Sunday, February 28, 2010

Meanderings: What Might Have Been

It all started with a bit of basic arithmetic. In reference to the aforementioned job.... I work eight and a half hours a day. Add in commuting, making it nine. Get home about five, exhausted, then have to go to bed about ten, which leaves me five hours for relaxing, television watching, reading, housework, and more meaningful pursuits. The conclusion is obviously that I spend the majority of my day at work. Now I'm not crying for myself-at least not too much- as this is the reality of everybody who works for a living. Some people work many more hours and/or have a much longer commute. But the brain fart did lead to a revelation of sorts.

Periodically, voices from the past surface, some who were fellow students, work colleagues, and the like. Invariably, they are now at the pinnacle of their careers. See, unlike me, they kept the faith. It is at moments like this that I confront a truckload of regret. We set out on the same starting line, but like that hare of lore, I who had all the advantages dallied under the nearest tree. Now they are successful, and I am not. Working my tush off in a job well below my earning power, skills, and education, I find myself occasionally partaking in a sizable serving of humble pie. My New Age friends would say that life puts you where you need to be, confronts you with the lessons you need to learn. In that case, a bit of humility would not come amiss, I guess.

The funny thing is that these friends often express their own regrets. At times, amazingly, they seem to envy me. So as I was doing my mental calculations, a fierce thought rose in me: I resent every single hour I have to take away from my life to earn a living. I know the delicious sensation of waking without a single, scheduled obligation, declaring my own Law and Order marathon; the warmth and happiness occasioned by the play of sunlight coming through the window in the middle of the day; the sense of achievement when caulking a window or just mowing my own lawn, working as yet another few hours of diversion. Of course that renders you less independent but makes for a very pleasant life. Camus has Meursault say that nothing, nothing but the sheer act of living has any importance. Perhaps that is the notion that has guided me, for good or ill.

There are other reasons, beyond my control, that I never achieved what I could have, never gone for that brass ring. My mother would say, Dios le da barba al que no tiene quijada. So it goes, whatever we think is an Andersonian lie. And, oh, by the way, I love my humble job.

*Although this is a very personal- and one might say, self-pitying- rumination, I offer it as one perspective. I find that the women of my generation, the first to take advantage of the achievements of women's movement, is at this point in their lives very ambivalent about the choices they have made, myself included.

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