Monday, March 05, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Do you know? Are you that person now? Are you a grown up?

I wish I could answer these questions. Any of these questions. Okay, I think I can answer that last one. Yes. I'm a grown up. I don't know if I'm the grown up I want to be, but I am one.

I'm having a pity party. Here, pull up a chair. Would you like some, wine? Tea? Cheese? Chocolate brownies eaten straight out of the pan?

I don't usually indulge in pity parties here on my blog. For one thing, my mother reads it. And my husband. My children, not so much. Which is another whine altogether. But anyway, folks read it who might think this is a pivotal moment of angst. It's not. It's just a moment of angst, one of many. They come. They go. This one just happens to coincide with a moment when I'm sitting here with my fingers on the keyboard, feeling indulgent enough to write about it.

I used to know what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact I've spent many years in the pursuit of one dream or another where I WAS NOT SWAYED. I KNEW. I PERSEVERED. There have been different dreams in my life. Not hundreds. A handful. But each one had it's glory time when my focus was true and determined and unwavering.

Now, I don't have a focus. I want to have a focus. I want to know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be so obsessed with a goal that all other competing goals fall to the wayside, pale objects in comparison.

It's not about finding the time or getting organized or making my family give me space or any of the things I tell myself that it's about. If I really knew what I wanted to do and felt passionate about it, I would be doing it right now.

It's about choosing.

Do I want to write? Do I want to do art? Do I want to simply retire and play? I could do that last one. No one is stopping me. If I chose to say I was done trying to make anything else out of my life, that what I wanted to do was simply support my husband in whatever goals he chooses, cook and keep things going on the homefront enough to do my share of the work so that I could spend the rest of the time reading, sewing, gardening.... I could do that. No one is stopping me. If I chose to do that my husband would say "I love you and you work hard and I appreciate everything you do for me."

That's not the problem. The problem is me. The problem is choosing. No one else is telling me I need to find a new goal. Or pick up, dust off, and get back to work on an old one. No one but me. I'm the only person who feels the need to harass myself about it. I'm not content with what I have. Which is quite a lot, by the way. I can't complain. But I want something else. I want a focus. And no one can give that to me but me.

When I was younger, I didn't seem to have this inability to focus that I have now. I had a goal, a focus, and I worked on it one step at a time, without distraction. What stopped me from completing any one goal wasn't ME. I wasn't my own obstacle course like I am now. The only thing that stopped me eventually were BIG THINGS THAT WERE OUT OF MY CONTROL. Like having my first husband abandon me and two small sons. Like having my second husband come home one day and announce he'd unilaterally made the decision to take a job that moved our family 700 miles. Like dealing with death. Or cancer. Or teenagers run amuck or keeping teenagers from running amuck. Things that I can honestly label "legitimate excuses". And when one of those crises had run it's course and I could go back to my dropped goal, sometimes the goal wasn't workable any longer in the new life that I was then living. Or sometimes a new goal had arisen that had a louder siren call. But even then, I'd pick up that new or adapted goal with the same singular focus. It might not have always been the same direction, but I always had a direction.

I don't begrudge any of those obstacles. I don't blame them. I don't blame myself. For one thing, through all of that time, I never lost sight of one primary goal I had set for myself. I never lost focus on that and I did manage to accomplish what I had set out to do. I raised my own children. In fact I raised my children, my husband's children, and for a while I even did a lot of the raising of children who belonged to friends, neighbors, and relatives. I've still got William here at home, so one could say I'm not quite finished with this goal, but I feel like I've done what I set out to do. I'm proud of having accomplished something that's hard to still do in this crazy world, and I don't regret setting it ahead of any of my other goals in life.

But that doesn't help me with setting a new primary goal for myself. I get so frustrated not having one. It's really insane sometimes. I sit and I think and I think and I ponder and I do a bit of quiet waily waily and I write lists and I go on walks and I talk to friends and I think and think some more. I feel like Pooh, I tell myself if I could JUST THINK HARD ENOUGH, the answer would come to me. Sigh.

I am obviously a bear of little brains. Because the answer isn't there. It can't be forced by thinking hard enough. I'm chasing a will-o-the-wisp. I'm a wind sock, blowing whatever direction the wind is blowing on any given day. I'm a tumbleweed. I'm a cat sitting in the sun, too warm to move. I'm a little kid with too many ice cream cone flavors to choose from. I'm at a crossroads. I'm walking in circles.

This morning my husband wandered into the bedroom and saw me sitting here on the bed. That's all. Just sitting here. Dressed, but back in bed. Chihuahua hidden under the covers. Laptop in my lap, cord trailing off the bed into an extension cord. I was hugging Ice Bat, my head bent over and tucked between his ears. I didn't say anything. I didn't sigh. I was just sitting there thinking too hard. It says something that hubby just looked at me and said "Don't worry about it. When the time is right, you'll know it. You'll find you can't help yourself. You won't be able to stop yourself from writing. Or doing your art. Or whatever it is you want to do. It's okay. It's just not the right time yet." He said some other things too, but that was the gist of it.

That was incredibly sweet and supportive of him, doncha think? I don't know if I believe him, although I appreciate him saying it. It made me feel a little better. Just recently I have started to wonder the same thing. Maybe the trick is I just need to stop trying so hard for awhile. Stop worrying about it. Stop thinking about it. (But if I know I'm not thinking about it so I can really trick myself into finding it, then it's not like I'm not thinking about it and ......Grrrrr. ARGH.)

Amplifying the problem of choosing a goal is, I have a sense of urgency about starting out in a new direction. I don't know what direction I want to go, but my bags are packed and it seems imperative that I begin immediately. While standing still and not knowing which direction to take. Can you see how frustrating this feels!? It also feels incredibly self indulgent. I know a lot of women my age who, because of health or circumstances, don't have the options of moving in any directions at all. That's certainly part of my sense of urgency. I know that life is nothing if not full of unexpected changes. I'm terrified I'll just be standing here wallowing in my frustration and uncertainty until something comes along and - BAM. If I don't go now, perhaps I'll lose my opportunity to go at all. And that brings me back to the big question - Go WHERE? Do WHAT?

You might say - just pick a direction, any direction. If it's the wrong one, you'll still be moving. You might also say that it's not like I can't change my mind somewhere down the road. Just go. These are true and wise words. Yet even though I know it does me no good to think in these terms, I argue back - but I'm too old to pick the wrong direction! I don't have enough time left to go this way for a few years and then find out I should have gone that way instead.

Sigh. I'm just a mess. I'm a basket case. I really think someone should just slap me so I can get over myself.

Some days I do get over myself. Some days I even think I've finally made my choice. I get excited . I get a bit of steam under me, take a few steps forward. It feels good but.... it doesn't last. The next morning, or a few days later, or a week later, I'm back to questioning my choice, looking back over my shoulder, wondering if that way might not be better. Or maybe over there instead.

Well, that's it. I've drained the tea pot. Scraped the brownie pan clean. Looks like someone else polished off the bottle of wine. The party is over. You can all go back to your lives full of focus and purpose. I'll just tidy up around here. Until I can think of what I want to do instead.



Blogger DubiQuilts - Debbi said...

I never wanted to grow up and I still don't want to!

Life is short why choose just one goal. Why can't you do it all? Take each day and do what feels good that day. You may start/finish some, few, all or none of the task/project. Who cares just have fun each day and be thankful you woke up.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Mark Moore said...

Hi Laume - I knew the feeling! To find out the direction I wanted to go, and made it my mission to study and learn how to find determine what you want! Got my hands on every book down the library on it. Part of the problem is that there's too much choice. But that's a good thing. And also that the grass is often greener on the other side. But what you need is to not look at all the options, but first work through some exercises to determine what makes you tick, and what direction you want. Then see which options fit that. Then make a sensible assessment of the situation - the facts - and then decide. If it helps you, I have set up a new free interactive e-course on my site to help people to get what they want (in their career, or life in general). I explain in it that if you don't know what you want...then what you actually to find out what you want. Right?! So you can use the e-course to help you to do that too. And soon, I'll be putting an ebook up to help people to determine the right job or career for them, and then how to set themselves up to get it. That won't be free, but the ecourse is, so if you're interested, have a look at:

2:51 PM  
Blogger JulieZS said...

Laume, you've said it there woman! I'm thinking along with you, thinking reeeaaaalllly hard. Having a goal helps me get out of bed, and I really need one.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I refuse to grow up any more than I have to. :-) I think we all go through this angst at various points in our lives. Why can't you do it all? Just do what you want for a while then change when you get bored. My goal, I've decided, is just to be as happy as I can each and every day. Because, every day is a gift.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Tanya Brown said...

Hi there; I found your blog through ... hmmm. I'm not sure how I got here. Anyhow, I relate to your plight.

I recommend a book called "What Should I Do with My Life?", by Po Bronson. There aren't necessarily any pat answers in there, but there's a lot of company, a lot of discussion about how different people have gone about choosing a direction.

Life is a smorgasbord with a lot of tasty choices. It's hard settling on one, two or even three. There are a lot of us out there who are adults and don't really know what we want to be when we grow up.

Are there any options that would allow you to do several things that you find worthwhile? Is there a way to make the sampling of different experiences your job? For example, if you know you like trying out different art techniques, perhaps you could make a career of trying them and writing about them, or trying them and teaching them. That would combine art (to some extent), writing/teaching, and endless variety.

It sounds like you've gone through some hard times. It may be the case that they're over, or mostly over, but you're still a bit shell-shocked. When you have kids to take care of and obstacles to overcome, the way forward may not be easy but it certainly is clear. It also doesn't leave much room for pursuing things you'd like to focus on.

Well, the focussing muscle sounds like it's twitchy and wants to work. It's just a little out of practice, a little weak. I think you're going to get through this and find your contentment.

11:33 PM  

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