I don’t know what I want to do with my life! I hear these words often from people from different walks of life; everyone from college students and stay-at-home-moms to my own friends and contemporaries. What to do with one’s life seems to be the nagging question of our lives.
Interestingly enough, I think I know what I want to do. Actually, scratch that– I know what I’d like to do with my life! Recently, I’ve really started to dream big about what this life will entail and how far I can go with it. Yesterday, I spent over 4 hours googling and researching the steps I need to take to make my dreams a reality. I was so excited that my heart couldn’t keep a steady beat at all, but rose and fell all willy-nilly as I imagined my future.
Have you had that feeling yet? The one where ever atom in your body says: this is it; this is what I was made for? I’d honestly never experienced that until now. At the grand old age of 33 there is this stubbornness and absolute dedication to this particular dream that I can’t seem to shake. One that constantly reminds me: remember the time when this happened? and you did this? it was all leading up to this moment. But despite this crazy resolve and my excitement, reality still broke through the ceiling and settled heavily around me yesterday with so much rubble and debris that I couldn’t see my dream anymore. All I could see were the obstacles in my way. I had to get up, go to bed and pray as I fell asleep to escape this feeling of utter despair.
You see, I joined the “rat race” ten years ago. I wrote a book once where my main character, Riley, is in a similar predicament. Here is an excerpt:
It was her first and only job interview and resulted in her only job offer, which she quickly accepted, becoming a participant in the “Rat Race.”
It wasn’t much of a competition, however, since most days Riley felt that she must have been tying her shoes at the starting line when the gun went off. She wasn’t likely to qualify for the finals let alone place. She wasn’t even sure what type of track she was on; sometimes she thought it might be a racehorse track, and at other times, when things were happening speedily, perhaps even a NASCAR track, but ultimately, it didn’t seem to matter. Riley wasn’t exactly racing anyway. She was simply occupying a lane while everyone else lapped her on the outside lanes. She had realized this on her very first day at Morgan-Reeves.
Riley eventually realizes that she’s on a greyhound track and that’s where I am too. I’m chasing this dog-eared white rabbit along with all the other greyhounds. Only, I’ve realized that this white hare isn’t what I want in the least!
I’m competitive so I enjoy the race, the wind in my hair, the stretching of my legs, the challenge that the race presents, but I can’t stay focused on that rabbit because he doesn’t hold my interest. My attention keeps getting pulled to the excited people in the stands , or better yet, the ones in the infield who are partying like crazy. But the other greyhounds won’t stop yapping about this hare; this is what we’ve been trained for, this is who we are, this is what you should want above all things, just think you can retire after 20 years and then you can do whatever you want! And, the other voices are so loud (because there are so many of them) and don’t forget how logical and comforting they are, that I can’t hear myself think and my head keeps whipping back to that stupid rabbit.
Except I don’t like rabbit. Maybe I’m vegetarian or vegan or on a strict paleo diet. Maybe I’m just a carnivore who’d rather eat a steak instead. Either way, rabbit is not happening for me.
I recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which I feel is essentially a manifesto for women to achieve senior leadership positions in their fields. I liked the book for several reasons that I’m sure I’ll write in a blog post eventually, but there is this one innocuous paragraph that got my attention. One paragraph that was like a mirror that revealed that my desire to be a stay-at-home mom had very little to do with my want of children and more to do with getting away from the white rabbit (emphasis mine):
The more satisfied a woman is with her position, the less likely she is to leave. So the irony– and, to me, the tragedy– is that women wind up leaving the workforce precisely because of the things they did to stay in the workforce. With the best of intentions, they end up in a job that is less fulfilling and less engaging. When they finally have a child, the choice– for those who have one– is between becoming a stay-at home mother or returning to a less-than-appealing professional situation. (Sandberg, pg 94)
It’s hard to work for so long and hard in one direction only to realize that the direction you’ve been running in is really a dead-end. Sure, that direction works for most people and there are even those who feel the same unquenchable excitement that I feel about my own dreams for it. It’s not a bad route to take at all. In fact, there is immense pleasure in completing such a difficult, treacherous path and there is prestige as well. But that route isn’t for everybody. That route isn’t for me.
Do you know what I think is the best part of the “American Dream”? That there isn’t just one dream! My dream is just as American but different –no worse or better — than your dream!
There is danger in following your dreams. There is the very real fear of losing all kinds of things like security and comfort and all of the effort and sweat equity you’ve built up for the last decade or so. But there is also a great reward in doing the thing (or things) that you were made to do. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope without a safety net beneath. I have no idea where this road is going to lead, but I’m going to take a step (I’m not really at the leap stage yet) — maybe even a crawl — of Faith in that direction and see where it leads.
Bon Weekend Loveables!