I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately (actually, if I’m going to tell the truth, I’ll have to say that this has been an issue for me for my entire adult life – it just changes a shade here and a bit there, but whatever), and I don’t seem to be getting very far with it on my own, so I’m opening it up to all of you. I love the different perspectives I get from you, and I’m hoping that you’ll have some words to help me open up my thinking about this, too.
I have been struggling with a very odd sort of not-quite-discontent for a while now. It’s certainly nothing that overtakes my life or keeps me from recognizing how truly great I have it; it’s more of a little nagging feeling that hovers in the frequency noise, but that I can make out clearly often enough to notice. It tells me that, while my personal life is about as close to perfect as it can possibly be, I’m still not enough professionally. It says that I am taking the easy way out, that I’m not applying myself, that I am not living up to my potential (sounds an awful lot like a high school English teacher, this little nagging voice, doesn’t it? Hmmm…).
I’ve written before that I consider myself an artist, and every word of that piece is true. I don’t feel that I have to be published, or that fame and fortune should come from this exercise of putting words together. Honestly, blogging has satisfied much of that need to be read by others; I write here every day, not knowing who’s going to read what I write or how what I write is going to affect those who read it. Having the feedback that I get here really does fulfill my writer’s desire to be noticed and recognized and understood.
So what’s my problem?
I have been thinking, for quite some time now (since about a month after I graduated with my Master’s, actually) about continuing my education. It’s that that I’m wondering about.
I can’t really justify the effort. I’m not in a job where I would benefit from another degree (and I’m certainly not in a job that would subsidize my pursuit of one). I don’t want a job that would require I have more education – in fact, another degree could actually diminish my prospects for working elsewhere because I’d be “overqualified” for the kind of work that I’d want to do. I don’t really have the time to devote to more advanced study, and neither do I have the financial wherewithal to pour money into earning a degree that wouldn’t put me in a position to earn that money back in a reasonable amount of time. Lastly, I well remember the unpleasantness of grad school. I remember the work, I remember the time, I remember the frustration of feeling as though the curriculum wasn’t serving my needs as a student.
Yet, with all these very valid reasons against going back to school, I feel as though I’m being driven to do it anyway, and it’s this that I need to investigate.
I’m betting that a lot of it comes from my rotten upbringing; that I’m still suffering from the over-achiever syndrome that I picked up as the kid of emotionally abusive parents. I was never good/smart/pretty/polite/neat/thin/talented (continue inserting adjectives here) enough, and even though these people aren’t a part of my life anymore, I still recognize their influence in the way I do things. I am ever mindful of not being enough, and this often leads me to put forth an extraordinary amount of effort to meet some sort of undefined (and, if we’re being honest here, unattainable) standard. I think it’s here that most of my problems lie.
Kizz will tell you that she’s been having this conversation with me forever (and I am very grateful for her patience and indulgence thus far). I can very clearly recall long and heartfelt IM sessions where I lamented that being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t enough; that I was missing my potential in the work I was doing, that I undervalued how important it was and that I felt I was somehow ducking out on larger responsibilities (as if there could BE a larger responsibility – I can see that now).
I guess I’m feeling that way a little now about the work that I do – or, as the negative voice in the noise says, the work that I’m managing NOT to do – right now. Am I doing enough as a (very) part time teacher in a tiny little, podunk community college? Am I challenging myself to continue to think and grow and express things in meaningful ways? Am I taking the easy way out by allowing my husband to provide this life for me that doesn’t require that I put forth the commitment of time and effort to do something else? In short, am I smart enough? Am I talented enough? Am I enough?
I’m not looking for pats on the head or happy platitudes here. I get that (most of you) like me, or you wouldn’t keep coming back to read (and I’m very, very grateful that you do, believe me). I also want you to know that, as pathetic as I may be coming across here, I’m NOT about to pitch myself off the harbor bridge or leave my family in pursuit of some sort of answer to an early mid-life crisis. I really am fine; all this thinking, like I said, happens in the ether of my life. I’d just like to figure out a way of addressing this voice – hopefully once and for all, but I’d settle for something a bit more decisive than I’ve managed thus far – so that I can be as content with my professional life as I am with my personal.