My theater history professor last semester shared this little tidbit of life with us in class one day:
When he was 20, he was like the rest of us. Just a student, second year of college, moving right along. At age 30, he had his Master’s and Ph.D., was married, and had two children. 10 years later.
Let me give that to you again. In just as many years as you have fingers, he went from college student to married father Ph.D.
I have no idea how we got to this topic in class- this professor was prone to tangents- but the reaction was generally the same. Holy crap, I need to get my life together right this instant. 10 years! I have 10 years to find a husband, get my degrees, and have some babies. What what what what WHAT?!
Okay, I know I don’t actually HAVE to do any of those things in 10 years, or ever, for that matter. But…I want to.
It’s about to get vulnerable in here, people.
After I told my boss how my professor sufficiently terrified me into worrying even more than I already did about my future, she suggested that I make a five year plan. I haven’t actually gone that far yet, but I have been thinking about this question of “what I’m going to do with my life” a lot lately, and I’ve put a rough sketch of the dream down on paper.
Home life first: I want to get married and have a bunch of kids. I am not saying that my identity needs to be tied up in a husband or in being a mother. Not at all. But, I can tell you that the one thing that remains steady, as I continue to erase and adapt my so-called plans, is that I want to be a wife and a mother. I can’t really put it into words. It comes from no anti-feminist sentiment: I don’t think people must get married and have babies. Maybe it’s a Catholic thing: the sacrament of marriage is a living reflection and experience of God’s love. There’s a pull and calling to that for me. I’m just missing the man. Which would help a little bit.
In my dream world, me and the husband and the stereotypically large Catholic family live in a big, old house. This house, being large enough to accommodate double-digits if necessary, and being old enough to feel lived-in, will have a large yard. It will also be located in close proximity to a big, bustling, diverse city. We will not have maids, housekeepers, nannies, cooks, or gardeners unless absolutely necessary- and by absolutely necessary, I mean there is no way on Earth that we can handle our careers and our children and homemaking by ourselves.
Speaking of careers: that’s the fuzziest part of the sketch. I’ve been through a lot of academic changes recently. What college sophomore hasn’t? These changes have led me back to my very first plan: Political Science, Theatre, and Latin American Studies. I can honestly say that I’m taking on these curricula because I love them. They are interesting to me and they make me happy. The question is, can I make a career out of any or all of these?
My answer is between probably and maybe. The current plan is to work for at least a couple of years after graduation, and then see if I’m being led to grad school or law school. I feel that the chances of my pursuing higher degrees are very good. I think they lend themselves well to what I’m looking at career-wise right now: that is, some kind of work in international development. It might be in innovation and entrepreneurial solutions; it might be in policy making; it might be in field work. I just don’t know. I like dressing up, going into an office, and working, sitting in the zone and getting stuff done. I enjoy email! I do know that I want to do something that I’m excited about almost every day, and that puts some good back into the world.
So what do we have here? Marriage. Kids. An incredibly expensive house. Insane ambitions for homemaking. Ambiguous career goals. I think we can glean a few things from this:
1) I clearly have not addressed the challenges of having a demanding job and a demanding family life.
2) I need to marry someone who has more stable options than I do. And by stable options, I mean more money.
3) The things I love don’t necessarily go together. You have no idea how much that says about me as a person.
4) I like email. Who likes email?
All right, so a lot of this might not make sense. Sure, it points to the fact that I still have a lot to learn about the world and about myself- which I think is part of the reason I’m going to Chile. It also shows that you’re not going to tell me I can’t do this. Don’t tell me I can’t be a fantastic mom AND an awesome wife AND a rock star at my job. Who says I can’t? Read this article about young moms who founded businesses, and don’t tell me that by the time I reach that point in my life, more of us girls (and guys!) won’t have figured it out.
And you know what else? I don’t have to have this all planned out. You’re telling me that at 20 years old, my professor knew that in 10 years, he’d be married, have kids, and have gotten a Ph.D.? And he knew exactly how to go about doing it?
No freaking way. You can’t plan this stuff. Or else what’s the point? What is even the point of this life, if you can decide from the moment you are able just how it’s all going to end, and what will happen along the way? That’s no fun. You’ve just ruined the story of your own life!
Not even five years ago I was bent on entering a conservatory-style acting program and living the theater life. I was going to go to school in the big city, cram myself into an apartment with other starving actors, and give it all a shot. I had never planned on going to school where I go now, studying what I’m in love with now, and considering the careers that I am now.
I like dreaming. I like imagining what things could be like, and I love the future I envision for myself in my head. But that could all change in a couple of years- heck, a couple of months! Maybe I’ll look back on this from my corporate law office in fifteen years and laugh at the silly girl who ever thought that a life with a husband and kids and a job that saves the world was going to happen. And then I’ll bark at my assistant for another coffee and tell her to keep my mom on hold.
Or maybe, I’ll read this from my kitchen table after I’ve put my eight kids to bed, while the husband cleans up the dishes I’ve dirtied in the process of baking the bread that’s in the oven right then.
Or maybe it will be something completely different that I can’t even dream of yet.