturday junk market a bit more seriously, I might have ended up as an expert in ‘totally useless but very pretty’ things on The Antiques Roadshow.

Stitch & Play at Selfridges

Then last week, my friend Julia arranged for us to go to the excellent A Home For All workshop at Selfridges, which was celebrating London Craft Week (more on this in a later post this week). We attended a thoroughly absorbing stitch and play workshop with Aimee Betts, a mixed media embroidery designer and Tom Of Holland, a self taught textiles practitioner based in Brighton. These two delightful artisans make a living out of sewing. As I tried to perfect my feather stitch under Tom’s gaze I thought “I could have done this”. When I was at school I shone at needlework (yes, I know this hardly sounds cool and there were only 20 odd girls in my year, but lets stay upbeat here). I was even given a scholarship for materials because I raced through sewing projects so quickly I was in danger of bankrupting my parents due to all the fabric I needed. But no one I knew made sewing a career (I was very definitely not a designer, just a maker) and I thought that there probably wouldn’t be many boys involved if I did (an important consideration when you are 16). What might have been if I’d stuck with my needle?

We have talked many times on TWR about what our fantasy shop (me) and clothes range (Jane) would looked like if we were to ever find someone with the odd million to spare. I increasingly find myself going into clothes shops now and having an cross internal dialogue with myself about how it’s ALL WRONG and what I’d do if I ran the place… Should I have run a store? Somewhere small and stylish like Yvonne Damant in Richmond, or maybe Egg, a shop I could happily live in. That way I could solve the (still ongoing) shortage of modern clothes for grown up women by buying in good ones.

Strand House, Rye

It’s not just me reaching this point in life where there’s ‘what if’ angst going on. In a recent interview (can’t for the life of me remember where it was) the ultra successful restauranter Jeremy King (The Woolsey, The Ivy, The Beaumont), mused about how he would have liked to have been a barrister. Last week Middleagedad was even interviewed by Renegade Generation, a company that helps mid lifers actually act on these musing. I don’t want to change my career at all, I am almost deliriously happy with my life and what I do, but as I look back, I can’t help thinking about what life doing something else might have been like.

Am I on my own here or do any of you have ‘what I should have done’ thoughts? What would you like to have done, given your time again? Perhaps it’s just me, maybe this is what happens when you stop shopping for clothes!


  • Jan says:

    You’re not alone.

  • Turn it round: not what should I have done but what can I do. After years of proper careers I had my first novel published last year (by a publisher) and now have an agent and a whole new direction at 55 with all kind of mad doors opening. Grab your moment to be you.

  • Amanda says:

    Glad to hear Jan, and wow Catherine, inspiration indeed, have just looked up your book, sounds fantastic and well done! I’m doing the thing I love, I just think I’ve got one of those brains that’s always looking around it thinking ‘that looks fun’…A

  • Sue Evans says:

    Well it’s never too late Amanda Carr ! Why NOT open a shop ? Selling antiques / collectables ( I could help you there, it would give me an excuse to really delve into those brocantes !), stitchwork, perfume, even one-off clothing pieces ( I could help there too, everyone wants one of my loopy homemade frocks), everything and anything you love really. I always remember when I first met you, you said your ambition was a daily column, well you’ve achieved that so maybe it’s time to move onto the next one alongside the Blog ! COme on — life is far too short for “what ifs” ………….

  • Nicola says:

    Well I’ve been a dancer, a casting director, a garden designer, a lecturer and I’m now back at college studying ceramics. I sometimes think that perhaps I should have stuck to one thing, but then I wonder about teaching yoga or maybe art therapy. I could see myself running a shop full of lovely things. I suppose I’m too old to train to be a trapeze artist? ……. So many interesting careers, so little time!

  • Sarah says:

    You’re not alone, but I think I have one of those brains too. Plus, I always talk myself out of anything unless it’s ‘practical’ – but that means I have a lot of fun with my hobbies that never became onerous because I can work as hard (or not) as I want at them.

  • Amanda says:

    Sue Evans you are a temptress, just stop it now. A shop with brocante personally picked by you shipped in weekly sounds TOO MUCH LIKE FUN! And I am aware your dresses are very highly desired. Nicola, are we related? I sound like you and Sarah, I will almost definitely end up keeping my ‘what ifs’ as hobbies! Ax

  • Sue Evans says:

    What if Middleageddad had never thrown in the towel at Deloittes ? He’d have missed so many opportunities to make his mark in a more creative way — how marvellously has that turned out ?! We NEED you to stop dreaming and open that shop ! x

  • Malika says:

    Oh god, don’t get me started! I’m off to my school reunion next weekend and dreading being asked what I do! So many trades, master of none…. Argh…. Is this a female thing, I wonder?

  • MaureenC says:

    No, you’re definitely not alone! But and it’s a big one, you do have to be realistic about whether you are prepared to accept the shit bits that go with any of those other lives. The years of being utterly broke as a creative or the restriction of working in the same place day in day out running a shop – no matter how lovely it’s still four walls! For me three years ago having decided to return to acting (after thirty years) that meant accepting the instability and constant rejection that goes alongside the fun and ecstatic highs. Worth it, yes definitely but it’s quite a roller coaster.

  • Amanda says:

    Maureen, how very true, wise words from you and best of luck in your return to acting, Malika, could be a girl thing, but suspect not. Sue, if only you knew how tempted I was….x

  • Joan says:

    I stopped shopping too — and instead taught myself chemistry and spent 1,000+ hours studying a multibillion dollar a year drug with a fraudulent patent. And now I’m going to take them to court!

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