I don’t ever post when I am emotionally knocked down low. I wait until I have regained some sort of equilibrium, then I sort through my thoughts and feelings, put them in order, and then write them down and share them here. But I thought I might try something outside my comfort zone, and share a rant with you, untempered by my usual compulsive, silver lining afterthought. A few weeks ago, I had one of those “bad things happen in threes” phenomenon. They weren’t really bad, they were just all focused on my weak spot. First, I got a letter from social security, detailing how very little money I have made in my lifetime. I have been TILTed and unable to work for about 20 years so it’s not surprising that I haven’t made much money for my retirement but it was still alarming to see it on paper. Then I got an email with information about what would have been the perfect job for healthy me at this age, which is completely impossible for actual me at any future age. Ouch. I’m going to skip the details of the third strike but it continued with the lack of financial independence theme. A few days of depression mixed with panic followed and I wrote the following journal entry in the midst of that frustration.
I had a plan when I was 24 before I got sick. I thought everyone did. In retrospect, I think most people have a loose, short term, kind of plan so that at age 24 it goes something like first career or grad school, travel, marriage, kids, possible second career, and retire. Mine was much more specific. I had a 2 yr, 5 yr, 10 yr, 20 yr and 30 yr plan. They were completely practical plans. I know, I know. God laughing and all that, but it’s not like my plan was to win the Nobel Prize or write The Great American Novel. Here, in all it’s naive hubris was the plan…
2 yr-Finish PhD in microelectronics and dance again at the Kennedy Center (things were going well before I got sick)
5 yr-Work at industry job (semiconductors), paying back my school debt and traveling extensively.
10 yr-Marriage and children, stay at home with kids for about 10 years, get my teaching certificate towards the end of that home time.
20 yr- Go back to work teaching high school physics when kids are in middle school.
30 yr-After 10-15 years teaching, write a groundbreaking high school physics text book.
That plan, which still feels so real and so close, is on the other side of a massive wall and I have spent the last 20 years slamming my head and body against that #*@ wall. It has not moved or busted or even cracked. This is not a pity party; my life has continued along a path parallel to the wall and my planned life on the other side. Along this real path I have still been a mom (to two extraordinary individuals), travelled (in a camper), taught (tutored), written (the blog and with HEAL), and danced (in class once a week). However, other than the mom gig, which has surpassed all my expectations, the rest of it too often feels like a shadow of the real thing on the other side of the wall. It feels like a weak and watered down version of my plan, my life. Again -I know that it is not. My life is actually a peaceful, happy little thing. I can truly appreciate it for that. But somehow I cannot appreciate me. Too often, I still feel like a shadow version of something I envisioned so vividly 20 years ago.
Well, that was a bit grim. Don’t worry, I don’t feel that way today. But one of my fellow TILTed readers might and now she knows she is not alone. Argh – I tried to skip the silver lining but it snuck in any ways!