Monday, July 11, 2011

dreaming up my ideal life

I've been in a strange mood lately.

This might be one of those "neither here nor there" posts but I just need to put onto (cyber)paper some thoughts/emotions that have been circling in my head. Writing is a thinking tool, after all.

I know I get into these phases every now and then, when I question what I am doing. I can't help but shake the fact that I am not living my ideal life. I have a refrigerator magnet that reads: "Now is the time to live your ideal life." It's made me think about my ideal life and whether what I am doing now will get me there. It's a scary thought, considering how much I've invested into this PhD program. I thought this was what I truly wanted. Wasn't I just thinking about how restless I was in my previous situation 2 years ago when I was deciding to quit my job and go back to grad school?

I've heard other people in the same situation (in a doctorate degree program) that almost everyone has wanted to quit at some point. No one ever said it was going to be easy. I knew that coming in to this. So why am I questioning it so much?

Am I fickle, flighty, indecisive? Or is it that every decision I make brings me closer to realizing what I truly want?

What do I truly want? I want a more sustainable lifestyle. And no, I'm not just talking about sustainable in the sense of being conscious about the earth's resources (although that is part of it). I want a sustainable lifestyle in the sense that I can truly bring to life my gifts, carry out my purpose with energy and passion, and sustain a sense of balance in body, mind, and spirit so that I can give more to others - whether that is my family, or my community. A non-sustainable lifestyle, in my opinion, is one in which I would get so completely burned out that I would lose motivation, inspiration, and/or energy to give back to others.

I just went on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which lists open positions in higher education. Every time I check the website, I get scared and intimidated. Because I don't see where I truly fit in. At the same time, I don't see myself in a full-time faculty position in a big research university. Sometimes I think that kind of position is like being in the doctoral program all over again - except it's with higher pay but maybe 10x the stress. And am I not continuing my education to have a better quality of life and to be able to contribute something (or many "things") to someone (or to many), somehow?

Anyway. I recently was asked by a colleague to present to a graduate class on the topic of infant-toddler development and early intervention services for young children and families. I covered early brain development, early caregiver-child relationships, social-emotional development and the impact of early experiences on later school readiness. I also talked about services for young children with disabilities and families. I was so energized! I loved talking about these topics and I felt like I could talk more - especially since the class was engaged and interested. I loved doing this.

But I also love doing other things. Many other things. Which is probably evident in this blog because I talk about so many different things. Sometimes I feel as though they conflict with my work, as these other interests take time as well. I often feel I am being pulled in so many different directions. Must be the Gemini in me, I don't know. I am constantly trying to strike a balance between all my interests. Sometimes I think I would be just as content being a "happy homemaker" and pursuing my creative outlets. As scary as that is for me to admit. But I don't want to give up my work either. Because it does energize me and challenge me. And when I feel energized by my work, as in the example above, it reaffirms for me that I am where I need to be. But the work does take its toll. I can't tell you how many times I've had a meltdown due to stress. And I have realized, as written in a previous post, that I sometimes feel that I live in this almost constant state of stress that I have conditioned myself to feel the stress even before the stressor is actually there. As hard as that is for me to admit as well, being a yogini and all. But I can't live like that, in this almost constant state of alarm - either experiencing the stress or bracing myself for the next big storm. Because I am not good to myself and to others in that situation.

I read somewhere, that if you want a better answer, ask a better question.

So perhaps the question is not where do I fit in, but how can I create my own ideal life? Perhaps the question is not how I can do all of these things so that they are not in conflict with each other, but how can I forge my own unique path which will allow me to do all these things in a balanced way?

So. In dreaming up my ideal life, I listed down the things that are important to me. I am a listmaker, after all.

I would love a life in which I can:

- be the best person I can be to my family and those around me -- live in health in mind, body, and spirit so that I can live generously with my time and energy
- work to improve the quality of life: to work as a means to an end, not an end in itself
- provide independent consulting to early care and education agencies in infant-toddler services/ early intervention
- train future early childhood professionals, whether at the preservice or inservice level. I love working with practicum students (preservice). I also have discovered how energized I felt after presenting to professionals at state and national conferences (inservice).
- pursue my other interests - cooking, baking, photography, yoga - in a way that is balanced and sustainable (understanding that these interests take time and may cost $)

My big deadline looms closer (in 2 days). Another rite of passage. And after having crying about it for a while, I am trying to reset my thinking to see it not so much as an obstacle or hurdle but as a place for uncovering my potential and a step closer to being able to create my own unique path.

In the meantime, maybe I should practice writing those three letters "Ph.D" next to my name... ;-) It won't be for another year or so, but hey I could use all the motivation I can get.

This photo was taken by my brother Carlo on a trip to California. Here I am looking over the vineyards of Sonoma Valley. I don't usually like photos of myself - my comfort zone is behind the camera, after all - but in this one I look like I'm dreaming of my ideal life.

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Tim said...

Now you can look back at this post and can truly say that you are living your ideal life and honestly Mia there's so much more in store for you ...there's no stopping now :)

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Tim!!! So nice to hear from you here - thank you for reading and commenting, and most importantly thank you thank you thank you for the encouragement. It means more to me than you will ever know.

How's life in Canada? I see pictures of your family on facebook every now and then and get so amazed - you look like your kids' older sister!

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