What about your saucepans
Ten years in the life of a British woman
living in the Dominican Republic

In search of a dream

This is a preview to the chapter In search of a dream from the book What about your saucepans by Lindsay de Feliz.
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I blame Cosmopolitan magazine for the decision that kicked-started the major changes in my life. In fact, I think Cosmo has a lot to answer for in respect to decisions women have made throughout the years. For my part, I was living in Ormskirk, Lancashire, had been working for a major insurance company in Liverpool for nine or ten years, had my own house, a sports car and earned a reasonable salary. I was thirty years old, single, fun loving, a hardworking career woman, but had a nagging feeling something was missing in my life.

I was sitting at the dining room table one Sunday morning, spring sunshine streaming in through the patio doors, highlighting the patches of dust I had missed on the sideboard. Hot coffee steamed in my favourite blue mug, and smoke curled from a Benson and Hedges, as I flicked through the pages of Cosmo. Suddenly something caught my eye. A competition with the opportunity to study for an MBA as the prize. ‘Write and submit 500 words as to why you deserve the chance to study for an MBA’. This was 1985. Very few people had an MBA, and even fewer women. This is your chance, I thought to myself, you know you’re bright, and if you had an MBA you could get a better job, have a more exciting life, maybe work overseas and you’d have more money. I had tremendous faith in my own abilities. My plans for the day changed and I spent hours writing my essay, folded it neatly into an envelope and ran down to the post box to mail it in time for the deadline.

Every day I waited anxiously for the postman. Eventually the letter came, but sadly I had not won the competition. Undeterred, I wondered,Why don’t I do it anyway? I could sell the house and use the equity to study for an MBA. Think what fun it would be to be a student again. So that’s what I did.
It wasn’t the first time I had let my heart rule my head.

My mother went back to work as a teacher when I was four and as there was no one to look after me, and I could already read, I started school, having no problems keeping up with my older classmates. I clearly remember one incident at school – the first time I acted in haste without thinking through the consequences. This pattern was to repeat itself time and again, resulting in the major turning points in my life.

My teacher asked her young assistant to take the class outside onto the playing field and read us a story. It was a warm, sunny summer’s day and we were relieved to be out of the gloomy classroom. There were twenty five-year-olds and me. We sat in a haphazard circle on the soft grass and the assistant began to read. I had heard the story before and without thinking piped up imperiously, “I know that one. I don’t want to hear it again. Read me something else.”

She was taken aback but hid her surprise, reached for another book and started to read a different story. I folded my arms in disgust at her choice, banged my hands down on my grubby, grass stained knees in annoyance. “I know that one too. Read something new,” I demanded, tossing my dark hair out of my eyes.

“Right, I've had enough of you, young lady,” she exclaimed. She stood up awkwardly, brushed the bits of dried grass from her crumpled skirt before grabbing my arm tightly and, striding purposefully, marched me back to the classroom.

“You can’t do this,” I screamed, trying to pull away from her. “My mummy is a teacher here. She’ll be cross with you, then you’ll be in really big trouble!”

We arrived in the hot, airless classroom and she turned, lifted me up under both arms and sat me down on one of the little wooden chairs.

“Now, you sit right there and be quiet until I have read the good children a story,” she ordered, her face flushed with heat and suppressed anger at being told what to do by a four-year-old. “And don’t you dare move until I get back!”

I waited until she left and, determined to teach her a lesson, crept over to the cupboard where the drawing materials were kept. It was a small wooden cupboard, about three feet high, with two doors. By moving the wax crayons on top of the paper I could squeeze onto the bottom shelf, and there I waited, all scrunched up. I smiled to myself as I thought of the trouble she would be in when the class came back from story time and I wasn't there.

Story time ended and the children trooped back into the classroom and of course I was nowhere to be seen. Panic ensued, my mother had to leave her class and everyone was looking for me. I remember hearing the student teacher sobbing.

Ha! I thought, that will teach you. It struck me perhaps there would not be universal joy when I clambered out of my cupboard. There were two potential outcomes. One was unbounded relief I had not been kidnapped by pirates or the circus. The second was unbridled fury I had caused such concern and upset. What had seemed a good idea at the time was not feeling like that now, and as there was no way I could stay in the cupboard indefinitely, I had to make an appearance. And I was right, I was in trouble and there was no universal joy at the discovery I was still alive. Unfortunately I did not learn from this, and it was exactly the same when I read Cosmopolitan magazine. It seemed like a good idea at the time to give up everything I had worked for for ten years, and start all over again.

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