I had a disheartening realisation the other day that didn’t shock me as much as it should have.
I have no interests.
I have no hobbies, no past times and nothing that burns inside me like a fire to keep life interesting. No books to read; instruments to play or team sports to get stressed over on the weekend. I like ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ as much as the next person but nothing that stands out.
I’m not an expert on anything. I can never honestly join in on restaurant/music/shoe talk without knowing that deep down I’m a fraud and sooner or later someone will discover the awful truth and banish me from the room. Let’s face it – no one is ever going to say ‘Oh, ask Sally. She’s an expert at finding bolognese sauce on special’.
I feel like I look more interesting than I actually am. I think people look at me and think that I like music and films and coffee and I could talk about them on command. ‘Oh hey, that Colombian blend is what you want. Drink it while you watch a foreign film. I can help you pick both. I look like an expert at that’.
I actually know this to be true. A guy in a lift once said to me that I looked like the kind of person who sees a lot of live music. If by ‘live music’ he meant Tina Turner, Carole King and Dolly Parton then yes, I guess I do see a lot of live music.
He didn’t mean that though. His son was playing in a band at The Zoo that night and he thought I looked like the kind of person who’d go along. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be asleep on the couch by 8pm with the tv remote wedged into my hand and my dinner down my shirt. So I lied and said it sounded like fun and I’d try to go along.
When I was younger, I had a lot of interests. Film stars. Bands. I was even a member of the Milli Vanilli fan club. I liked ghost stories and travel and reading crime novels. I saw two to three films a week and discussed them endlessly with my friends.
My life changed when I was 13 and I saw ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ for the first time. I was hooked. So much so that I borrowed Dian Fossey’s book from the library and studied it. I scoured encyclopaedias and magazines for any information I could find on gorillas.
After I’d devoured them, I’d copy everything down in a notebook. It seemed more professional that way.
I’d then read this notebook to anyone who’d listen. I’d study it at night, knowing that one day I’d need this information when I went to live in Rwanda with the gorillas. I knew it was exactly what I’d need to stop the poaching and save the gorillas. My plan was to start where Dian had left off. Complete her life’s work. BECOME DIAN FOSSEY.
If I’m being totally honest, it was actually a dream of mine for someone to come to the house and state arrogantly that ‘there is no difference between a lowland gorilla and a mountain gorilla’. I imagined this scenario more times than I’m comfortable admitting. I could see the scene unfolding before my eyes. They’d make the statement. I’d reach for the notebook. I’d tell them they were wrong! Dazzle them with all my gorilla facts. Then I’d yell in triumph ‘But there is! Don’t you see??? There is a difference between a lowland gorilla and a mountain gorilla AND I’VE JUST PROVED IT!’. What a nerd.
Needless to say, no one ever came over and argued that point with me. Nobody really engaged me in conversations about gorillas at all in hindsight. I think my passion oozed out of me like an illness and people just sensed danger and avoided me.
But back to having no interests. Being recently single with a two year old, I’ve asked around and it’s not just me. It turns out, there are a lot of people out there who suddenly and without notice, define themselves solely as parents. When your child comes along, you willingily give up everything in pursuit of their happiness. No more reading novels. These will be replaced with books about poo. No more eating in West End. That treat will be replaced with hour long stand-offs at your dinner table regarding pumpkin. That table you bought on Gumtree and restored with so much love you thought it would kill you. The one that is now covered in crayon and dry weetbix that lifts the varnish off when you try and remove it.
My childless friends have interests. I’ve done the research. I know they do. They go for weekends away. They go away for months on a whim because they’re ‘bored’ with Brisbane. They do sport. Coach teams. Play instruments. Have a trivia team. They have cheeky drinks on school nights and don’t care about hangovers.
They invite me to their interesting stuff. They tell me to bring my two year old along. Only I could imagine how that might go. I can’t even get her to wear pants without a tantrum at the moment. Picture her in your fancy restaurant.
So how do you find yourself again? How do you extract yourself from your child without feeling like a terrible parent? Is it ok to do that? Are there unspoken rules now you must simply follow, just because you’re a parent? How do you define yourself as a person and a mum? Is it possible?
I’m pretty sure it is. I guess the actual question is am I ready to extract myself? The world I share with my two year old is full of wonder, fun and a lot of dramatic scenes. And just so you know, books about poo are actually pretty great.