Thursday, December 3, 2009

Commitment

I am pretty sure I have a serious fear of long term commitments. Unfortunately it's taken me 40 years and a failed marriage to figure that out. I started thinking about it a couple of years ago when I was participating in a book club of sorts. The group developed when conversations were sparked by A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. During that time, I began some serious introspective research and I feel fairly certain that I only scratched the surface. One of the most interesting discoveries I made on that journey had to do with my fear of commitment.

It makes me laugh a little because it seems so cliche to say, "I have a fear of commitment." It sounds like it should fall from the mouth of a single male...in his 20's...and not from the lips of a 40 year old woman with 4 children.

When I go back to my childhood, I remember so many talents that longed to be developed. I was a gymnast, an ice skater, a dancer and even a cheerleader. I made good grades and was usually a "teacher's pet" type. I had many interests and excelled academically. At least that's how it looked on the outside. I tried many things and quit many things....as soon as they became more challenging that I expected. When so many things come easily, you get used to it. You get used to the praise, "Good job!" or "This seems so easy for you!" "You are so lucky you can do that!" I got so used to it in fact, that I couldn't stand the idea of NOT hearing it. So when my gymnastics coach went from saying, "I have got a real bars girl here!" to "We are going to have to really push you to be ready on vault" I got the hell outta there. Fast. What?? Really work on something? Me? This is not supposed to be hard work. Everything is supposed to be easy. So I pulled the "I don't really enjoy this anymore. Mom, I wanna quit." I did that over and over with EVERYTHING I ever tried. Things got hard. I quit. There even came a time, in high school, where school got hard...and luckily I didn't quit...but I decided that being popular was more important...because I was also good at that. I put all of my focus on my social life. Apparently, when you are in with the popular girls...you can make B's and an occasional C...and no one cares.

When I got to college, I heard a quote that stuck with me for a long time. I heard my dad say that someone we knew "sure knew about a lot of things but didn't know much about nothing". I couldn't quite shake that thought. For many years I had no idea why I kept that quote tucked deep down inside my soul. I felt a strange attachment to it. I sort of "got" it. I didn't like the fact that I got it. So I threw myself into my child development classes and I made a commitment to dedicate my life to the education of young children. I was determined to know a LOT about something dammit!!! I knew I could be really good at something I loved, right??

I majored in Child Development, got certified to teach elementary ed, and got a job right out of college teaching first grade. I worked for a few years, got married, had the first two kids, and then quit to be a stay-at-homer while the girls were little. ( I never forgot my commitment to young children, I just figured that being dedicated to my own was enough!!) Had a baby boy and baby boy made 3. I was sailing along just fine, focusing on the children and then my marriage started to get a little stale. The idea of being with the same person for the rest of my life caused a whole new kind of panic and anxiety. I tried to ignore the panic for a while but I eventually gave up the fight and divorce was inevitable. At the same time, being a stay-at-home mom was getting to be WAY harder than expected and I was wanting a change there too... so I went back to work part-time, delaying full-time work until divorce was final. While I was working part-time, I met Nick. Not long enough after that, Stella made 4. (He wants to get married and that scares me silly but that's a post for another day.)

When I had to go back to work full time, I ended up at the charter school where I am currently employed. My school has a great philosophy and a ton of potential. However, it is QUITE challenging to teach there. There are many special needs children and what I like to call "special needs parents". It's a multi-age school so I teach K-1-2! I don't even need to go into curriculum challenges for three grade levels. And guess what? This is my third year there and I am starting to get antsy...AGAIN.

So here's my dilemma now...I feel like quitting...A LOT. It's so hard. Some days it takes every ounce of energy I have and then when I finally get to be with my own four babes, I'm spent. Done. Too tired to talk. Some nights I literally cry myself to sleep.

On the flip side...I love actually teaching. I love to help children learn how to read, how to talk to each other, how to use conflict resolution skills effectively and see the benefits of that. I love love love those little angels that teach me so much about love and life and happiness.

If I do decide to quit, am I completely letting go of that promise I made in my early 20's? Am I a quitter again? Are my reasons for wanting to quit valid enough to actually quit and do something else?? Do I want to quit because, once again, it's gotten too hard for my comfort zone? Too challenging for my ego to deal with??

I love photography and people tell me I should do that professionally and sometimes I think I would LOVE that. I LOVE LOVE LOVE photography. But what happens when clients get demanding? What happens when trends change and it's hard to keep up? What if photography is just another gymnastics/ice skating/dancing experience?

Is it okay to be 40 and still wanna know what the hell I'm going to be when I grow up? Or is growing up simply learning how to commit? Do I need to grow up? Or do I need to move on?

Heavy sigh. Can you see why the quote below speaks to me?

5 comments:

curious girl (lisa) said...

yes, it's okay to be whatever age and still not know what you want to be when you grow up! you can be many many things in this lifetime and you have already been and play many roles.

I get antsypants too. a lot. one day I crave stability and the next I want danger and adventure and change.

the answers will come. trust.

xoxo.

kendalee said...

Oh yes, I SO get it! From where I sit, your story sounds like that of someone who is multi-talented, committed and accomplished in several areas. And all in ONLY 40 short years!!! I'm in awe of what you've achieved. And I have no doubt that if you turn your hand to photography professionally, you'll shine there too!

But I understand what you're saying, because, except for the particulars, I can SO relate to this. And for years and years I kept asking myself "What's wrong with me? Why can't I just settle down to something I love, master it (struggle with it if necessary to achieve that) and be content?" But who actually decided that it's better to be committed to one thing forever? That the measure of success is to be a specialist? What if some of us just weren't designed that way?

Two books that really helped me start to come to terms with this in myself are these:
The Renaissance Soul - Margaret Lobenstine and What do I do when I want to do everything? - Barbara Sher.

Both helped me recognise and feel like my commitmentphobic tendencies are just an expression of who I am, and that I might be in a relative minority but that I'm not alone in being like this (which I found somewhat comforting as amongst my friends and family I sometimes felt I was!) as some of the most accomplished and creative people in the world never settled on just one thing either - Leonardo da Vinci is a very famous example (not that I'm suggesting I'm in Leonardo's league but imagine if he'd limited himself to just one thing).

Furthermore, both books suggest some really very practical ways to accommodate and make the most of this in one's lifestyle, and the current world, without having to entirely pack up or leave important things behind every time that antsypants feeling strikes. I highly recommend them both.

And in the meantime, I don't know if it helps at all but know that I'm thinking of you and cheering you on, whatever you pick up (or leave off) next!!! K x

LifeIsArt said...

Thank you both so much!!!

Kendalee- I can't wait to look at those books!!

Jen Hunter said...

Wow Suzy...
I often feel the same, right now I am stale and stagnant...just waiting for something, anything...

You probably have seen this before, but I love it for a little perspective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

XOXO

Barefoot from Heaven said...

Hi Suzy, it's okay to feel like you do now. I'm on the same page here when it comes to my work. And like you many say to go find work with my camera. But that sounds so easy. There are so many more others who are way better than me so who would be waiting for my pictures...? Yet I'm gonna go for it on etsy. think about it girl. You need to be happy in order to be there for your kids.
I'm seding out a prayer for you. And think about it you never ever a quiter....these changes need to be in your life for you to grow.
Be well. Dagmar