I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.
I think of holidays as bonus days. While there’s usually a purpose and a reason why the day has been recognized, I’m always grateful for a non weekend day that I’m not sitting in front of my computer in my cubicle. Traditionally I’ve had jobs that required me to be there regardless of what holiday it was. Hospitals don’t close so there’s an expectation that you’ll be working on the days that almost everyone else doesn’t have to. It’s interesting for me how other countries have more holidays and offer so much more flexibility in work time than in the States. I spoke to someone recently who took two weeks off from her job and she said it was the first vacation she had had in three years. Dedication is great but sometimes you have to take a few bonus days on your own and decompress. Even if it means taking a mental health break once in a while.
Recently I had a very long conversation with a friend of mine regarding a similar experience we were having. Don’t get my wrong, I’m glad that I chose my particular career path. Social work/counseling is a good fit for my personality and I genuinely enjoy helping others. However, one sees things in a totally different light when you’ve studied human interactions and behaviors from an academic point of view. When you’ve met with hundreds and talked at length about their personal challenges and relationship woes. The way you perceive the world around you changes when perfect strangers feel comfortable walking up to you and sharing details about the personal life and current problem because (apparently) you have the “trust me I’m a therapist/safe person” face. One thing my friend and I discussed was how hard (somewhat impossible) it is to separate professional knowledge from actual emotion in personal relationships. As a therapist you question everything. One’s hidden motives, past history, emotions, and body language to come to a conclusion on the best course of action to help them. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to take anything at face value in personal relationships and the tendency can be to overthink. If overthinking was a professional sport, I would be a pro. I love connecting the dots and making sense of complicated and complex information. It’s a great professional skill to have, but using a professional skill for personal use definitely has a downside. I think it comes down to taking it a day at a time and becoming okay with not knowing all the information up front. Which, by the way, can be very frustrating but also necessary to cultivate a healthy balance.
There should be a mandatory recovery time after a vacation that has lasted a week or longer. I use the word “vacation” loosely because the entire time I was away was not a vacation. One thing I deliberately did was to leave my computer at home during one of my two trips. The point of this was to take a break to enjoy the scenery and the experience of being in a different country. Other than the quality time spent with cousins I rarely see, the BEST part of the trip going to the beach. I’ve never been to the Pacific Ocean before and while it’s not as breathtakingly beautiful as the Mediterranean Ocean, it was still nice. I don’t know why, but for some reason sitting on a beach and thinking gives me the most clarity. I can process my thoughts and feelings and then make appropriate decisions without the distraction of familiar surroundings. It sounds weird but it works for me. That’s one of the reasons why I love the beach–I can actually think. I don’t have my laptop with me and my phone is typically turned off. No one is calling me asking for something and the sound of the waves crashing on the sand relaxes me. This time I had the opportunity to make a plan for the new year and to finalize some goals I want to accomplish this year. It was quite a productive hour or so. Definitely a reminder that I need to focus so that my efforts won’t be in vain and I won’t be working harder than I need to.
That moment when you want to write something profound and prolific and the brightness of your screen and the text box of blankness waiting to be filled just seems to mock your efforts of gathering your thoughts together in a coherent way. That’s how I feel. This past week has been particularly busy as I’ve started school again (oh joy) and started the transitional process on the career front. One thing that has grown during this school experience has been the respect that I have for people with spouses and/or families who are being persistent and completing their degree. Something that is talked about in the social services world is the importance of balance and self care. I’ve gotten the opportunity to talk and dialogue with people who have been therapists and social workers for years and in answer to the question of how they find balance and take care of themselves, they have said that they’re still figuring it out. I think that this is because there’s no one formula. I went to a training this week about working with individuals who have experienced trauma. The main thoughts behind this specific modality was that stress is stored in the body and it need to be expressed in some form in order to reduce symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. The interesting thing about it was that the presenter asserted that one of the reasons why stress is not expressed and stays in our bodies is because we decide to ignore it. We distract ourselves with food, exercise, books, activities, etc that mask our true need of confronting the traumas and experiences that are the sources of our stress. In the therapy world these things are known as coping skills. That being said, I think that a lot of people (including myself at times) have gotten use to artfully dodging their own issues and have instead channeled all that energy to another activity instead of confronting their own past hurts. It’s a hard place to be in and nobody wants to get uncomfortable even if it’s just to heal from past hurts. Uncomfortableness is hard.
I really really like smart people. In the world that we live in, individuality is said to be celebrated and appreciated. However, we still (and maybe unknowingly) look down on or despise people who do not fit into our molds of what they should be like. History tells us that the people who accomplish the most and succeeded tend to be those who think outside the box and aren’t afraid to challenge the social and societal norms of their time. So many people are taught to fit in from an early age. They are encouraged to do well in school, get along with their peers, graduate from a decent college after wasting freshman year partying, find a good job, marry, work some more, and die. I have witness so many older adults approaching 20-somethings and asking them if they in school and if not, they are somehow wasting their lives away. While I can’t image my life without a significant amount of stress about my education and schoolwork, I recognize that the traditional route isn’t for everyone and in reality, it shouldn’t be. Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to listen to people who are extremely intelligent. But in addition to being intelligent, they are able to convey their thoughts and ideas in a way that is extremely clear. While these individuals may not have degrees, they have adopted the mindset of being a lifelong learner. While I try not to divide the people I know into categories based on my perceptions of their intelligence, I have learned that you can’t have all conversations with all people. It just doesn’t work out that way. It’s extremely hard, if not impossible to have a conversation with someone about a topic that they know absolutely nothing about. This doesn’t mean that they’re not intelligent, it just means that they have a different point of reference. The deer in the headlights look in the middle of a conversation is usually a hint to change the topic. This is the point in my post where I insert some inspirational quote about eagles not hanging with chickens. To be clear, I think that we can learn a lot from the people around us. However, you won’t ever stretch your mind if you’re the smartest person in your group of friends and you know it. People who know what they are talking about and are aware of the world around them are more sought out than those who don’t. Point blank. Find someone smarter than you and be their friend. You’ll learn a lot.
So today I started a new job. Not a hustle or on a “as needed” basis, but a real job. It’s something that I’ve (halfway) actively pursuing since early last year. While I’m excited about new opportunities, I’m also hesitant. I love flexibility but it’s time to have something resembling security with health insurance and a 401K. I’ve met so many people who settle for a “regular” job, they put in their hours, go home, raise a family, take a vacation once a year, retire, and die. Not a bad plan, but definitely not for me. This job is not where I want to be for the rest of my life. It’s a means to an end. And if I have to sacrifice by waking up early EVERY morning in order to get stuff done and to meet my goals, so be it. I’m not a morning person but I’ll be one because what I want to be as a professional is bigger than pushing the snooze button on my alarm clock. There’s a saying that says one has to be willing to do what others won’t do in order to get what others won’t get. In my case, getting a regular job is doing what others are doing. However, my special twist is that I’m also pairing it with three additional jobs and an increasingly challenging doctoral program. With the end goal of being in a very very good professional place by the time I’m 25. The biggest challenge will definitely be balance and making sure that I don’t get in my own way. I’ve made some hard choices and there are plenty more to come. But, as I tell my clients, settling feels good for the moment but you never get any lasting results. Being deliberate and planning takes time, effort, and sacrifice but it sure beats waking up one morning and realizing that you’ve wasted your life. At least in my opinion.