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Are you a scanner?

Updated on June 27, 2011

I don't know about you, but I've always been the kind of person who will stagnate if I stand in one spot for too long. That sounds a little strange from someone who has lived in the same town for pretty much all of her life so far. But what I mean is that life can pootle* along very nicely for a while, but then suddenly I will get the urge to change direction. It happens a lot. Not regularly or anything, not with any certainty at all, just now and again for no discernible reason. Each time I change direction I think, yes, this is definitely it, this is me for the rest of my life. And then I'm on a path and I can't see any bends or forks in it, and all is rosy and quite exciting. I pootle on down that new road, expecting it to take me on into the sunset (which I estimate to be roughly eighty years down the line from now). And then, right out of the blue, the path veers sharp left, and just like that my dreams and ambitions have completely changed again. And the funny thing is that I don't really notice that it's happened until I think about it some time later.

* 'tootle - informal go or travel in a leisurely way : they were tootling along the coast.' Often changed to pootle, honestly!

I have had many ambitions through my short life so far (nothing unusual there). The first one I remember was that of space exploration. I did want to be an astronaut, for quite a long time too. Unfortunately, I had no academic foresight, and did not really begin to apply myself to school work until, ooh ... last week. I have dreamt of being a surgeon (I don't mind a bit of blood), a cattle driver (I'm not so keen on cows ever since one stood on my foot as it stampeded at an agricultural show when I was ten), a ballerina (I was always the tallest in my class, no-one would ever have managed to lift me), a nun (I think believing in God is a prerequisite for that one), a politician (I have no convictions - oh, I'd have made a perfect politician!), an artist (I can sketch a fairly good pencil drawing), an archaeologist (I like digging in the rain), an actor (aha! I have a degree in Drama), a midwife (I've had kids - how hard could it be to deliver other people's?!) and a novelist. I haven't ruled any of them out yet - though I don't think the Catholic Church would take me on account of my atheism, possibly. That, and the fact that was really Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews who made me want to take Holy Orders. I know that movie, A Nun's Story, was supposed to show convent life as it really was, but come on, Audrey Hepburn? She makes scrubbing your front doorstep look romantic. If she'd made a film about plumbing, I would have wanted to earn a living fixing u-bends.

Apparently, and you may have heard of this, though I had not until recently because I can't sit still for long enough to find things out, but apparently, (incidentally, you may have noticed that sometimes I do like to throw in a very convoluted sentence, just for fun) people like me are called scanners, and it's nothing to do with us liking to make copies of documents. We look about and see pretty things everywhere, and go to investigate, magpie-like. We check out that new thing for a while, and then our eye is caught by something on the periphery, so we go and have a little look at that. Now, I don't know, but I think that there may be two sub-categories of scanner. I think there are those who happily, and even unknowingly, abandon the original activity and move on to the next thing. They probably never think about the things they leave behind until someone says to them 'hey, didn't you want to be a doctor when you were younger?' and they scratch their heads and reply vaguely 'oh yeah, I forgot to do that'. And then there's the other type, and I think this is me, who keeps all dreams and ambitions close to the forefront of the mind, and now and again mentally checks through them to see how things are progressing with each one. For example, the ambitions section of my brain looks like this, rather cluttered:

I'm not quite willing to let go of any of those ambitions just yet, even midwifery, because when I was taking serious steps towards that goal it was such a passionate wish, and I showed signs of having good potential in the field. But time passes, and circumstances change. I would still want to be an actor too, and if I did a play next year and was 'discovered' and catapulted to stardom, well then, that would be lovely. But I still doubt that I would completely give up on any of the other wishes - I could probably tick off the iPhone one at the same time though.

But am I really a scanner? Or have I just not decided where to settle down yet? Might I find my place in the world and be content to stay in it for the rest of my days? Possibly not. My mum is 53, and she has not finished evolving. She changes her ambitions every couple of years, still. Her life is always exciting, always changing - getting caught out by cancer hasn't changed that for her, and in fact, her scanning has probably intensified! I can't really say whether or not I want to be a scanner forever - it just is what it is, and I like it, for now. There may come a time when I wish I could just stick at something.

Until that time comes, I will carry on pootling...


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