02 August 2006

Life Suspended

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I mean in terms of a career. Assuming I have one.

And that's precisely the problem. I really dislike my position at this point in life because there isn't enough certainty to build any sort of plan on. Basically, I feel like I'm caught in a Murphy's-Law-like situation, with no way to avoid having my heart broken. If I base my dreams on a brilliant public career, I will probably be happily married and stay at home in obscurity. If I set my heart on marriage, I will become the sweet old maid Primary teacher of some family ward (Katherine, you know who I'm thinking of).

Of course, my preoccupation with this topic has a lot to do with my anxiety about myself not being marriageable material. I think I've wallowed in that trough of self-pity and what-if-ing enough to bore you readers--if you still exist--to death.

But a fear of being miserable in life is not really the problem right now. I have no (or little) doubt that, with Heavenly Father's guidance, I will end up in a situation that will make me happy. The problem is that the two possible natures of that situation leave no room for a certain course. And so in trying to cover all my bases and prepare for either possibility, I worry that I will pay too much attention to the wrong one, or fall in the cracks between. Basically, it's an issue of cosmic suspense--like being in the middle of a novel and just wanting to know how this one thing will turn out so that you can relax and enjoy the rest of the book. I just wish someone would tell me which way I should set my heart.

In Elder Oaks' famous Anti-Hanging-Out Talk, he says this to the single women:

If you are just marking time waiting for a marriage prospect, stop waiting. You may never have the opportunity for a suitable marriage in this life, so stop waiting and start moving. Prepare yourself for life—even a single life—by education, experience, and planning. Don’t wait for happiness to be thrust upon you. Seek it out in service and learning. Make a life for yourself. And trust in the Lord. Your dedication of a lifetime should follow King Benjamin’s advice to be “calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come” (Mosiah 4:11).
Good advice by any standard. Even most dating-tip books tell you to go out and be involved since that's inherently more interesting than sitting around and waiting. Good for either plan, right?

So I attempt to plan my future: Grad school in either English or Chemistry is out. Though I love each subject dearly, I couldn't take being steeped so thoroughly in the dogma of any one specific area--especially considering grad school requires specialization, which I tend to abhor. I adore and covet the idea of going to law school, but not because I would enjoy a career in law--I would probably hate it. I would go there just for the experience, and to learn to think more analytically. But could I really justify spending that much money just because I find it fascinating? (Especially if I did get married . . . .)

If I were to pursue a career, it would be probably be writing--everything and anything, fiction, non-fiction, articles, novels, everything. But if I did that, I couldn't settle for obscurity. I have an innate thirst for fame--I'm sort of ego-centric that way. I would want to be big. I would want to write things that would change the world. (Thus, I'm currently reading Writing to Change the World, and thoroughly anticipating the chapter on blogs. Great book thus far, though the attempt to hide Pipher's liberal bias is quite superficial . . . but a more thorough review later.)

But if I try to go for my dream, try to be famous, revolutionary, life-changing, at what point have I gone to far and ruined my chances of ever truly being satisfied with being quietly at home? And what if I wasn't done with school before my husband needed to go somewhere else for grad school or work? And would I still be able to pursue even higher education, for no other purpose than self-enlightenment and fulfillment? Could I really spend our time and money that way? And as much as I tell myself that I could still write if I got married, that I could do both, I'm not sure it would really happen. I would get so wrapped up in the joys of a family--and it would be joyous, probably more than any fame--that writing, real writing, would get pushed out of the way.

Guys don't have this problem. At least, not the way I see it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the path to a fulfilling life looks exactly the same, whether you end up single or not. You will need a career you can enjoy, regardless. If you happen to get married, than all the better. If not, then you just keep working on it on the side. But for women it is different--marriage is a life-redirecting experience, for good or ill.

All I want is to know what avenue to throw my passion into, and then to be able to let that passion run full throttle, without the risk of crashing and burning when I attempt to turn.

But it's clearly too much to ask: Heavenly Father apparently writes great suspense novels.

1 comment:

Not Too Pensive said...

Contingencies, contingencies, contingencies. Plan for 'em. Always have a plan B, a plan C, and know that if they fail, the Lord will take care of you.

One thing they beat into your head in the MTC is, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." This means coming up with a primary plan while having well thought out backups ready to quickly fall back on should your main plan fail. It sounds like you know what you DON'T want to do... which is a good starting point, but perhaps you haven't completely looked at your options. A law degree, for example, does not have to lead to becoming a full-time lawyer and is still very useful - and profitable - for even the so-called "stay-at-home mom", who can still perform valuable services (help with adoptions, pro-bono work for worthy causes, etc.) that contribute to society and to the family's bottom line.

You're already planning for contingencies, that's good. Perhaps you should look more at things before you take them off your list.