Decisions, decisions

I've never been good at making decisions. I prefer to offer them up to the highest bidder - usually my sister, who holds the family monopoly on unexpurgated opinions. I call her now and again when I'm in need of advice and an inventory of my worst personality traits. I recently sought her opinion on an advertisement I saw in TES.

"Shall I apply for this job?" I asked, hoping for an encouraging reply. Too late, I realised my mistake. She snorted contemptuously. "Why would you do that?" she demanded, before reminding me how tired I am, how depressed I've been and what a mess I've made of my life. Enlightened, I threw away the job description and went back to watching The Apprentice and wishing I was more like her.

Recently, my decision-making has taken a turn for the worse. At school, I've even taken to marking in pencil because I lack the conviction to grade my students' work in ink. Underneath my tentative A*s lies a smudged history of Bs, B+s and As. I'm envious of my younger colleagues, who grade their essays unequivocally. Their red gel pens score grades like diamonds cutting through glass, whereas my HB pencil traces conjecture, leaving whispers of doubt in its wake.

It's not just marking that I find difficult. Nowadays, every choice is problematic, and so I increasingly put myself in situations where fate calls the shots. I'm like the Dice Man, except it's not the spots that dictate my choices but the discount leaflets, two-for-ones and special offers that are sent my way. Even my weekly food shop is governed by external forces. Whatever is on special offer ends up on our plates.

In part, my indecisiveness is down to motherhood. As a mother, you get used to mortgaging your decisions on the rest of your family's desires. You spend your summer near Alton Towers theme park when your heart cries out for Prague; you end up cooking curly fries when you would rather eat Brussels sprouts.

Being a people-pleaser is fine but when you run out of people to please, you have to stand up on your own. For me, that day has come. My youngest goes off to university in September and my husband is working away. The idea of making decisions based solely on what I want is terrifying. Now I can call the tune myself, I've forgotten how to sing.

My husband has been encouraging me to grasp this approaching independence. He tells me the world is my oyster and lists all the wonderful things I can do. "Why not teach abroad?" he says. "I can hold things together here." In other words, while the cat's away, the mice can turn the garage into a recording studio and play their vintage guitars.

Being given your independence back at my age is like being handed the six- inch platform heels you wanted when you were 15. You might have tottered down the street in them then, but now you're likely to twist your ankle and end up in hospital.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a teacher in the North of England.


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