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Something its Not

September 12, 2012

When it comes to writing, one of the biggest hang ups for me is trying to force something. Whether it is a character or a plot (or both) into some preconceived notion of what I want my story to be.  This may sound strange, seeing as it’s my writing, my thoughts, I should be able to control them and direct the action. I do believe I can, when I set out with a plan to make a character who is harboring a secret, I can write a story about the character and the secret just fine. Forcing the point comes from the idea that I have to conform my story to fit a certain ideal. If I get it in my head that I am going to write a mystery/thriller and then I develop a plot that falls flat, I will try to force that plot into something that I try to pretend actually works.

I am guilty of this in other areas as well. When it comes to my life, I have held on to this ideal of what it was supposed to be like. I plodded through my teenage years holding on to the hope that everything would work out. I kept up with this one plan regardless of the changes to my life around me. I finally started letting the plan change as I got to know my husband. Prior to meeting him, the plan was to get through undergraduate, go on to graduate work, take a year off between masters and PhD and join either AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. I had this ideal that my life needed to be some grand epic tale, the ones I read about during my teen years as I struggled to force myself to be more “social/outgoing.” I pushed who I was out-of-the-way to make room for who I thought I was supposed to be. No matter how hard I tried, I never seemed to grasp that ideal self. Meeting my husband and getting to know each other, helped me to get to know myself. We dated for almost three years before we were married, and in that time I slowly let my guard down and allowed my ideal to become slightly more realistic. It didn’t completely disappear, though it did change, I still planned on my undergraduate and then  my masters,  I dropped the year in between and instead opted for a straight shot to my PhD. This was one area I held constant, even while I started to come to terms with the other areas of my life. Graduation came and we were ready, my husband applied for jobs near my chosen school. Reality didn’t set in until I started my first full-time job. It hadn’t gone according to my ideal plan. We ended up moving to a completely different city and I took a year off (whether I wanted to or not) I still held out hope. I still felt the plan could be accomplished, yes I would be a “year behind” but I knew I could make it up, I refused to let the ideal go.

We made our move the following spring, and I started classes that fall. The first semester fell far short of the ideal that I held. The city we lived in was a shock on all my senses, but I pushed them down in order to grasp at that ideal. It wasn’t all bad, and I think that is what made me cling to the ideal for so long. A long talk with my husband in the middle of January enlightened us both. We weren’t happy, in fact we were more miserable than I could ever remember. My heart broke. I struggled with the reality, I could feel my ideal slipping away, a phantom just out of reach. The winter progressed and classes began again. I forced the point, I forced myself to enjoy them, forced myself to ignore the sadness coloring our home. Spring came, an unseasonably warm winter didn’t help. There was no real transformation. The ground did not need to thaw, the grass had stayed green and the trees were in bloom far earlier than is normal. I held out hope. There were options, I could come back on my own and try to get that degree. I could have the ideal, I could become that person I had thought I wanted to be since before I started undergraduate work. Six years of my life had been bent on this plan. Six years, had been gearing up for the decision, this option this plan. I had forced the point, I had ignored who I really was and I had pushed myself closer and closer to the ideal.

And then the cracks started, our favorite places started to change, long-held ideas started to shift. The realities of who I was now compared to the ideal I had held for so long became more apparent. In this idealized self there was no room for a family, there was adventure and challenge, there was sacrifice and despair. There was me working for a nobler cause, an ideal, a person that I would never fully be. It was a phantom, a whisper of someone who enjoyed parties, and loved people and could do no wrong. Except it was wrong. It was all wrong. I wasn’t someone who enjoyed parties I didn’t really love being around people for extended periods, and I had faults. As spring progressed steadily towards summer I began to fully realize that this ideal self was never going to be a reality. I didn’t want the things that the ideal life required. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my marriage or my friends or my family in favor of this seemingly perfect life.

I realized that ideal is something I’m not.

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From → Post-Grad School

One Comment
  1. Wow, such honesty is refreshing. If I’ve learned anything in these many years, it’s that life can take you places you never thought of, and if you’re too set on a goal, you won’t adapt the way you need to in order to really enjoy what comes by. Here’s to you enjoying your ‘not-so-perfect’ life that I’m sure will take you some very neat places.

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