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  • Writer's pictureLaura

My life is a table: Life goals, aspirations and leaving it all behind.

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

My life is a table.

Yes, you read that right. Not a list, format, or structure, but a flat wooden slab with four legs attached.

I’ve become quite attached to this table, so much so that it’s become the very essence of my life. This table’s seen a lot. It’s witnessed moments of laughter, countless awkward Teams calls, and varying productive ones. It’s been a site of eating, watching, editing, researching, and many many tears. It might as well have a name by this point because the majority of my life is spent with this table, my closest confidant.

Yet it’s not because I’m working unnecessarily, I mean I have been, but really, this table represents more than that. The table has become the place where I’ve been trying to become someone else. I’ve spent so much time at the bloody thing that I’ve forgotten how to live. The biggest joke of all is that it doesn’t even belong to me.

I’d been working seven days a week, juggling different facets of life. As soon as the working week finished it would simply be replaced with a different kind of work for the weekend ahead. I had lived like this for years as many of us do, but I began to feel entrapped by the cycle of aspiring to become someone different. I started to dread every weekend rather than looking forward to it as I once had. Things had shifted and changed and I realised that I’d been chasing a dream that had left me in a state of mere existence.

In the process of chasing what I thought I wanted so much, I missed out on so much. I was stressed and rushed away from my nan’s 80th birthday party earlier this year as I needed to get home to complete an assignment. I turned down seeing friends because I had to work on an edit. I didn’t get to see someone I love before it was too late as I was tied down with deadlines. All the while I loyally returned to the table, my habitat for trying to be the person I wanted to be.

Summer ‘22 – Exam season

Even now as I’m sitting here at the table, I’ve realised that I actually detest it as it’s a symbol of want and trying. It’s not a friend or a family member, it’s not an experience. It just represents work and stress. When I became unwell a couple of months ago I took a step back from everything for a while which led me to realise that there has to be more to life than this.

We are told that we should work hard and aim high, but goal-orientated table life doesn’t do that. It just consumes you, and you reach a point where you’ve not seen your loved ones for weeks or sometimes months. Only last week my partner lost one of his closest loved ones quite suddenly. That was the moment when we both realised that things needed to change. None of us are getting any younger and for as long as we are trying to reach the next goal or thing, we neglect to live in the here and now. We miss out on experiencing things and neglect to spend time with the people who matter the most. I did this. I lost myself to a dream that I had been following for years. Once I achieved that dream, I couldn’t settle with it and just wanted more. This burnt me out, leaving me to only see life through one lens. Progression, aspiration, achievement..

I was awarded achievement. It was there tenfold yet I couldn’t just sit with it. When I achieved my undergraduate degree I celebrated, yet promptly enrolled for a masters and was already thinking about a PhD. When I co-authored a paper that became published this year, I was straight onto the next potential opportunity to be seen as a researcher. When my photography transcended from social media posts to be on sale in a shop, I didn’t tell anyone. I knew that these things were all achievements but I couldn’t fully enjoy them. How can we be happy with what we have when we are continuously seeking more?

Be who you are

If you enjoy your table life, that’s one thing, but if you are in a situation like this and you have come to resent it, then it might be time to rethink. Life doesn’t just have to be about big achievements and goals. I’ve known people whose legacy has been about who they were, making people laugh – being one hell of a character.

Does anyone remember those who had a fancy title or a shelf of trophies and certificates? Unless we’re talking of someone in the public eye it’s highly unlikely. There is nothing wrong with having a goal or something to work towards, but when it takes over your life to the extent that you begin to see it as work, drudge, and something that you have to do rather than want to do, then it might be time to step back. Even if just for a little while.

It seems to me I could live my life, a lot better than I think I am.. Rush – Working Man

With or without a table in your life, life itself is hard work. Whether you have a big objective or not, what I have learnt over the last few years is that you are enough without trying to become something different. You may not like what that difference is, or worse still it may not even happen. But what can happen is in the here and now, living for the moment and enjoying a life of being with the people who matter.

Walking away from something that was my dream for so long hasn’t been easy, and at times, really hurts. But I’ve realised that I don’t want to keep yearning for that next goal, next certificate, continuously trying to be something else. One day I may return to the world I was seeking, but with a new attitude, once I’ve healed from the burnout I’ve led myself to over the last ten years.

A lesson from this is that it won’t be about trying to find a new identity, trying to fit in, or continuously pushing myself away from who I really am. Now I know that it’s ok to leave that mindset behind. It’s time to start living.


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