Sunday, May 20, 2012

This is not the life I ordered

This is not the life I ordered

Growing up in the seventies and eighties we were all sold a bill of goods that seemed left over from the fifties.  Well, the girls were anyway, and especially the girls I knew in the South.  North of San Francisco had some similar homilies.  The message ran a bit like this: study hard, go to college, find a partner, get married, have a kid or two and by the time you are my age, have a rock on your left hand the size of a small tropical island and travel to Hawaii, Cabo, Tahoe, and Paris every year.  You are to own a house that either you or your husband paid for that you regularly show on house tours, and your children are sparkling golden versions of yourself.  Everyone loves you and your 50th Birthday party thrown by your loving spouse is the event of the ages, or at least the event of your small pond.  You are tan and fit and one of the privileged.

I didn’t do any of that. 

Instead, I studied not at all.  It came very easily to me, and when it didn’t, I was usually not interested.

I went to my local Junior College.  Sometimes.

Bored with that, I went to Australia and surfed my days away, slung beer and chips and night, and fell in love with men named Nigel and Stuart, who thought my Yank accent cute. I left them behind.

I came back home, joined the Coast Guard, jumped out of helicopters to pull drunk old fat men out of the water every three day weekend and got a bit bitter.

I decided to return the script as written, walked on to the Swim Team of the college I got my undergrad.  I got a scholarship, became a resident advisor, and walked away with a couple of degrees before heading off to Graduate School, by myself, half a state away.  By this time, my parents had fled California, returning to North Carolina, and I was alone in every way. 

Wait, that wasn’t supposed to happen.  Wasn’t my mom supposed to live across town in her quirky way, and have my (non-existant) family over for Sunday supper?

Graduate School kicked my ass.  I gave up everything I thought I valued for my Ph.D.  It took a long time to get myself back, and I still have reservations about spending money on anything but books, computers, good food, and thrift store clothes that I can make work. 

I taught community college for years (13) and not a real school because I didn’t have the publications, and then I entered a fight with a terrible woman who soured me on Academia.

And now I find that I am changing my life, yet again.  I am entering into another graduate program that will allow my to update my degree and enter the corporate tech world doing something really cool (at least to me).  I am in my 40s now, still not married (no prospects), still no kids, and am tired of living like a graduate student. 

How many other women out there feel like they are not living the life that was scripted for them or are changing (yet again) their careers to do something that matters to them?  In my life there have been so many starts and stops that I wonder at the women who live the scripted life.  Is that what they want?  Sometimes I think it is what I want.  It would be a lovely life, and I would still want more.

I would still be the girl reading all the time and reading everything I could get my hands on.  I would still wander through thrift stores and upcycle furniture, this time as a design choice.  I would still eat well and have as many friends over for dinner as possible, because I would still be the girl who believes in the laughter of a summer night with good people as the most awesome thing in the world. I would still want to be the one seated next to the biologist who talks about arthropods during dinner, or the tech nerd who tells me about the app she just created.  I’m in.

It may not be the life that was ordered for me and I have no idea what is coming next, but as far as the quality of my life goes. I am perfectly happy with my serving.


  1. It's funny. I just realized the other day that I seem to be living the scripted life, and reading this got me thinking about it again.

    I think sometimes you come to it by accident. My script was supposed to be perpetual grad student, and here I am married to someone I met at a stupid young age, living out all those tropes they expected of you if you were a good girl.

    I guess the point is that this -isn't- the life most of us ordered, I don't think. Our expectations have this way of not happening, not even close. I think, at my vaunted age of almost-30, that the key is to figure out what you love, and do it with your whole heart.

    ...because that's so easy.

  2. And for those of you who don't know the fabulous Ms. Merriweather, that last fragment of a sentence was pure sarcasm.

    And yet it is a correct view. Would love to hear more from others.