Do you really know me?

24 Aug

Earlier this year, a friend of mine committed suicide. During the aftermath, as his friends and family struggled to understand why, the biggest factor seemed to be his career. He was denied tenure at two different universities, and as he struggled to redefine his life, he dropped all his masks and ended his life. He removed any hope of ever doing anything else in his life. He was loved, and respected, yet he could not move past his [temporary] failures.

This meant something to me, because I have always felt adrift in terms of “career”. When I was a growing up I never had an answer for “What do you want to be when you grow up?” … And now I’m a grown up, and I still don’t know. I like being a mother (though it’s easy to feel like a failure in that), I like to read, and I like to keep house. Eventually I’d like to homeschool my children. But my mother worries that I am not challenged enough with what I do. That I’m bored. Even though I don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done on my to-do list. Sure, I’d love to be a powerful woman running some awesome company, but I have no idea how I would get there or if I’d even want it when I got it.

I knew my friend as a professor and my lab instructor at GSU. He asked me once, after I had graduated undergrad, was between jobs, pregnant, and had quit graduate school, what I was doing with my life besides watching the paint dry as our mutual friend painted my house. I don’t think I came up with an adequate answer. Besides the fact that I’m never good at delivery for interview questions (and that felt like one), most of the time I honestly don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

In retrospect, that seemed like a teaching moment. If only I had known what he would do in a few years, I could have said that having a job, or even a direction, isn’t the most important thing in life. That I would figure it out no matter how many bumps in the road there would be. Or that even if I didn’t figure it out, I would enjoy the ride. Or that being loved and loving someone else is the most important thing in the world. If you have that, you will survive all of life’s disappointments.

And then there are public figures like Robin Williams, pretty much beloved by all, who had the family, the money, and the career we all hope for, and somehow the dark recesses of his brain still won. We are all doomed to die, most of us fear that moment, of what will become of us, and some of us even seek it out, much to the chagrin of those left behind. Is it everlasting bliss of nothingness? No questions, doubts, or unhappiness? Or do we carry on somehow, unable to reach back to this world and share what we have learned on the other side? If given another chance, would Robin Williams say, “Wait, my career isn’t everything. My Parkinson’s diagnosis won’t change everything. Let’s keep going another day.”? Would my friend have reached out to more people for help if he really, deep down, knew that his career wasn’t what defined him? Is this a male dominance thing that we promote in American society? And women have become ensnared too where we have to have it all — the spouse, the career, the children, the perfect house, body, vacation life, etc.? Has the interconnectedness of social media ruined our chances of living a peaceful life? Or is it easier to connect with other people similar to us so we know we’re not alone, bullied by the image of perfection?

There are those — not me — who live their lives by the fullness of their convictions, whether it is following Jesus, or their career, or whatever eternal, internal fixture that drives them forward. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the outside watching all of these people (in life, on social media, in the news) be so sure, and I’m just waiting for that sureness to happen to me. I am 30 years old, I have created another life, and yet I’m almost convinced that I will never be 100% convinced of anything. Am I a hippie flower child or a ruthless Ayn Rand fan? A bit of both and a mixture of a whole lot more?

I know that there are different parts of me that I keep hidden from everyone. I’m not sure there is anyone out there who sees the whole picture. But it doesn’t mean I’m lost. I just think the world isn’t ready for me yet.



2 Responses to “Do you really know me?”

  1. boblarkin August 25, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    You ARE on the outside watching. But, you are also on the inside connected. Very well connected… I just don’t think you realize it. You connect with your marvelous and dazzling variety of interesting blog topics; You connect with your sincerety; You connect with your obvious loyalty; You connect with your amazing “momness”; You connect with your penetrating contemplations. I could go on and on. You are uniquely soulful and appealing. What should you be when you grow up? First of all, you are being it already. Second of all, none of us really ever grow up … thankfully. Please don’t make that a destination goal for you. Career? You are knee deep in the middle of it and doing fine I’m glad you affirm you are not lost. I think the world is patient and happily awaiting the rest of you to unfold. Stay exactly who you are, try to be happy, and the rest will come.

    • mamajohnston August 27, 2014 at 11:21 am #

      Bob, First off, I want to thank you for reading my blog. It really means a lot to know you’ve been reading it since the beginning and you continue to like it. It’s almost like I’m writing for you! And then, I really, really, really appreciate your words in this comment. They are a foundation on which I can continue to build myself… Very calming words of positive encouragement! Thank you!!! I also think you are awesome. A special person in this universe of people!!! xoxo

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