Dec 3, 2011

Ten Years Later, and I'm Okay

I just finished watching a most horrible movie -- Since You've Been Gone -- starring some big talent like Lara Flynn Boyle, Teri Hatcher, David Schwimmer, Joey Slotnick, Jon Stewart, Jennifer Grey, Molly Ringwald, and Liev Schreiber. I wasn't looking for cinematic genius, and I didn't get it. I figured it would be one of those run-of-the-mill "you've done nothing with your life" kind of movies, and it sort of was, except that at the end the jerks from high school get their comeuppance and the geeks are the real winners.

Now? I'm watching And God Created Woman, starring Brigette Bardot -- a true film classic (although the fight scenes are so poorly done).

But back to the reflective masterpiece that was Since You've Been Gone. It got me thinking, mostly because I'm pushing my 10-year anniversary of graduating high school.

Ten. Years.

I could have several children by now, and I know some who do. Theoretically, I could have a whole clan of kids, a house, a high-paying job, a vacation home. But truth be told, I never sought any of those things.

Ten years ago, I was keen on going to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln -- after giving up my dreams of attending New York University because of cost -- and majoring in English. I was sure I'd be in the Honors Program (which I was) and that I'd live on campus (which I did). Beyond that? I had no aspirations. I wanted to be free, happy, and to write my little poet's heart out.

As a naive and hopeful 18-year-old (I was in the older end of my grade), I dreamed of moving to New York and being a poet.

A few months into my freshman year of college in 2002, I realized how silly my dreams were (much like those of my childhood -- to be an artist). My dentist, a very awesome lady in her own right, had all of her certificates hanging on her office wall, and during a visit I noticed that one of those certificates was for a bachelor's degree in ... English. The dialogue went something like this:

Me: So, you got your degree in English?
Her: Yup!
Me: So, how'd you become a dentist?
Her (laughing): Well, I realized very quickly after graduating that I couldn't do anything with a bachelor's in English, so I went back to school and became a dentist. 

Well, that sealed the deal for me! My freshman honors seminar was in journalism, so after speaking with my adviser and my professor, I quickly switched over to a bachelor's in journalism, specifically in copy editing (aka News Editorial) and fell quickly in with the crowd working a million hours a week at the student newspaper. Within moments my deal as a copy editor was sealed.

My aspirations changed: I would become a copy editor for a major daily newspaper in the U.S. and be an awesome Jewess in the process.

And I actually accomplished this goal! With a job at The Washington Post after graduating college, I was set, but incredibly unhappy. I picked up, I moved, I attempted to figure out what I wanted to do. I ended up in Chicago working for a Devil Wears Prada-style professor of Economics, discovered my inner Orthodox neshama and?

Another flip: I wanted to go to graduate school to become a professor of Judaic Studies. So I jetted off to Connecticut, got a master's degree in my field, and then, again, was unhappy and unsure what I wanted to do.

A quick change: I would get another degree, this time in education, and teach Hebrew language to youngsters in Jewish day schools in the U.S. So I moved to New York, started up at NYU, and was, within an instant, unsatisfied with the program and my aspirations. And off I was to Colorado, where I am now.

Over time, Social Media became a strength of mine. I dream of moving to Israel and becoming part of some kind of translation and grammar commission, fixing signs the country over for consistency and authenticity. I dream of becoming a well-known slam poet, not just a blogger. I dream of writing, always, the things for which I hold a great passion. I dream of being me, mostly.

Oddly enough, I'm not disappointed in where I have gone and what I have experienced in the past 10 years. In fact, I'm quite proud of everything I have experienced. Many loves, many lost. Many jobs, many addresses. Many cities, four trips to Israel. I bought my first bed, my first car. I found G-d, I found out pieces of mystery regarding myself.

Ten years. I feel like I should feel older and more settled than I do right now, but that's not my style -- it never has been. I was the first of my friends to move away, the wild and unexpected one. As my father says, I'm a free spirit. As much as I've tried to tie myself down, it just isn't in my nature.

I will always write, sing, drink, dance, and speak in ways that make me feel free and liberated. The guilt that I should feel, I suppose for the ups and downs, highs and lows, and promises I've made to myself and others is nonexistent. I live my life as though I am in control, and ten years after I accepted that control upon myself, I am proud to have rediscovered it.

So: Are you where you thought you'd be 10 years ago? Where you were when you were a senior in high school and the world was your oyster? 


Carrie said...

10 year ago I had no conception of the possibility of where I am now. The winter of 2011 I was still reeling from the aftershocks of 9/11 and fumbling my way through my first year in NYC. I was 17.

I felt thoroughly rejected by both the Jewish establishment as well as the fringe and gave up my dream of becoming Jewish. I discovered the activist world and wanted to believe we were on the cusp of Revolution.

Today, I am not only Jewish but I am typing this from an office overlooking the lagoon in Barrow, Alaska. It has been dark all day--just barely grey around 1pm--and my view is periodically punctuated by snowmachines going airborne.

I had moved to New York to go to school and become a writer. I think that idea, although plotted for years prior, only lasted a few months.

I don't try to plan my future anymore. I worked hard to come to Alaska the first time, then let chance bring me back. I threw numbers up in the air and let them fall where they may, taking me to a small unplumbed cabin in the interior with the promise of a move farther north.

Is this what I had in mind? No. Is this what I intended? No. Is it pretty cool? Seriously. Is it amazing? Way so. Would I trade it at this point? No way. Do I know where I'll be, what comes next next? Not a chance.

Anonymous said...

I thought I would have done a lot more by now but health issues hit me when I was 18 and reality crept in afterward, I suppose. I've managed a Bachelors in Family and Child Studies, a conversion to Judaism and I've been married five years. That's it. I've never had a "real job", I'm on my second address and not sure what I'll do next. I'm thinking a baby might be in our future.

Chana said...

Yikes... I am not where I expected I would be 10 years ago. I'm not even where I expected I'd be 6 years ago. But I'm happy with almost everything. I could use a little more adventure, but being a stay at home wife and mother of two doesn't really leave room for the adventures of years gone by. Thankfully my hubby is like me in a lot of ways and he's got the adventure itch too. So a relocation maybe in our future....

Drew said...

Definitely not where I expected to be 10 years ago. . .

I suppose I was a little naive (maybe still am) since I wanted to change the world somehow. I figured I'd be working in a job that I loved that I felt meant something at the end of the day. I thought I'd be a fully functioning adult with a home, spouse (I did get that one down), and have enough to travel every now and then.

Truth is, I'm very lost and very confused. I don't work (but not for lack of trying) and many times I feel like I've lost my dreams and can't get them back. Most days I can't even tell you what I'd like to do at this point in my life. It's like I've hit a wall so many times that I can no longer see over it to what could be. We don't have a home-home because we're squeezed into a studio apartment for the duration of residency since the COL is so high in NY. We travel a little bit stateside but not much and certainly not abroad. The money just isn't there right now.

It's not a happy place to be and I don't know how to change it.

The only thing that makes me feel better is the fact that I know I'm not the only one in this position. Some of my dearest friends are also in the exact same place in life, though they don't seem to be as hard on themselves. One of my friends would like us to go to our 10 year reunion but personally, I'd rather not. I feel like I've failed.

rickismom said...

Anonymous said...

My suggestion to you is to just get a job that pays money and while at it, fulfill all your other dreams you have. It's okay if you don't work in your dream career exactly now, as long as it pays, you can work on a little bit of everything. my jewish studies professor told me a story that she worked in so many fields....and it suit her very well.

Rachel Rosenstern said...

When I graduated from high school, which was much longer than 10 years ago, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I was really sure about what I didn't want to do. I wasn't getting married or having any kids because life was just too short to be tied down with those responsibilities.

One husband and four children later..... I have learned that life is rarely what you expect. G-d has been so good to me and given me exactly what I needed, not what I expected, and I wake up every morning happy and fulfilled. My life is not perfect but it is really, really good.

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