Oct. 14th, 2008

elana: (Default)
My demographic seems plagued by paralyzing doubt and indecision about what to do with our lives.

At least, I know I am plagued by paralyzing doubt and indecision.

It just seems like an overwhelming choice. What will be the axis around which I will structure the rest of my life? How do I recognize the one that is optimally suitable for me? How do I avoid the abject misery and regret that seems pandemic among people between 40 and 55? There are just too many options, and no clear standard of how to judge which one is best.

Is it happiness? Personal satisfaction? But isn't that more about attitude than the hard facts of your career?

I've been arguing in this blog that misery is related to the disparity between what you perceive you have and what you perceive you deserve. The distance between expectation and possession. Likewise, contentment comes from satisfaction with what you have, and deriving pleasure from each moment of existence, with an absence of judgment. Being happy with your life. Avoiding comparing it to all the "what if?"s of your imagination. I feel like that's a pretty common position to take. I feel like it's Buddhist or something, or at least something that North Americans who claim to be Buddhist like to say.

I like to try my best to live as if each moment is my last. I like to try to live with no expectations.

There is definitely a flip side to that. I could easily rephrase it as, living as if I could die at any second. Really, it's more like that version. Really, I've just been living my life, waiting to die, coaching to myself that this is as good as it gets.

That attitude really doesn't encourage long-term planning.

The nice voices in my head say, "Elana, we know you're a good person. You're doing a great job managing that comic book shop, and volunteering at a no-kill cat shelter scooping kitty poop. We believe that someday you'll get around to singing in a band, or doing some painting, or whatever small low-pressure self-betterment activities you fancy. You are a highly ethical person and we really appreciate that. You're being the best Elana you can be. We couldn't possibly ask for more." And then I can derive satisfaction from the simple, small successes of my life.

But there is enormous pressure expecting *more*. It comes from all around me. The nice voices are only this loud because they've been competing with all that other noise for so long.

I'm not fully settled on why I'm taking steps to go to graduate school. Part of me thinks it's all I'm good at. My life and education have failed to make me into a well-rounded person; I lurch around with overdeveloped analytical skills and hardly any knowledge of anything practical. Graduate school is where they put people like me. It's kind of like a mental hospital for people who are too nerdy to live in real society.

Maybe grad school will make me an even better thinker. Maybe then I'll be smart enough to contribute some really good ideas to this world. That's the hope, really.

Part of me just says, "Well you might as well shoot for as much prestige as you can get."

And part of me — this part likes to hide and pretend it doesn't exist, but I know it's there — just wants to stop feeling like my parents are ashamed of me.

This time last year, the thought of grad school applications made me sick to my stomach. But tonight I met with a former instructor who is really guiding me back from that precipice of anxiety. Graduate school now looks like something that I can do, something that could be fun. I can actually hear the "why not?", now that the bloodcurdling screams of terror have hushed somewhat.

They're all very far away from home, my prospective schools. That in itself is an exciting motivator for me. I love to travel. And the three countries where my top schools are located — England, Ireland and Japan — are all places I have, at some time in my life, wanted to move to.

Well really the only reason Japan is on that list is because of how badly I want to move there right now— oh god I'll take any excuse any excuse at all—

But England and Ireland have suitable schools and they're cool places to live. ^_^

So I shall play this game, and see if anyone wants me to come paddle in their nerd pool. If I can let go of my fears, my expectations, my terror that the entire worth of my life is balanced on these horrible little applications oh my god aasgdgsahhglgsdhdlkhs—

No.

No.

I can find satisfaction in any number of careers.

I'm just giving grad school a shot.

Just making optimal use of my position in life as someone who could potentially go to grad school. Not many people have this option.

[livejournal.com profile] elysesewell  (my role model) once said, "It takes an ass to cover every seat."

(Well, the full quotation is, "It takes an ass to cover every seat, shitslice." And it was in the confessional booth of America's Next Top Model. But anyway.)

My ass seems suitably contoured to fit the "read-y, think-y, write-y" seat. So I'll go snuggle up and see how it feels.

No pressure.

No pressure.

No presssssssssssss


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