Friday, April 17, 2015

I could not travel both and be one traveler

In case you missed it, the tagline for this blog is "Celebrating Midlife. Usually." After reading a discussion about the lack of blogs for women my age—not  young anymore, but not yet retirement age—I thought, I could do that. I'm middle aged, but I still have a kid at home, and we won't be retirement age for at least a dozen years.

But so far I haven't come up with much to say on that topic. Mainly because at the moment I'm not all that happy about being 53.

For one thing, being solidly into your fifties drives home that there are certain things you're never going to do. For me, that's having a career. We made the decision to move here a long time ago when it sounded like a fun place to live for a few years while PellMel was young. We knew there weren't many job opportunities in my field—I was a database analyst before we moved—but the timing seemed good for me to spend some time at home, and then we'd figure something out.

Twenty-two years later, we've talked about moving several times, but we've never really seriously considered doing it. I was in on every single one of those discussions, and for the most part, I was always in agreement with the decision to stay. But now that it's really too late to do much about it, I find myself wailing inwardly, but I never had a career! 

That wasn't what I planned. I loved my work, and I loved getting paid. I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom. I guess technically speaking, I haven't been. I would start to go crazy with boredom, so I'd find a part-time job that would keep me busy for awhile. After a year or two or four, the job itself would become boring, and I'd go back to staying home. Then a year or two later, I'd do it again.

Up until four or five years ago, I still thought I was going to be able to go back to work. My tech skills were way out of date, but I figured at some point I would brush up and get a job and finally have a career. Until the professor of a programming classes I took a few years ago told me after class one day, "You're probably not going to be hired. You're competing with 22-year-olds who are willing to stay up all night eating M&Ms and drinking Red Bull."

I was grateful for his honesty, but ouch. That was when I went back and got my Master's in English. Teaching continuing ed classes is a lot of fun, but it's more of a hobby than a job. It barely pays for the books I buy to prep for the class.

I don't regret living here. I really don't. Given the same set of circumstances (great job for Dean, great place to raise kids, good friends and good community, etc), I'd make the same decisions all over again. I just wish I could have two lives, so I could spend one doing what we did, and the other one working.

I'm a bit embarrassed to post this, because could I be any more of a whiner? I am privileged, fortunate, lucky, blessed. I have great kids and a great spouse, we have fun adventures here in outdoor paradise, we're involved in a church I dearly love, we've been able to take some amazing trips. I've blogged and gone back to school and taught classes and led small groups. How crazy is it that there is still a part of me that is thinking, is this it? is this all I get to do?

I know it's stupid. But so far I haven't been able to let it go. It's like I'm grieving for the life I thought I'd have. I'm hoping that typing it out will help with that, and maybe you all will have some advice. Fortunately there are a lot of retirees around here, so I have plenty of examples of people who are active and interesting and vital well into their eighties. We have lots of time for more life. And maybe now that I've gotten this gripe out of my system, we can move on to celebrating.

Pass the margaritas.


Cheery-O said...

Sometimes we have to grieve for the person we aren't, even if we are happy with the person we are.
I never really wanted a career and sort of backed my way into a teaching position at a college - I actually feel guilty for being so lucky to have such a good job now the kids are out of the house.
I totally get the whining - no need to apologize
AND, it is probably the thing that is most characteristic of this age - the 50s - that we have to deal with the might have beens.

dreag said...

Don't worry Barb, we all whine. I "have it all" -- the career and the flexibility to be with my kids when necessary because I am my own boss. BUT, I'm tired and exhausted and I can't go on vacation without worry about which shoes is going to drop. When I'm really busy I am making lots of money but don't have the time I feel I need for me and the family (thus utilizing substitute mothers to go with my daughter on her senior photo shoot and showing up after my trial is done -- "yes, honey, you're not as important as mom's trial."). When I'm not so busy I have years where after paying payroll and malpractice insurance I make minimum wage. Okay, not too many of those years but it happens. The other interesting thing is I feel like I have even more people to disappoint. When I'm super busy I'm not only disappointing my family, but sometimes my clients. I get behind and don't blame them when they call and say "When is this going to get done?" Just like you, I probably wouldn't change anything if I went back in time. I like my career and my clients and I have been able to be there for my kids when they need me. Now when their children ask them if they had nice, homemade meals on the table every night . . . well that's another story. Tee Hee. The sad thing there is I do like cooking, but that's just something that's been sacrificed as a regular thing. An interesting sermon at church this week and a story I saw who writes obituaries in Haines, Alaska has me rethinking my whole bucket list thing. Kind of relates to this topic as well. But, I have to go eat some lunch before my 1:30 p.m. arrives so I'll save thta for another comments. Geez, who needs a blog when you can spew all over a friends blog.

BarbN said...

Thank you for that last bit--good to know other people are dealing with this, too.

BarbN said...

I read one of the Haines, Alaska obituary writer's books-- can't remember the name of it at the moment, something about taking care of the dog? Anyway, it was a great book and thought-provoking. Just googled-- Heather Lende, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dog. Made me want to move to Alaska--where I am GOING in September! more details on that another time. Thanks for chiming in and giving the perspective from somebody who did have a career. And please don't start your own blog, I'd rather have you commenting here. :-) (kidding, if you start your own blog, I'll definitely read it.)

BarbN said...

The post title, by the way, comes from the Robert Frost poem about the Road Not Taken-- "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." If you want to read the whole thing, it is here:

London Mabel said...

And here I was envying you your teaching job, because after getting my MA I couldn't get work in teaching. (Wanted to teach CEGEP--basically community college.) No matter how unsatisfied we are with our own lives. there's someone out there jealous of it! lol