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04th Mar 2017

GUEST BLOGGER: Why you don’t always need a plan

Irene Halpin Long

I found pregnancy difficult.

It wasn’t the glowing, rosy experience that Hollywood movies had promised me. I felt ill. There were complications towards the end and when I looked in the mirror, my head had changed into a football with a face. Albeit a football with a fabulous head of shiny, black hair.

I became a mother. I found the transition to parenthood a monumental adjustment. There were elements of my new life that I adored. But the lengthy journey from deciding to start a family to growing a human to now looking after a tiny baby had changed me. I had a lot of questions.

But let me go back to the start.

A few years back, a 22 year old woman-child boarded a plane from Cork to Jersey with one bag, €350 and an address for a place to stay. Ten days previously, she had finished her final year exams in applied psychology at University College Cork. You guessed it – me!

I wanted to leave home and explore what being independent would be like. Now, aged 35, and with my own child, I better understand why my father was not thrilled that I hadn’t bothered to buy a return ticket. I also take full responsibility for his hair turning grey prematurely.

When I got to Jersey, I soon learnt that researching a different country before you decide to go live there has its advantages. Firstly, I couldn’t work in the social services sector on the island because I hadn’t lived there for five years or more. I needed to come up with a Plan B.

What were other people doing here? There were loads of people walking around in suits.

“I’ll become an accountant”, I thought.

So, that’s what I did. I went to a recruitment agent and asked how I could become an accountant. I got a place at a mid-tier accounting firm. I failed my first three exams miserably and passed one. My employer cancelled my training contract but allowed me to continue working as a book-keeper. I was now 24 years old.

“Screw that!” I thought. “I’ll get another training contract somewhere else.”

So that’s what I did.

Three years later, I qualified as an accountant with a top four firm.

But back to those questions I had after my daughter was born

Even before I had given birth to my daughter, I had wondered if my career choice in finance was one I was satisfied with. I had made the choice out of necessity because I had to work. We all have to work, don’t we? I was grateful for this amazing opportunity that I had been afforded. I now had a profession that no-one could ever take away from me. I had met great friends and some real characters in my new life abroad. And, of course, I met the man who became my husband. But, I really wanted to do something else. I really wanted to write. I shrugged off the idea, to be honest. I was now in the set routine of working full time. Doing what I should be doing as a responsible adult.

Then, baby came. Along with her, came a plethora of questions. Should I go back to work? Part-time or full-time? Should I try to go back into the line of work I was in before I had baby or should I try and get a job that is less stressful? Do I really even want to go back to work as an accountant? If I change direction, is it a waste of my training? What if I get left behind professionally? Actually, do I even want to work in finance at all?

Stop, take a breathe woman!

I’ll use the analogy of “The Mountain” to explain what my life was like working in finance. The foot of the mountain is nice and flat, lots of flora and fauna. Lots of buddies. But all these buddies want to get to the summit. The trek from the foot to the summit to become “King or Queen of the Mountain” can be treacherous and there may be casualties along the way. There are also amazing views from the mountain, if you have the time to stop, turn and look at them.

After asking myself the same questions over and over, my 35-year-old self decided to employ the attitude of my 22-year-old self.

“Screw it. I’m getting off the mountain. This isn’t for me. Good luck lads! I’m going for a frolic in the meadow below and I’ll see what’s down there”

Stay true and you’ll find your own sense of authenticity.

Look, I’m not saying that everyone should leave their jobs and do whatever you want. That’s not realistic. I want to write and aspire to one day become a published author. But, in the meantime, I still have to clean my house, give accounting grinds to school students, look after my family, and I write in the evenings.

I’m also not disrespecting people who work in the finance industry. I just want to try something different.

What I’m saying is, don’t forget who you are. Hold on to your authenticity, even if in just a small way in your everyday life. All too often, as adults, we can forget our sense of self. It’s natural. We may be looking after children, elderly relatives, juggling home life and work life – the list is endless. We may feel the pressure of what is “expected” of us as adults by society and forget about who we really feel we are.

Listen to your wild, carefree voice. Sometimes, that risk taker inside you may know you better than you think.

What’s the plan?

I don’t really have a plan. My “non-plan” worked out quite well when I was 22 years old so I figure, I’ll just stay true to myself, work hard and try not to take myself too seriously.

Irene Halpin Long is a stay-at-home parent to a beautiful little girl and an aspiring writer. She is currently working on a novel set in the Channel Islands and a children’s book set in Ireland. She is the author of two blogs: one for flash fiction at and on life as a parent over at