The week after I graduated from high school I took a portion of the very generous money that I received and went out to our local Wal-Mart. Among other things, I bought plates and dishtowels, an iron and a little ironing board; everything I thought I might need to set up my own mini-household at college – more than three months distant. (Aside: I am not entirely sure why I thought I would be doing much ironing in college – no one at Caltech, including me, gave a damn whether or not my clothes were wrinkled). In June I began packing my room at home in boxes as if by being ready to go I could somehow make the time pass more quickly. High school was fine, I wasn’t running away from anything; I had an exciting summer planned: I would earn my private pilot’s license and had a lead in the local production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. I was happy, yet I could not restrain myself from living in the future.
I’ve always been this way. I recall disliking the other children in my kindergarten class; they all seemed so young and immature to me; I wanted them to grow up so they would be more interesting. I dreamed longingly of how much better things would be in third grade. I thought of middle school as merely a necessary evil to be endured before high school. High school was simply preparation for college. And there was never any question that I would go to college straight after high school. I picked the college I attended primarily because it was the best. (It didn’t hurt that they paid for me to visit unlike their rival MIT and that the weather there was 70 degrees and sunny during said visit). After college grad school was a given and I began a Ph.D. program in astronomy without giving a great deal of thought to it – it was simply what one did with a bachelor’s degree in planetary science. After two quarters in the program I was utterly miserable and my wise soon-to-be husband asked the obvious (to everyone but me) question, “Why don’t you just quit?” I quit and took the first job that was offered to me; never even contemplating taking some time to figure out what my next step in life should be. I knew that the job was “wrong” for me in oh so many ways but I thought of it as a means to an end. I was thrilled at the salary – four times my graduate student stipend and visions of being able to be more “wealthy” than I had ever been danced in my head. I got married, a good thing overall, but something I rushed – seeing no point in waiting. I was just shy of my 23rd birthday. I received a diagnosis of severe endometriosis and an edict to “try to have your children before you are thirty” which sent me in to panic preparation mode: we bought a house just after I turned 24, in large part because I wanted a home for my, as yet, non-existent children. I took a new, better, job again knowing that it was wrong for me. I went to grad school and got a master’s degree, again, because it seemed like the next logical step, pushing away the thought that would creep into my head during an advanced propulsion class: “Wow. I could not care less about this.” It was as if I was on a hamster wheel – always running away from where I was, but never going anywhere I wanted to be.
People talk about stopping to smell the roses, but until recently I don’t think I even noticed roses existed. That all changed in November 2006 the moment Thomas came into the world. When Thomas was a baby it seemed that I wanted life to slow down, rather than speed up. Although I looked forward to a future of sleeping through the night and older kids I was in no hurry for it to come. I feel the same way with Theo, he woke up three times last night between 8:00 pm and midnight, and I truly didn’t mind. He’s growing up so fast that I savored the minutes spent singing, rocking him to sleep, and stroking his wispy hair.
After I started a pastry and baking program a couple of months ago I had something of an epiphany: that very few decisions in my life have actually been decisions. Rather than a conscientious weighing of options I have simply continued on a path that I am not even sure when or where I began. I am loving culinary school, however, I don’t think that, in the end, a pastry chef is what I will be. But I am so thankful that even though it was a “rash” choice made over the course of only a few days, culinary school was truly my decision. In addition to the sheer joy of baking large volumes of bread and other delights two nights a week, school has given me the joy of freeing me from “the wheel”.
But the lure of the wheel is strong. I work part-time at my paying job, 20 hours week. As of this morning I had already worked 20 hours this week (and them some). Yet, I was tempted to go into work today; not because I was asked to, not because I had a particularly interesting project to work on, but because I felt that I hadn’t done enough. There really was no reason for me to go into work other than sheer masochism and yet I still considered it. It is going to take a long time – perhaps the rest of my life, to stop listening to the voice in my head that tells me what I “should” do and start listening to myself.
In the end, I didn’t go to work today. I wrote here to leave a record of my thoughts, to proclaim that I will live my life in the here and now instead of allowing it to lead me. I will make the decisions.