Thursday, June 15, 2006

So, I did something I never thought I'd do: I signed up for MySpace.

After following a link to someone's profile, sheer curiosity had me searching the site for people I went to school with-- and it was like a freaking high school e-reunion up in there. Curiouser, I searched for some old friends from middle school, and found one in New York (apparently attending medical school, from what vague references I gathered in her profile) and another in Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer. I couldn't resist signing up so I could send messages to both of them.

This little blast from the past has me feeling my mortality again (is this my quarter-life crisis?) and thinking about just what it is I'm doing with my life. In the past two years, I've done several things I never imagined I'd do and developed some desires I never imagined I'd have. Moving back to Oregon, losing my grandmother, and marrying my best friend have all underscored the importance of family in my life, and I've realized over the course of the past six months that I want to have a baby. But there are always these little voices in my head whispering what if? I grew up being told I was smart and I could do anything I wanted-- which meant I would go to college and be successful professionally. I've made a career of not living up to my potential, generating occasionally brilliant work for random classes but generally slacking, doing just enough to get by. The history class I took this term is a perfect example of this dynamic: we were assigned four essays, each worth 20% of the grade, and I just completely blew off the first one. Didn't do it. Of the following three essays, I received perfect scores on two of them (and lost one point on the other) and wound up with a 76% in the class. The instructor e-mailed me after I sent him my last essay.

Hi, Molly:
What an outstanding essay! The thesis is nuanced and consistent, the support is detailed and compelling. This is nuanced and persuasive, a splendid piece of work.

He then told me he was bumping up my 76% to a B- (instead of the C it should rightfully have been) because the work I had turned in was "exceptional." This made me feel great at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to feel like a jerk.

I should have earned 100% in that class. I could have, easily, but I was too lazy to do what it took. And why? So I could play video games at night? So I could spend more time reading the news? Was there even a real reason for my slacking?

Reading the MySpace profiles of people I knew in school, seeing their advanced degrees and realized goals and exotic travel destinations, I feel jealous. That could have been me, I think as I read their stories, if only I'd been willing to work harder. I'm certainly smart enough, and I've never met an academic subject I didn't like, but would it have made me happy? Would it have been enough? I'm terrified of choosing a path that turns out to be the wrong one, and as a result I've mostly avoided the choosing entirely-- instead of picking a definitive subject for my degree, I declared a Liberal Studies major, which lets me take a few classes from every discipline, gaining a broad range of knowledge but never really polishing me up in one particular area. I have effectively arranged it so that it is impossible for me to fail, but it is also impossible for me to succeed in any substantive sense, since I'm not establishing a basis for any kind of advanced degree or even any particular professional field.

Right now, it seems I'm on the fast track to housewifedom: when I'm not doing schoolwork during the day, I'm washing dishes or doing laundry or planning what to cook for dinner. And I love it. I love my life. I know that over the next couple of years, we will buy a house and start a family and I will be home with the baby, and it will be satisfying and fullfilling like I never imagined it could be. But those voices in my head, they tell me this is not a valid choice. Someone with my brains shouldn't be wasting away as a housewife, the voices tell me. It makes me wonder if this is what I really think, or if I've just internalized all of the expectations I always felt other people had for my future.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: I don't really know what I want. When I do think I want something, I don't trust myself. I never really believe that what I want is the right thing. It makes me crazy. I have vague ambitions of academic greatness, but the sneaking suspicion that I'm just not cut out for that sort of life keeps me from really working for it; meanwhile, I drag my feet while I head in a direction that I know will make me happy but holds the possibility of a life filled with unanswered questions of potential. I know where I'm heading, but I never thought of myself as the sort of woman who would end up there. As an insensitive friend once told me, being a housewife isn't a Job. Is that where I'm going to wind up? As someone's mother and someone's wife and someone who never had a career? And is that okay with me? Because I can defend myself to the world, but self-doubt will eat me alive.


Blogger Braincase said...

Well let me be the first MySpace user to give you the most annoying universal greeting ever "ADD ME!" I feel dirty.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous fort said...

Being a mother, a wife, a best friend, a nuturer and a mentor are not jobs they are roles. Housewife is a very limited descriptor for what you are writing about. I don't have advice on what you should do but to suggest that whatever you chose to do deserves YOUR respect.

7:28 AM  

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