Marlon Brando



Admitting to a concern about status is a bit like admitting that one is a Tory, or voted Leave, I expect. (I’m guessing!!)

Of course most of me pooh-poohs it. ‘I don’t care for outward trappings! For what other people think! For respectability!’ Most of me. But not, I am afraid, all of me.

My acute awareness during this process has highlighted some home truths. I’ve been very carefully trying to notice things, and what I notice as I spend my time trawling through LinkedIn looking for someone I might know, is that I don’t want people to think ‘Hah! She couldn’t cut it in the corporate world’.  Why?!  (And anyway, it’s true!)

My X was always very scathing about people who ‘couldn’t hack it’. Which is extremely ironic, now I come to think of it. Full of phrases like ‘them that can, do; them that can’t, teach’. He was sniffy about former colleagues who had turned to freelancing. Or hot-desking. (Of course, he did use such people quite a lot, when he couldn’t afford staff, which was more often than not.)

Anyway, who cares about him? Not me! And who cares about others who may or may not think like him?

(Er – I do?)

What a stupid thing to think. What’s so great about the corporate world that I should feel ashamed that I am not a captain of industry, or running Goldman Sachs? I don’t want to be those things anyway. I would hate it. But there is something about achievement. If what I cared about most of all was saving the Welsh language (that was the example my philosophy tutor at Oxford always used) and I devoted my life to that, maybe I would feel better, and less like a failure. But I don’t care particularly about the Welsh language or the plight of the elephants or even (enough) about the things I really DO care about, like abolishing religion, improving education, or even less worthy aims like – I don’t know –  interior design.

Or maybe it’s also partly to do with fear of failure.

In the course we were introduced to the notion of lenses. Lenses that distort how we see things, and that have been maybe placed on our noses by well-meaning parents, teachers or even ‘society’.

Fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, trying too hard. That’s a big one for me. Effortless success seems to have been the thing to aim for. Not taking oneself too seriously. That’s odd. It strikes me now as a very British thing (the cult of the amateur) when you consider that my parents are foreigners.  Maybe being so fat fits in here somewhere as well. If I’m not going to be the Governor of the Bank of England I may as well hide at home. And if I’m not going to look like Kate Moss, I may as well stuff my face. If I’m not going to ‘win’ I may as well throw my toys out of the pram.  How stupid. But there seems to be something in it. Part of me, stubbornly, childishly, does nothing, and yet has a whiny little echo saying ‘I shoulda been a contender.’*


*  One of my colleagues on the course has pointed out that it can be a useful exercise to replace the word ‘should’ (when it crops up to admonish us) with ‘could’.  I have transposed them here, so please don’t write in to correct the quote!


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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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