Yesterday, as I was driving down some back roads with the volume cranked up, belting out Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” I came to a line that I’ve heard hundreds of times before, but that gave me pause on this particular day. What were the things you wanted for yourself? Teenage ambitions you remember well….
(Is it stuck in your head yet?)
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week. I’ve been out of commission on the whole writing front for the last 7 days or so precisely for that reason. I’ve been thinking about too many things and my thoughts have been too scattered to organize, but after scraping the bottom, I’m at least thinking more positively here at the end of the week. I thought it was time to write something, and even if no one out there in Reader Land cares, well, at least I’ve written something this week.
For some reason, in just about every job interview I’ve ever been on, I’ve been asked “What are you most proud of?” As I’ve been waiting as patiently as possible for job interviews that never came this summer, I thought about that question and how’d I’d answer it. Before, I’d always give some lame answer that, while it was true, wasn’t anything spectacular. I’d always been proud of making connections with students who had maybe seemed a little difficult or who gave other teachers trouble, and of helping those students find some kind of success. It’s such a canned answer, but I *am* proud of those times.
A lot of times, though, I’m not asked to be specific to my career. Of what am I most proud in my whole life? I’m nearing 28 years of age. I should be able to think of a number of things, right?
I can think of two: completing grad school and finishing writing my novel.
Grad school probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to a lot of people. One group of people says “So what? Lots of us do that. A master’s degree is practically the new bachelor’s, anyway. It’s basically what’s expected of us.” Another group says “Why in the world would you want to go to school any longer than you have to?” People who have situations like mine are a totally different group. I’m proud of getting my M.A. because, aside from an uncle I am only related to through marriage, I am the first person on either side of my family to get a master’s degree. When I was in junior high, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go to college. When I was in college, I was sure that I didn’t want to go to grad school. My mind changed, and independent of what anyone else thought or what anyone else wanted to do, I made the decision that I did want to go to grad school and keep pursuing my education. It was about the same time that I realized that, while school is work, I really love learning. I’d get degrees in other disciplines, too, if education was free.
I’m proud of the novel because it’s the first thing I ever actually finished, but moreso because it was something that I’ve been saying I wanted to do since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I wanted to write a novel. It doesn’t matter that it’s not published. It doesn’t matter that it probably never will be. It only matters that I wanted to do it, I worked hard, and I did it.
What’s important about both of these is that they’re things that I wanted for myself. To that end, I guess I could add a third ambition fulfilled: becoming a teacher. I’d wanted to do that for so long, though, that it sort of never felt like a dream realized, but like choosing a career and going with it, even though I was one of those kids who was constantly playing “school” and setting up my stuffed animals and siblings to be my students. (A lot of my children’s books still have “library cards” taped on the inside covers so that when someone checked them out of my school library, I could tell them when to return them. I was obviously harboring librarian/bibliophile tendencies as a small child, too.) I was quite passionate about teaching when I was younger, but like everything else, I suppose, education takes the passion out. It took it out of writing for me for a long time, as well.
One of the greatest things about having friends with a variety of interests is that you become exposed to so many things. You learn a little bit about all of it and find that your friends’ interests often become your own. For me, it’s so easy to align my wants with my friends’ wants that I don’t even necessarily realize that I’m doing it. I find myself interested in their interests, and the next thing I know, I’ve sort of forgotten about me. I’ve kind of lost track of the things that I used to be passionate about apart from anyone else. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t felt passionate about many things lately, but maybe not. There used to be things that I really enjoyed. I need to get back to enjoying them. To doing and creating.
The thing is, aside from writing and learning, I can’t remember other things I wanted for myself, aside from the desire to drive across the country. There are things I want to do and goals I want to achieve, but I don’t feel so passionately about any of them that I feel as though I must accomplish (or at least start working towards) them right now, which is sort of how I felt about grad school and writing the novel. So I think I need to spend a little bit of time cultivating some new (or old) hobbies – things that really interest ME. Not things I do just to do. Not things that I do just because my friends like them (and that most of the time I don’t even enjoy). Not things that other people think I should be doing. When I stop and think about it, I can think of things that I learned from my friends, but I’m not really sure what my friends have learned or could learn from me.
So my new goal has just become to find something I can do that I really love. What I ultimately want for myself at this very moment (and what I’ve been suspecting for quite some time that I’ve been lacking, which could help explain my unhappiness) is passion. We’ll see how this goes. I could use a little excitement.