I’d like to say that busyness is the reason for my long silence, but honestly it’s been a motivation issue – as always – that and I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my feelings of being completely overwhelmed with family, friends and strangers alike. Apparently I’m over that, however, as I am writing it down now. A disclaimer for the overly offended, however: I am being honest about my feelings and views here and if you – dear reader – are afraid you might have a problem with what is said, stop reading now. Additionally, I have absolutely nothing against stay-at-home moms and the following characterization is made only of myself and in no way depicts my views of stay-at-parents in general. Lastly, I think it’s ridiculous this disclaimer is necessary, but I know it is.
Now, on with the show!!
“What,” you ask, “can you possibly be feeling overwhelmed about? You sleep in, feel guilty about not running more regularly, do some art, pet some kitties and play with puppies at the Humane Society.” I know, it sounds like a cush life, but as I live almost entirely in a head that never shuts up to give me some peace and quiet, how I feel is rarely related to what I’m doing. These feelings came when I finally broke down and took the GRE practice test to see just how much I had to cram for the test, which is at the end of October. I did as I expected – well on the verbal part, poorly on the math. What I didn’t expect, however, was two things: just HOW poorly I did on the math, and how absolutely stupid and incompetent it made me feel. Granted, I haven’t taken math for 7 years and I have NEVER understood Geometry, at the least these are the things I keep telling myself to try to bolster my fragile, cracking ego, but it doesn’t seem to keep me from spiraling into a downward dream-crushing, life-immobilizing panic. “Wow! It’s just math!!” you say, and my more sensible self would agree. The self that is firmly in control of my emotions and panic button, however, doesn’t. That self assures me every day that I’m going to get less than 1000 on my GRE, I’ll be exposed as an unintelligent fraud, no school will ever want me and I’ll never have a real job, which will just lead to me being a depressed stay-at-home mom who didn’t choose that life but utterly failed at everything else I tried and is constantly thinking about what could have been, should have been, would have been and then living out my unfulfilled dreams through my thoroughly resentful children. Oh yes, my friends, a bright future lays before me indeed!
This does, of course, have so much more to do than getting a bad pre-test score on my math GRE; it has to do with the whole process of going to grad school – no, more than that even; it has to do with the position I am in my life currently. I am on the edge of making a major life decision, which is always stressful anyway, but made even more so when you realize that this is the first major life decision that I have actually MADE! “You’re 26, married, college educated … obviously you’ve made decisions before. You must be exaggerating you drama-queen you!” Oh, I wish I were! I have never sat myself down, looked at all my options, asked myself what I wanted most, and then made that decision. I have LET things happen to me my whole life – I have fit myself to circumstance; I haven’t directed and shaped life to fit my wants and goals – I was never quite sure what those were, and I was so worried about disappointing everyone else that I never noticed I was disappointing myself.
Take my numerous years in college, for example. College was always the next step after high school for me – it was simply what came next, without question or thought. I had always wanted to move to the East Coast and go to American University, but knew I wouldn’t because I was expected to go to a religious university – one, in particular. When I got a scholarship that could only be used in state, I kind of talked about going to a state school, but again, I knew I wouldn’t; I did what was expected of me and went to a small, conservative, Christian school; I let life happen rather than directing it. Again, when I went back to school for post-bacc work it wasn’t because that was what I really wanted to do at the time, but rather I needed something to do while my partner was working in the area. I wanted to leave, to pick up and move somewhere far away, but rather than taking steps to make that happen, I simply sat back and fit myself into the circumstance I found myself in.
I have been married for 6 years – yes, that means I was 20 when I got married. 20!!!! This part is tricky to explain well – it’s not at all that I didn’t want to be with my partner, I absolutely did – I wanted to be with him, live with him, travel with him – but I didn’t necessarily want to get married right then. I was 20!!! There were so many experiences that I’d never had, and now never will, namely living on my own. In order for us to have the relationship we wanted, however, our families absolutely expected us to get married; it wasn’t about us and our relationship, but conforming to values held by our parents but not necessarily shared by us. I did it though – I was expected to get married and I did.
I have done what is expected and let life happen to me for far too long. I want to live my dreams and stop changing them to fit into current circumstance and expectation. So here I am, about to apply for grad school with two concerns: what if I fail miserably at my first attempt to live my life according to my desires, and how do I truly know this is my desire and not living in circumstance once again? I feel like there is a lot riding on this decision to go to graduate school, a lot of pressure (mostly from myself) for this to be the right decision. How do I know the field I’m choosing is the one I want to do forever? How do I know that the schools I’m applying to are the ones I want to go to and not the ones that are most convenient to my current circumstance? Like I said, I feel overwhelmed by the entire process; I feel unsure about my decisions, but I’m not entirely sure they are the wrong ones either. I want to direct my own life, but I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge and am terrified that I’ll make the wrong choices; I don’t know if I’m actually unhappy or if I’m forcing myself to be just to give myself something to do every day.
So there it is: I failed the math section of the GRE and it paralyzed me, not because of the test itself, but because of all the choices, confusion and frustration that it ultimately represents; it isn’t the confusing mixture of numbers and letters posing as numbers that’s really the problem (although, come on, those really should be kept separate!), but the mixture of dreams and expectations, direction and circumstance, life and … well … life.