Challenging the Expected Order of Things (EOT)

There’s nothing quite like getting older and another year ending to make you feel more philosophical or possibly more ranty about life, particularly about ‘The Expected Order of Things’ (EOT). It’s my grumpy old lady right, so suck it up buttercups. There’s always chocolate to calm the hell down. Donations gratefully received.

‘The Expected Order of Things’ (EOT)

I’ve come to the conclusion that following the ‘Expected Order of Things’ (EOT) isn’t for me. That’s a big deal for someone who thought they were a traditional, toe-the-line kind of girl *family, best friend and husband’s laughter rings out over England*.

I have never felt like I’m unique or a game-changer, but perhaps, in some ways, I am. Maybe you are too.

Let’s begin by considering this whole EOT business. Who created it anyway? My money is on some dodgy god of bad jokes ilk. He is peeing himself laughing at us from his cave.

For some reason, many of us adopt the overarching expectations of how it should be done in life: birth, school, go to university/get job, boyfriend/girlfriend, build a career/role, fiance/fiancee, husband/wife, baby(ies), retirement, die (other EOTs and variations of this are available).

Woman with coffee. - The Expected Order of Things (EOT)
Setting up the caffeine IV right now

You can’t change the birth and death parts, unless you’ve discovered and are keeping secret the keys to spontaneous creation and immortality, you selfish git.

I am not stating that everyone wants this standard EOT or what should be the preferable route. Do it if it makes you happy, don’t if it doesn’t.

I’m no lifestyle blogger. I’ve got enough on my hands just existing, let alone sorting your lives out.

I am not here to mock anyone’s life choices. I’m imparting that if you have an EOT plan, don’t be surprised when it veers off course. Life has an annoying habit of doing that.

Here Comes the Life Story…

I didn’t go to university until my mid 20s. After I finished school, I was certainly intelligent enough and had the grades to do so. I just didn’t want to.

My school frowned upon the ‘waste’ of my ability. I remember being in that group of ‘reprobates’ who didn’t want to, or did not have the qualifications, to go to university.

Sixth Form assemblies often entailed breaking into two groups: those going to uni and those who weren’t. Every time, those who weren’t going were sent home. We never had an assembly on how to find jobs or not land up on the dole. We didn’t matter.

So we pootled off, went to the pub, got high, and planned how we would spend our benefits (or so most of the staff at my school thought). What the aspiring ‘going to uni’ kids hadn’t twigged was that if you were in our camp, you saved yourself from the most boring assemblies in the world. Not so smart after all, were they?

Customer service woman - The Expected Order of Things (EOT)
I did. Permanently…

After I left school, I worked in retail, customer services, a call centre, office jobs… None of which matched my academic qualifications.

I’d like to say I don’t regret a single second but that would be a lie. Work with the general public, incessantly whinging at you, and let me know how you ward off your stabby side.

However, I acquired some transferable skills (the tossbaggish stuff you write on your CV) and then I went to university because it was the right time for me.

After this, I became an English teacher. I also gained a Masters in Literature. So up yours to the senior staff of my school who told me I was ruining my life. I wasn’t ready back then. Once I was, I flew. Not literally, although I may add that to my alternative EOT *adds ‘become Supergirl‘*.

I left teaching due to severe depression caused by delayed grief. This is most definitely not in anyone’s EOT. The career I thought I’d have for the rest of my life was gone. I felt my life was over. I thankfully recovered. Well, at least then I did. See The Enemy Strikes Back and Thief Named Depression.

In my mid 30s I moved away from the county in which I had lived in all my life, to go to college. It was most certainly not the EOT for me to relocate and live in halls as an older bird among young ‘uns.

Let’s just say it was not the wisest move I’ve ever made and leave it at that…

I stuck around in the new county. I’m stubborn. I wasn’t going back to the ‘Shire’ with my tail between my legs (funny expression that, no tail on me as far as I can see, boys more so, (fnar, fnar).

I made a brief return to teaching because I thought it was part of my EOT. I soon realised I was trying to make up for having to leave the job previously. It wasn’t meant to be and I have no regrets in crossing that off the EOT list.

Reader, I Bloody Well Married Him!

Then I met my husband. Who obviously wasn’t my husband when I met him. We didn’t get married on our first date no matter how excited the whole world was that I finally had a date. I may have been in my late 30s but I wasn’t quite that desperate.

In February this year we got married. I gave a speech. Again, not conventional. Go Lisa. I even told the single beings to stop seeking out the fairy tale that having a partner and getting married would complete them. Disney has a lot to answer for.

Purple Converse wedding shoes - The Expected Order of Things (EOT)
My beautiful, purple, shiny wedding shoes

To make such a speech may be considered controversial at your own wedding but I was hardly your archetypal virgin bride *cough*.

I was decked in customised Converse, 40 years old, and telling our guests that my husband flipping rocks but he does not validate me as a person; he is the piece of the jigsaw I had been missing.

The jigsaw could have been left unfinished but as an organiser freak that would have done my head in. Despite the reference, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not quite ready for jigsaws yet (more power to those who are fans of them).

It may be the EOT for my latter years but I’m not embracing jigsaws, Tena Lady and Bingo at this stage (other older lady pursuits and burdens are available).

This Writing Business

The next step in seeing off the EOT was to commit to becoming a full-time writer. There I was, all ready to become a lady of leisure and sponge off my husband’s salary, and then this desire to write came along. This meant actual work, although it did give me a valid reason for sitting on my arse most of the day.

I’ve also written the first draft of a novel about depression, in my own little way. It’s funny – well, I hope it is. We may think depression isn’t supposed to be humorous. Tell that to mentally ill comedians.

My novel is also occasionally inappropriate. I have taken a serious issue and made it mine because after having this dragging me down on and off for a few decades, I think I have every right to shatter depression’s perverse version of the EOT.

It has certainly disrupted my writing career when I went back into the depression more. I just couldn’t write. I could barely function. I’m beginning to claw my way back now.

If you have read this far, thanks husband.

Apologies for the long autobiography but it’s here to convey that I’ve learnt, for me, there is no EOT. You don’t have to play by the ‘rules’ that none of us know who created.

I have a feeling, however, that we did. Many of us have bought into it and made it a ‘thing’.

I question some days the wisdom of becoming a writer at this age. Then I realise I am (hopefully) going to have a few more years on this planet, so why not?

Who cares what age I am? Only me when the wrinkles start to appear, the grey hairs get plucked and dyed, or the bits and pieces go a little more south. It doesn’t stop me from writing does it? Although boob droop over your keyboard can be an obstacle.

Choose to be a Bad Ass Chicken, Not Nuggets

Rebel chicken - The Expected Order of Things (EOT)
Chickens have life plans too

Throw the EOT out the window if it doesn’t work for you.

Before you do, question who imposed it upon you in the first instance. If it was you, you can work on that.

If it’s someone else, work on them, assert yourself, have a word or hire a hitman. You have choices.

If you go for the latter option, let’s be clear, this post never happened.

Be a rebel. Kick EOT up the bum.

Make plans but don’t set stringent timelines.

As a wise person once said (me), death is a certainty, life isn’t. Always be a bad ass chicken, not nuggets.


About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

40 comments on “Challenging the Expected Order of Things (EOT)

  1. Love this so much – well done you for having the courage to follow your own path, difficult as it may have been. I managed a year in Uni before I realised it wasn’t for me, no matter what all the teachers and my mum said. I did intend to go back, but, well – maybe one day.

    I get a bit worried that I’m a little old for this writing lark sometimes too – that all the young up-and-comers will knock us oldies into the corner somewhere. But then I realise that unless author bios start requiring model-style shots, we should be okay. Age and cunning and all that.

    Always glad to hear you’re doing okay, relative as that may be at times. Hugs to you!

    1. As you say, it takes a lot of courage to say that something you are currently doing isn’t right for you, particularly when others may think that it is.

      I can relate to your uni experience. I went to a college about four years ago (the one I glossed over in my post) expecting to be there for three years. I was lucky to have made it out of there after one. Many people back home who weren’t wise to what was happening couldn’t believe I left but I had to.

      Maybe you will study again, maybe you won’t. Life has carried on for you and you’re writing. Nothing has been wasted.

      Let’s wear our older years and experiences with pride. We’ve lived longer so have more in these heads of hours stored up to share. Here’s hoping anyway!

      Keep on doing what you’re doing. Only you can be you, and a lovely you it is as well. x

  2. Great post. And good for you for realising when the EOT wasn’t for you. Although I beg you to reconsider on the jigsaw front. I have a lush fairytale fantasia one I’m doing right now. They are very relaxing. Hey and I have cats too. I’m going to make a great old lady!

    I’ve struggled a bit with the EOT too. I wanted the house and the car and stuff but the economy died and my generation didn’t find it very easy to achieve that. And then I got married but chose not to have kids…which means I ended up feeling like a rebel for make a perfectly valid life choice. It’s funny how we have these expectations and how other people also project them on to us. But the older I get, the less I care, and the more I release that life rarely works out as planned.

    1. I’m probably nearing jigsaw puzzle days so we shall see… It may be because I’m just not good with leaving something unfinished!

      Good point about the economy. It affected many of us. The aftermath is still resounding in how we’ve had to alter our plans.

      Like you state, getting older is a blessing. You do learn to look back on how the EOT worked and didn’t work. You have the luxury of experience to understand how you can live your life now.

      Thanks for your insightful comment.

  3. This is amazing. So many people get stuck in a rut, and give all of their time and energy away to a life they may once have wanted, but that no longer resonates for them. Change is natural, and the “atypical” is where the most interesting stories are born, I think. Bravo to you for a life well-lived!

    1. Many of us are afraid of change. I’ve been there and it can be scary but it’s what we do with change that can make it positive.

      I’ve been stuck in many a rut and had to pull myself out; often kicking and screaming! Let’s hope it’s not so hard the next time.

      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s definitely made me think a lot more about this.

  4. Good for you!! This is so true–there are so many of us who agonize over not hitting each milestone by a certain age, or having difficulties achieving things that others seem to check off the list with ease. It’s all artificial–we should all strive to be happy and establish our own priorities, because life is always on time, regardless of our own silly timelines!

    1. Absolutely Robin. I think when we are younger we are more unsure of ourselves and who we want to be. This is when we want to fit in and follow the status quo more. Thank goodness for getting older and gaining more experience. I love what you wrote: ‘life is always on time’. Of course it is. We just don’t like its timing sometimes!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  5. Good for you! You are farther along on your journey than I am despite my being a few years older than you 😉 I have started to buck the EOT in small ways. For instance, I no longer clean my house from top to bottom each week. (EEK!) Too busy blogging. Congrats on your awesome hubby and those awesome Converse shoes!

    1. I haven’t got it all figured out yet, Daria! I do clean my house from top to bottom each week because I am an organiser freak. You have much to teach me! I think challenging the EOT is best done in small ways so it’s not such a shock to the system.

      The Husband thanks you for your kind words. I’m getting those Converse out again soon. It’s about time the world saw their loveliness once more!

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. You are by far my favorite writer/blogger! We have similar sense of humors, but you get yours down on paper, while I struggle to do so. We also share the battle of depression. I thought after my mom died my world had ended. Although she was 92, I felt responsible, as I was there when she slipped into a comma. I’ve worked through it, like you, with it only occasionally raring its ugly head. Anyway, I was more than happy to share.

    1. Thanks so very much for such high praise Jennie. I am definitely looking forward to getting to know you more as we share a similar sense of humour!

      I’m genuinely sorry to hear that you have struggled with depression and bereavement. I have been and am approaching similar places and know how restricting and painful it is. I feel privileged that you’ve shared this with me in your comment.

      Don’t pressure yourself to write. Jot a few lines every now and again if you can. A journal has always helped me to let my feelings out and hone my writing, maybe it could work for you. Be gentle on yourself and ignore all the rigid and ridiculous rules that tell you that you must write every day regardless. I wonder if such people have ever experienced tragedy or hardship.

      Thanks so much for your support. You are a writer. You can do this in your own way. Take care.

  7. I absolutely adored this, this was way too real! I think its important to challenge in some ways, the order of which we are expected to do things. Also, I totally got you when you said that the more orderly you try to make your life, the more disappointed you might be when things veer off. I totally had that happen to me in my early 20s, sometimes things just happen out of our control.

    1. Life is so varied and we just cannot be carbon copies of each other in how we do life. There are so many changes and curve-balls it’s impossible to stick to rigid EOT rules.

      I can relate in how the 20s is often the time when it all gets mixed up. Thank goodness for continuing to grow older and (hopefully) wiser!

      Thanks for reading and commenting Paige.

  8. This was a fun post to read! I’m finally learning to let go of pre-conceived notions of how things should be. Life is much more interesting and I feel less burdened by most of it.

    1. That’s a good point; life is more interesting when we let go of the EOT. Scary sometimes but never dull!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting Taslim.

  9. This was a great post and shared some of your story, really insightful! Although I have followed the EOT’s in the first quarter of my life (I am 24), I am not traditional like anyone else may be. Sure I went to college and graduated, but I am learning to do things my own way

    1. I think that we all follow the EOT to some degree and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of it naturally happens or we choose it.

      However, it’s good to be conscious of it and, like you, learn how to live life your own way too.

      Thanks for your comment Christina.

  10. Love this!! Totally agree that you don’t have to follow the traditional path! Sorry to hear you got depression ): I hope you are feeling better now! <3

  11. This sounds so familiar to me Lisa. I did all the ‘right’ things, passed my exams at school, went to Uni, got a ‘good’ job, started my own software company, got married, had three kids. Then for some reason I have never worked out we moved to Vancouver where everything fell apart. The wife left, the kids grew up and moved away, I couldn’t find a job I was interested in so I decided to write. I had no idea if I could do it but after about a year I had a finished novel, bits of which are alright. I then sat down and wrote my second novel about an Addictions Treatment Centre called ‘The Lynn Valley Orchard Rules’ which is funny in the same way you talk about your novel about depression. It’s not a funny subject but the scenarios that emerge and the characters can be.

    1. Life certainly doesn’t always work out the way we’ve planned but like you, Ian, we can make something of even the bad stuff.

      I think that we can be humourous about serious issues if we balance it carefully with sensitivity. Hopefully we’ve both struck the right balance in our novels!

      Thanks for sharing with me Ian.

  12. I’ve never heard of EOT as a thing, but I’m so happy to find a fellow runaway.

    I ran off after grammar school in Kent and joined the RAF, did an unexpected 8 years. After leaving I tried the mortgage and steady job near the family in Devon/Cornwall thing but it wasn’t me. Then at 30 headed off to uni and an English degree later trained to be an English teacher.

    Two years of teaching in central London and I couldn’t wait to escape this time to Kuwait to teach. There I met my husband we married in our early 40’s, we’ve lived in 4 countries, rescued 3 cats and a dog and for the moment home is on a Greek island…

    I can’t help but think that we could sit down and chat for hours!

    1. Love hearing your life story! What a life you’ve led so far. I admire how you’ve remained true to your needs. Yes, we all do the EOT to some degree but we also need to be aware of when it’s not working for us.

      You have my full respect for being an English teacher! We certainly would have some stories to share! Thanks for sharing what you have so far Amanda.

  13. Great post, it had me chuckling and I had a EOT pushed at me but I refused it!! Its what happens when you are 15 & share a bedroom with you baby niece. Love her & she’s like a little sister to me now but she put me right off that EOT!!! As my favourite band sang ‘there’s only one way of life and thats your own” Good on ya Lisa for doing what you need to do rather than whats expected of you. Love the wedding shoes. Sarah x

    1. Wow, sharing a room with a baby is enough to put anyone off, Sarah!

      Love that lyric. Something to definitely live by. Can see why you love it.

      Thanks about my shoes. Megan had a pair in white which were fab too!

  14. Things never go according to plan. It can also be fun to purposely veer off course lol. Life is meant to be lived and make of it what we want. Love your post!

  15. EOT sounds vastly overrated any! When I visit your blog I always get a fun new word to add to my vocabulary. Todays nugget: Tossbaggish. I might use it as a sub-heading when I update my resume.

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