Saturday, July 25, 2009

Newspaper column

For the majority of my life, I’ve been programmed to strive for what’s supposed to come next: graduate, go to college, get a full-time job, get married, buy a house, have children, live happily ever after.

And maybe because my early adulthood fit squarely into the mold, I find myself wondering, now what? Life doesn’t pause in one continual suspension of perfection like it does in Disney movies.

I guess I sort of assumed I’d be able to settle into a well-deserved predictable pattern once I hit my thirties. My husband and I would work hard to provide for our family, take care of our home and spend our days off cultivating our interpersonal relationships and interests.

Although that has happened to a point, I find we’re constantly being challenged and asked to adapt. No day or week is ever the same, and our daughter isn’t even old enough to have commitments and a social life of her own. I marvel at families who juggle dance classes, Little League games and birthday parties.

And that’s just on a small scale.

For us, the unexpected could be as simple as a pocket-gouging car repair, having to re­arrange our schedule to help a friend or being forced to accommodate a toddler who decides to give up her morning nap.

We’ve had bigger hurdles too, but we try to meet each one with an open mind. It helps when you have a partner to absorb some of the impact.

What keeps us going is knowing how good we have it. Like most people in this economy, we’re faced with ever-rising prices and being forced to do more with less. But I also know that hundreds of thousands across the country don’t have a steady paycheck to rely on — including state employees as our representatives fumble to pass one extreme budget proposal after another.

When our self-worth is tied so directly to what we do, I know what it feels like not to have a career to help define me. I’ve been a casualty of downsizing before, and as someone who likes to be busy, I felt like I was floating aimlessly without purpose.

That was also before I had a mortgage payment and a child who depends on me. I can’t imagine the stress of wondering where my daughter’s next meal is coming from. Many families struggle with that every day.

So as often as I daydream about playing hookey to soak in the summer sun, I am incredibly greatful for my work.

I also know that sometimes even the worst unforseen circumstances can bring unexpected results. Maybe it provides a catalyst to try something you’ve always wanted to, or spurs you to make a change you’d been putting off.

I’ve always been one to embrace change. I like trying new things and enjoy a challenge. Even though I’ve long since left the classroom, I haven’t given up on learning — especially when there’s so much I don’t know.

Including what comes next.

I guess I’ll just have to be open to what life throws my way and continually pursue my own version of happily ever after.


the_plainsman said...

Good, thoughtful piece. Being in one's twenties and fancy-free, change comes easily to most of us; a little harder in the next decade, our thirties, when institutional learning is a decade plus removed and other factors as growing families begin to take hold.

Random change gets much tougher to fathom for those in their forties and beyond who may add in considerable investment into their community and housing, increasing family responsibilities like college for the kids and retirement planning.

I just read an article this AM that the three cities of Western NY, plus Pittsb. and three in Ohio totaled seven of the fastest dozen shrinking major cities in the US since 2000.

The only way to survive, no, make that thrive, is to keep and nourish an attitude like yours. And as your latest adventure demonstrates, it works!

Erica said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that one of those shrinking cities the plainsman is mentioning is my hometown: Dayton, OH. I see it everywhere and it's increasingly difficult for the city - you cans see signs of it everywhere. Even with something as simple as a packed parking lot at the discount movie theatre on a Tuesday afternoon. I believe Dayton actually has one of the highest if not THE highest unemployment rate in the state. But I could be wrong.

What I'm trying to say as this was a very well thought out piece that many can relate to at the moment. Even if people haven't lost their job, they can feel the tension and fear on everyone's minds. A piece like this not only allows people to relate, but find a certain sense of hope and strength in understanding that they are not alone in what is currently a very universal sense (well, universal may be too broad of a term) of not knowing what each day may bring. So, thank you.

Mmmkay so I just looked it up and Dayton's unemployment rate in June was 13.7 % in June and the entire county was 12.4%. Ugh. Not that it matters, I just made myself curious.

Laura said...