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.