Friday, June 29, 2012

Of Cheerleaders and Velociraptors

When I used to teach, I say that like it's eons ago and not just two weeks ago, I used the book and the video "The Last Lecture" each year in class.  We would start off the school year and I would make my students talk about their hopes and their dreams.  I would question them about what they wanted to be when they were younger.  As is to be expected from sophomores in high school, who were trying to remember what they wanted to be when they were 5 years old, I got answers such as a baseball player, a doctor, a garbage man and, of course, the occasional velociraptor.  As the year would continue on we'd talk about how their hopes and dreams change and evolve and become something far more tangible than what they were at 5 years old.  And we also discuss how every single choice they make each and every day impacts how close they get to or how far away they get from those hopes and dreams.

I sit here now, having walked away from a job and a paycheck that, at one point, I loved, and I have no idea where I might be going.  I don't know what I want to be when I grow up and, as I told my students who informed that they really didn't have any hopes or dreams, that makes me so very sad.

As a child, I wanted silly things.  I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, now I just want the Cowboys to go down in defeat on a regular basis.  I wanted to be a lady that worked in a bar, now I look back at the 7 years of working in a liquor store and can pretty much say I'm good on working in the liquor industry.  As I grew older, my aspirations changed. I found myself drawn to law and politics and my desire to work in the political arena took off.  I looked for opportunities to spend time at events where women in politics were involved.  My mother and my aunt even took me to Washington D.C. for a women in politics event that proved to be interesting but overwhelming.  The trip itself was an experience like no other and the very best way to describe it would be to say that I saw A LOT of Dupont Circle that weekend.

When high school ended I entered college with the idea that I was going to into working with young people as a youth minister of sorts.  I majored, briefly, in psychology and I did all that I could to avoid the field of education at all costs.  My major soon changed to sociology and I grabbed a psych and Theology minor along with a concentration in secondary education.  I had no direction or idea where I was going but I would have my degree and that would at least be something.  There was no overwhelming desire or dream to chase after anything extraordinary, I was going wherever the road led me and as long as I had some type of job I'd be ok.

I dabbled in retail, again, briefly and was then offered a position in marketing.  I enjoyed it until I didn't anymore and then it was time to pursue what I thought was my dream- counseling.  Until it wasn't and I realized that maybe sitting in an office all day long taking in people's problems wasn't what I really wanted.  During that time I began teaching and deep down inside I really felt like I had found this career that was going to nurture me and hold me and keep me safe at night.  It maybe wasn't going to pay me all that well and maybe, just maybe, I was working for an organization that was going to end up screwing me in the end but I really thought I had found my calling.  My hopes and dreams.

I had avoided education like the plague but it seemed like it was the one place I belonged.

Until I didn't.

I walked away from education for a variety of reasons.  There was the low pay and the overwhelming workload at a job that I really wasn't happy in anymore.  There were the working conditions that were less than favorable or comfortable.  There was the difference in what I wanted to teach and what I was allowed to teach.  And there was the fact that I was not giving 110% of myself as I had in the past.  And that's how I knew it was time to go.

I walked away because I wanted to be able to say to my children one day, especially my daughters, that I always gave all that I could and did my very best at everything. I walked away because I never wanted to look my kids in their occasionally sweet and angelic faces and think that I had overlooked them and their needs for a job that treated me like garbage and that I was unhappy at.  I walked away because I didn't want to have any regrets about the paths I chose and where I ended up in the end of everything.  I walked away because it was time and it was what was right.

But now I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to be the heroine like Nora Ephron said.  I want to show my children, my girls most importantly, that women can do anything they set their minds to and that taking risks- while unbelievably scary- is an extraordinary thing.  I want to show them that living a life in service to others while taking care of yourself if completely possible and healthy.  I want be something that I love. I want to look in the mirror each day as I ready myself for the day and be able to say that I really do love my work and I believe I'm making a difference and I want my kids to know that, too.

So, I sit here and I think about all of the things that lay ahead of me and what is possible and what is not and I recognize that I am lost in a lot of ways but at the same time I am just finding what is mine.  I have achieved so many hopes and dreams and I've discounted them as nothing more than mundane- and they are FAR from mundane.  I have a beautifully healthy and loving family. I am surrounded by people who are supportive and kind and funny and giving.  I am awake each day trying to actually live the life that I have been blessed with.  And I am holding on to the hope that somewhere within living those hopes and dreams I will figure it out. I will discover the next step and see what it is that I want to be when I grow up because as it is, I don't think the Cowboys want some 32 year old mother of 4 Giants fan on their cheerleading squad.


mom said...

This has always been one of my favorites. Strong women, good mothers and wonderful daughters are the substance of good family life and healthy, happy human beings. It will all fall into place; you'll see.
The Merton Prayer

In Thoughts in Solitude, Part Two, Chapter II consists of fifteen lines that have become known as "the Merton Prayer."

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
© Abbey of Gethsemani

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