Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Whatifs

Every month (or quarter? not sure) I get my college's alumni magazine. I went to Williams College, which has more than its fair share of alums with impressive jobs, inspirational lives, etc. I always feel an odd twinge of something when I see it in the mailbox, and put off actually opening it until I have enough quiet time to deal with the feelings of inadequacy that come with seeing how people with the same college experience as I have done such important, "successful" things with their lives. Don't get me wrong, I really like my life, especially now that I have Andra. Yet, there's always the what ifs...(Shel Silverstein wrote a great poem about the Whatifs, I found it again here.)

What if I hadn't dropped out of grad school the first time?
What if I'd gone to law school, or vet school, instead of teaching school (ha, that sounds so lame)?
What if I hadn't taken this particular job in Connecticut?
What if I'd studied abroad in college?
What if...on and on and on....

At any rate, some days I play this game a lot. Sitting at Starbucks grading last weekend, I looked around at the clientele. I got to thinking along the lines of, what if I'd married that guy in loafers and a polo shirt with his collar turned up, probably someone in finance who comes from old money...would I then be like his wife, clearly more concerned with fashion and ordering the right coffee drink that with what is going on in the world? What if I'd gotten in with her kind of crowd (arguably hard NOT to do in this area), would I, too, care about my shoes and sweaters and give up my preferred jeans and fleece look? (Despite what that might sound like, I wasn't thinking mean thoughts about these people...it was just what if (and a nice distraction from grading)).

I guess it makes me just wonder if I'm doing enough. Sometimes I feel pretty uninspired, uninspiring on some important level. Probably something everyone feels! Even those whom I would consider the inspiring ones.

To resolve some of those issues, I've decided to "go back to college." I looked online at Williams' course catalog, hoping to find a course I wanted to take, with a plan of emailing the professor for the syllabus and reading list and just pretending I had all these assignments. I got a bit overwhelmed with the reality of that though, and opted instead to start reading some non-fiction books I'd forgotten I wanted to read. I'm almost done with my first, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. At the very least, I want to start THINKING again.

8 comments:

ValleyWriter said...

I feel like this sometimes, too. And I really don't know how to resolve it. I think we all just go through these funks sometimes...

That said, I think you are VERY inspiring! You inspire me to live the best life I can and not let RA control me. And I'm sure there are many others you inspire, too. So, please, don't sell yourself short! Go - seek knowledge - stretch yourself - but remember that you are wonderful just the way you are!

Mama Simmons said...

I think we ALL feel that way sometimes...

N.D. said...

agree w/ mama simmons. You should be proud of what you do :) Inspiring children! glad you are getting into some books!

DC Running Mama said...

I have the "whatifs" about every other day. My hubby is so good about dealing with my melodrama about what I could have done...should have done...could still do. We are young. There are still great things that we could do with our life. Check out Madeleine Albright's resume. Her career didn't really get kicked off until her late 30's. It's never too late to live the life you want. This being said, embrace where you are now. I think that teacher's are one of the few true professions that really make a lasting imprint on people and therefore the world.

jessica said...

Oh, you're definitely not alone here!

I have a really bad habit of defining myself by my "could haves". I regularly have to suck it up and remind myself that I am only what I'm doing right now (luckily though, I'm pretty darn happy with that).

Angela and David Kidd said...

This is a great post. I often feel this way as well. I used to be so ambitious and want to change the world and now I just want to survive the week.

But you are a teacher and have one of the most important jobs around - it may not have a big money title but it's important and inspirational. And thank your lucky stars you never went to law school...

X-Country2 said...

We've all been there. I'm turning 30 in a few week, and the WHAT IFs are ALL I can think about.

Leah said...

I went through something similar when I was about 34. I had a one-year-old little girl, my job wasn't satisfying (regardless of what other people thought), and I couldn't imagine feeling good about a life path that continued that way. After much angst, I found a way to move my career in a different direction and added triathlons to the mix. There are still frustrating days where I question my choices, but for the most part, I am much more fulfilled than I ever imagined. It's never too late to make a change and sometimes it's worth listening to the what-ifs.