When I was a kid, my parents told me I could be and do anything I wanted (as long as it required a college degree and wasn’t embarrassing). As a graduating nursing student, my prof leaned into my ear and said, “I know you’re going to set the world on fire!”
I don’t think she meant arson.
So I grew up with these expectations that if I worked hard enough, the world was going to be my oyster and I would rule all with my kindly queenliness. I would MAKE A CONTRIBUTION.
Didn’t help that my mum was one of the first female lawyers to graduate from UNB, and that she was smart as a whip and so obviously not happy with staying at home, her intellect stuck in neutral.
Not only would I rule the world, but marriage wasn’t really important, and boys less so, was the message.
I did my degree, went out to work, only to find out that I wasn’t particularly good at bedside nursing. I had chosen nursing because I knew I didn’t have the commitment to be a doctor. But nursing demanded odd hours and racing about and constant fear that I’d screwed up somewhere or that I would be asked to do something I had no idea how to do.
I got married. What the heck? I had absolutely no diagram about how to be married. I didn’t even know people who knew how to be married. Ergo, I ended up in the nursing scenario again, always afraid I was doing something wrong.
That’s okay, I thought. I’ll parent. I’ll be the BEST parent. I’ll BE INVOLVED, but not smothering, funny but not mean, perfect in every way. Well, my kids will tell you how that turned out. I was INVOLVED but a lot of parenting is simple boring drudge work, interspersed with those moments of glory that make you do it. There’s a reason babies smile at 6 weeks. I didn’t much like that job, either, though I do like my kids.
I moved to public health. Felt a bit more certain there. I’ve always been able to talk myself out of situations, so teaching about healthy habits came naturally. And then I learned I could talk myself INTO situations. Uh oh.
Every time I had one of these deep “whoa can’t do that” experiences, I stepped back, further into the introvert world. I felt like Tigger, wanting only ‘haycorns’ and then deciding he hated them.
I’m coming to realize that I am meant to lead a small life. One where successes are small, often almost invisible.
One where when I leave it, the obituary will likely be a three line one. “Mother of three. We have NO IDEA WHAT SHE DID WITH HER TIME. It’s possible we’ll miss her.”
But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe I should learn to settle in, be my little person, grab the joy I get from making people laugh or when they see my little critters or watch me make a fool out of myself. Maybe life is in the little things, an ear for a friend, a pair of socks for a cold kid, a smile for the bus driver, a warm ginger cookie like the ones I just baked for my sister.
Or maybe…..maybe….maybe I could just finish this book and…
The dreams of bigness die hard. Yes, they do.
PS: I did learn how to be good at boys, but too late, she cried, and waved her wooden leg….