Why I still regret not having had that conversation

I’ve discovered that one of the things that happens when I’m in the process of learning something new is that it also brings back memories.

This one is about the time when I was literally caught in a bitter conflict with my parents.

I was 32 years old and had been married 11 years. You’d think by then I’d be my own woman, confidently making my own choices and being clear about how I wanted to live my life.  But, as we all know, life is never that simple.

I left school when I was 14 (the equivalent of 16 in England).  That’s when my Dad decided I was going to be a secretary.  His reasoning was that I had a talent for languages.  I was already fluent in Spanish and German and, in those days, in Argentina, that would make me highly desirable in the job market.

Since I had no alternative idea about what I wanted to do I went along and became a secretary, a job I was just about OK at.  What I liked the most was making friends with my work colleagues.  I did that work for 18 years.

Then life changed. Circumstances forced me to leave everything I knew behind – my secretarial job and the friends I made at work, moving to Gloucester to follow my husband Jim who had applied for another job.

As it happened, the secretarial job market in Gloucester was flat and I couldn’t find another job so I signed up at the Jobcentre.

After several weeks unemployed, things took an unexpected turn.

A flyer came through the letterbox.  It was from the Jobcentre suggesting that, if I couldn’t find a job, why not retrain?

They offered 3 options:

  1. Secretarial
  2. IT
  3. Personnel Management

I chose Personnel Management.

When I went for an interview at Bristol Polytechnic, the man who spoke with me, Ron Webster, explained that this was a post-graduate programme – far too big an educational leap for someone who’d left school at 14.

He went on to suggest I get myself some O and A level qualifications first and, if I succeeded, I would be accepted on the programme.  I did and I was.

You can tell, can’t you, that I was pretty determined.

However, my parents were dead against my decision.

My Dad argued, not without merit, that I had 18 years experience as a secretary while, by the time I finished my studies, I would be 35 and a total beginner.

There’s one important thing I neglected to say:

My parents were in Argentina while I lived in England.

In those days there were no satellite or internet service so we relied on ‘snail mail’.  Letters took 7 days each way.

My parents’ letters, especially my Dad’s, made it clear I was being foolish, making the wrong choice, throwing away all those years’ experience and made it clear that becoming a beginner at the age of 35 was total folly.

And he was absolutely firm in his conviction that he knew best how I should live my life.

Sadly, I just didn’t know how to explain why this mattered to me so much and why secretarial work was no longer enough for me.

The pressure was intense.

The only way I felt I could cope was to pretend that some of their letters got lost.  Of course, they knew I was lying and I knew they knew.

But I have good news and bad:

The good news was that I didn’t give up on my dream.

The bad news was that I didn’t know how to explain to my parents how important this choice was to me and why secretarial work was no longer enough.

To them, the idea of choosing fulfilment over financial security was totally alien and we were totally unable to see each other’s point of view.

But what was worse was that I was unable to share with them how hurt I felt at their unwillingness to listen to me and their insistence that they were right and I was wrong.

Withdrawal and pretence were the only way I knew how to cope.

Even today my deepest regret is that I didn’t have the courage to have that conversation.

Instead, I just went ahead with my decision.

The cost was high.  I felt helpless in my relationship with my parents, undermined and resentful at their assumptions.

We did heal the rift eventually but I still feel sad that I was unable to express my needs and there’s still a glimmer of pain that they didn’t try to hear and understand me.  Plus I still feel a bit guilty for having believed that lying was the only way to protect myself from their relentless pressure.

Why am I sharing this story with you?

Hiding from saying what needs to be said drives a wedge between us and the people we love and no matter how much we pretend it doesn’t matter because they know we love them – deep inside we know it’s not true.

So have these two questions for you:

  1. Who do you need to have ‘that’ conversation with?
  2. What’s stopping you?

With love and gratitude,



P.S.  If you’d like to explore how I can support you, please contact me on sue@sueplumtree.com or text me on my mobile – 07903 795027 for a free, no obligation Obstacle Smashing Exploratory Session.

You will walk away with at least 3 options to get you started on a happier path – whether or not you choose to work with me.

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