"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thoughtful Throwback Thursday ......Ahhhh to be young again

So once again it is Throw-back Thursday. But for me it was nightmare midterm day. Two exams that I studied really hard for. One I did well on .... the other not so much. Shear panic hit the moment he put the paper in front of me. And I looked around at all the young adults who were breezing through their exams and I panicked a little more - and that was it, I was all done.

Jung, Beck, Freud, Millon, Buss, antisocial, borderline, CAPS Theory, Attachment Theory, psychodynamics, defense mechanisms, Evolutionary Theory ........ blah, blah, blah .... it all became one jumble of information in my brain that I just could not sort through ... so I guessed. The good news is the exam was multiple choice and so I had a 25% chance of getting each one correct. Glass half full right!

After I stopped crying on the ride home I wondered what it would be like if I had done things differently and figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was in my twenties instead of when I was in my forties. Where would I be now?

I came of age in the 1980s - my role models were Madonna and Pat Benatar. I went to the movies and wanted desperately to be Andy from Pretty in Pink while at the same time I identified with Allison in the Breakfast Club. I listened to both Heart & Zepplin and watched The Wall looking for the meaning of life; but deep down I was a Goonie 'till the end! I learned feminism from Salt N' Pepa and formed my rebellion watching the Legend of Billy Jean & Footloose when we finally got cable. My vampires did not sparkle, and that was ok because they introduced me to the Doors. Rod Stewart led me to believe I could make it on my own.

But in all those contradictory identities I tried on as I came of age I never really knew what I wanted to be. I never thought about careers or college or the future (unless it had a DeLorean involved). The 1980s were the "me" generation. We believed we could be anything we wanted to be ... the problem was there were a lot of us that had no idea what that meant.

When I finally ended my rebellion against the "man" and tried to figure out what I was going to be, my ideas were still pretty grandiose. I was by this point in my early twenties and I wanted to be a journalist - the next Woodward or Bernstein or Cronkite or Jennings. I was going to save the world with my insight as a crusader for the downtrodden. My undergraduate degree is in journalism; I worked for a summer at a small local newspaper and realized that the reality of "writing" for a paper consisted of obituaries, and craft fairs and spending the day in court writing about who got arrested - all valid and useful information - but I realized I was not going to topple corrupt governments where I was. So I got a degree in domestic violence advocacy - at least here I thought I would do some good, and I think I did. I worked in a shelter for a few years as an advocate, but the pay was awful (I was a single mother trying to survive) and the hours were miserable and the stress was intense almost everyday. I burnt out quickly and went back to what I was good at - higher education and pushing paper! The pay is ok, the hours are usually flexible, and sometimes I even still have an impact.

But the calling to move on is strong, the question of what do I want to be when I grow up ever present. What legacy am I going to leave to my children? And so here I am, in my forties sitting with kids in their twenties, trying to make it all work, fitting an internship into my already chaotic life, sitting on my hands when I want to tell the professors none of this really matters in the real world - teach me skills, not theory. 

I started this blog during my midterms in April- and just got around to finishing it more than a month later. That is where my life is at right now. And that is ok. If you don't keep learning, I believe your brain dies. I don't mean everyone needs to go back to graduate school in their forties (in fact I am not sure I would recommend that to anyone), but you need to keep learning, you need to keep changing, you need to be willing to "take chances, make mistakes & get messy" (sorry - I have been watching a lot of Magic School Bus with the 7-year-old). It is, however, a valuable lesson and that is the legacy I want to leave my children.

So what would have happened if I went the traditional route - perhaps I would have my Ph.D. and a private practice - but I am not sure I would have been happy. Happiness should not be found in the destination, it should be found in the journey!


  1. Leann - I do so enjoy your writing. We are from different sides of the pond and you're a little younger so maybe we see the world a little differently but you're a delight to read and I can relate to you! You put a whole new slant on life (a good journalist?). Love the comment about the 80's "me" generation and the DeLorean! My children are about the same age as you so your comments ring a bell and make me feel young(ish)l!!! Good luck with your exams and best wishes for the summer to you and yours. Keep your blogs coming!

    1. Thank you as always! I will at least be blogging until the semester starts again in September - then I may need to take a break to do that homework they keep assigning me!