Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Controlled by an 8-year-old

Every once in a while (and by that I mean an embarrassingly high number of times that I don't care to admit) I step back from the day-to-day tasks of preparing food, driving to work, grocery shopping, paying bills, attending to families, and doing my laundry; and I reflect on what I'm doing with my life. This activity is usually sobering, often terrifying, occasionally satisfying, and potentially paralyzing. It isn't that my life is unhappy, difficult, or empty. I have a job that I generally enjoy. I'm perfectly capable of paying my bills and living within my means. I like the city, area, and home in which I live. I have plenty of space and easy roommates. I have kind friends and a community who care for me. My occupation and location allow me to get in my car and regularly visit my parents, my sister, and sundry college friends. I'm in a relationship with someone who adores me even when I'm difficult (and the more I think on that the more impressive it is). 

My problem isn't that I don't want what I have. My problem is that I want more. 

It isn't that I want more stuff. (That's the last thing I need right now, especially after Christmas). At times, though, I want more life. I want more out of life. I want to go back to school. I want to get a Masters and maybe a Ph.D. I want to travel through Europe. I want to fluently speak another language. I want to live abroad. I want to have an adventure. I want to teach. I want to publish a book. I want to do something completely unexpected. And I want to do all of it now. 

Or maybe I don't. Maybe I don't really want to realize every dream I've ever had before I turn 28. And yet I feel a compulsion to do so. I feel that at 25-years-old I should have more to show for my life than a BA, a part-time job, a used car, and my meager bank account. 

I used to blame this compulsion on the media, the world, and society in general.* All of those "other people," those voices that are continually telling me I need to be more beautiful, successful, healthy, wealthy, creative, knowledgable, networked, and industrious. Those voices and the messages they send regarding what we should and shouldn't do or be or want to be are loud and irritating and sometimes condemning. But the voices I find influence me most are my own.

Somewhere inside my 25-year-old self are all of the Amandas that have passed, and whether or not I realize it, each of them also has something to say about what I'm doing with my life. 9-year-old Amanda is confused that she is not sharing an apartment with her neighborhood friend, Sarah. 10-year-old Amanda is shocked that she isn't working at Hallmark. 12-year-old Amanda wonders why she has not yet published a book. 13-year-old Amanda is wondering why she isn't married to someone with blue eyes and wavy brown hair. 16-year-old Amanda is still looking for a perfect mate. 18-year-old Amanda wants to be teaching college courses. 20-year-old Amanda is wondering why she isn't an editor living in a big city like Chicago or New York.  21-year-old Amanda is disappointed that she isn't in grad school and 23-year-old Amanda is frustrated to know that two years later she still isn't living overseas. Only 17-year-old Amanda is satisfied to hear that she is a youth director, but even she is skeptical of why she is in ministry alone.

It may seem foolish that I am currently trying to live up to the expectations of an 8-year-old girl who has little idea of what it takes to be an independent person and to eek out a living, and yet I fear disappointing her just as much as I fear disappointing all of the Amandas that follow her. I am the one who has set the expectations for what I should be doing and when I should be doing it. There is no one to refute me and so I carry on, following the path that I am on all the while wondering if I should have taken the other fork in the road and regretting it with each passing step. I become so worried about what I'm not becoming, that it is difficult for me to see and enjoy what I am. 

I have no immediate solution for this problem, and since it is my problem I don't really feel compelled to attempt to offer one for anyone who may stumble upon this post - a post that is not really what I intended it to be when I started to blog - which is an activity that 24- and 25-year-old Amanda are super sad she hasn't been doing.

*I've decided that this is my equivalent of "the devil, the world, and my sinful nature," but maybe I've been spending too much time in the catechism.