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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Who We Think We Wish We Were

Driving past a snowy, bendy creek late this winter, I noticed a pair of cross-country skiers winding their way along the frozen water's edge. I recognized in myself an old, familiar voice that reminded me that my ideal self loved cross-country skiing along the edge of creeks.

Here's the thing: I like the idea of that person. I like the package. I don't actually ski.

Which got me thinking about all the ways we berate ourselves for not turning out more like the picture we'd grown in our minds.

It's even more vague when there's no clear picture in the first place. I was never one of those kids who lined up worksheets in a row and played teacher all day long; or knew just what picture to draw under the caption: "What I'd Like to Be When I Grow Up". At grad when my smart and clear-minded friends headed off to university to pursue the carreers of their choice; I was pretty sure that my judgement day had come. No more hiding my lack of ability to become anything; anyone at all.

What followed was many years of jobs in a variety of caregiving roles; which I enjoyed quite a lot and felt largely competent in. At one point, I was working on a hospital ward with severely disabled children. I felt honoured to have been hired into this role; and valued my relationships with the patients.

But what stands out in my mind during this part of my working life is the afternoon that I got caught up sewing up a tiny quilt; just for the fun of it. I didn't want to go to work when it was time to do so. I just wanted to stay in my cozy apartment and watch the pieces of stripe and polka dot take on a brand new shape.

I'm not eighteen anymore. I'm in my forties, and I still find myself wondering what I would like to be when I grow up. Not that I'm unhappy in my current life. I think I'm well suited to where life finds me now.

But I'd like to be surprised by a lack of mundane in this life. By directions that thrill and amaze me. Challenge compacancy. Promote social justice. I'd like life to morph into continuously interesting directions and never relax into a predictable routine that is comfortable; but kind of boring.

Sometimes I feel like that seventeen year old grad, looking around and wondering.... what now? When will my stage manager show up and hand me a program or a flashlight or something?

In any case, I don't think I'll take up cross-country skiing any time soon, although I still love the image. I may indulge myself in daydreams of a huge room to spread out in; full of colours and patterns and books and papers and buttons and lots of sunlight.

But the who that I think I wish I were isn't discontent. And this dream of a large sunny work studio doesn't coincide with my picture of social justice; because I'm aware of how ridiculously wealthy I already am. And to afford a large peaceful studio would require lucrative work hours; which negates the whole "peaceful" part of the fantasy.

The who I wish I were is content. Grateful. Doesn't get bored, irritable, and grumpy. (Not even when there are roughly eleven and a half months of winter in the longest year of Manitoba history).

Maybe I should take up cross-country skiing after all.
In May.


gophercheeks said...

I think you're onto something there Joyce. I winter hobby to fight the winter mood swing that just won't propel itself in the other direction!

My 'studio' is full of sunshine too and has large canvases showing paint, sitting upright on easels. There has got to be some old chairs in there for me to re-upholster while I am dreaming up my next masterpiece. Oh how lovely it would be to sip my tea in that room each morning!

Aaawwwwwwwww, cross country skiing may be a bit to cold for this gal. Maybe curling indoors is more realistic.... though I have never seen that image in myself!

I love reading about how you feel. I value your honesty and humor. Thanks for sharing.

Jennie C. said...

I don't live in cross-country skiing territory anymore, but it really is quite lovely. It can be as energetic as a stroll, a hike, a jog, or a full-out run. You need a cross-country ski buddy. My mom stays really fit this way. Fitter than me. :(

I'm with you on the whole what should I be when I grow up thing. Ack. I think I'd really like to be a mid wife. But I already crammed a 4 year degree in Computers into a long 6 year marathon (which at least enabled me to escape debt-free). Do I want to start school all over again? No.

Anonymous said...

It often amazes me cousin, how much of me I hear in you.

mmichele said...

I am an organic farmer, living off the land with my own chickens and of course lots of BEES.

I like long hikes over challenging terrain by myself and can snare a rabbit for supper.

I cross country ski when I have to pick up the mail from town in the winter. Unless I need my snowshoes.

Judy said...

My 'studio' is in my basement.

I imagine the sunshine.

Thankfully, I have a fabulous imagination.

And a large basement.

Love this post. I so relate.

Heather Plett said...

Someone who has donated over $13,000 to make sure people have food to eat in Darfur by "watching the pieces of stripe and polka dot take on a brand new shape", is pretty much a hero in my book. You've managed to combine creativity with social justice in a beautiful way - more than most of us dream of.

joyce said...

gopher. great studio picture.
youère welcome.

jennie- midwife is something i've thought of as well. But I'm afraid I'd kill poeple. And I'm not really confident about returning to school.
Skiing? Really not gonna do it.

R. That's quite a comment. I've thought a lot about it in the past few days. I take it as encouragement for how I may turn out!

wowo mmichele. Snowshoe. I find myself contrite in your presence! I think you would suit all your fantasies very well.

Judy-- Ah! But you have a studio....

Heather! I missed this comment somehow. What a lovely comment. It's funny because when I read the intelligence in your blog posts, I think you must be one of those quite evolved people who I could strive to be more like....
Thanks for the kudos.