No, I'm not really going to Tanzania (not even really sure where it is). But an email from the Women Gender and Health Department at some university described an opportunity to be an intern for six months in Tanzania starting in January 2010. And reading the email made me incredibly sad ~ wistful, really.
Of course, they are looking for college students (or maybe it's a graduate program), so I am not eligible. And I would never really leave my family for six months. But it sounded so exciting and exotic and perfect. And the fact that I could not do it, the fact that I don't have opportunities like that anymore, was so disappointing. I was crestfallen. And why?
I wasn't a women's studies major in college; I have no interest in the medical field. The internship is not even something a younger me would have known about or done. So why should the adult me care? [At least it made some sense the other morning, feeling like I had been punched in the stomach when dropping my husband off at court and seeing the female attorney walk by in her crisp black-and-white ensemble. Clearly not a mom, as she wore a white coat, the perfect length to complement the black suit she had on with some pair of fabulous shoes, and shiny, straight black hair. Didn't see her face because it was just a split second view of her profile I had, but boy did it make a lasting impression. I thought about her on and off that day, feeling sad every time. Again, why? That could have been me? Not really. I am completely missing any style gene or ability to do makeup and hair, so I would never have looked like that, even if I had continued practicing and never had kids or married my husband. Do I miss law? Sometimes, in a big picture kind of way, like wishing I still said those words or knew what case the continuing education brochure was talking about. Was it the painful contrast between her look and mine? Her, looking so glam; me, looking so mom, in the derogatory way people refer to mom jeans or mom style (lack thereof), wearing my "pajamas," which consisted, ironically, of the long-sleeved, hunter green shirt with the logo of the bar review course we took, no bra (which is not a pretty sight for big-chested me) and a pair of what I think are my friend's hand-me-down, bright plaid (think lime green and a turquoise-y blue) Old Navy maternity pants, with blue fuzzy socks stuffed into red canvas flat shoes, teeth not brushed and hair touched only by a comb made up of two or three passes through the knots with my fingers. The thought for a split second of "these are the kind of women my husband sees at work every day, and this is the woman he comes home to ... ick"]
If you asked me at any given moment, I would tell you I don't regret my choice to leave law. I wouldn't want to be the childless female partner with a high-powered career. So why should it upset me so much to see this woman lawyer?
I guess it all represents a loss of some kind. Loss of youth, loss of freedom. I often think that is why "Grey's Anatomy" makes me cry every week (have to try not to forget it's Thursday tonight! Days off school mid-week really mess me up). A good friend suggested the show upsets me because I want my relationship with my husband to be more like Meredith and McDreamy's. But I don't want their relationship (would anyone? aside from the sex ...), and I don't think that is what triggers the waterworks.
At least in seasons past, the show captured that college-y camaraderie, the tight bonds and the all-consuming personal dramas, the ability to stay up all night talking about Big Topics and then blow off classes the next day. I did that, though (too much), so why would I long for it? I wouldn't really go back if given the chance, so why feel so blue about it? Is it because you can't blow off the kids and the mortgage for the day and sleep in? Would I want a life that empty? (Although it felt quite full at the time, in college and law school ...)
Maybe it's just a case of "the grass is always greener." No one seems to want exactly what they have at the moment (there's a line in a song about that, how happiness is wanting what you've got, yes, it's Sheryl Crow "Soak Up the Sun" It's not having what you want/It's wanting what you've got)
I frequently lament that I was not cut out for motherhood, that I should have been a cat lady, but truth be told, I do want what I have, and I am happy with it. But that doesn't stop me from wondering about my parallel universe (anyone remember "Singles"? In a parallel universe, you and I are a smoking couple). I am endlessly fascinated by people who choose not to have kids. Actively decide "nope, not for me." How brave. How incredible to know yourself so well and be honest about it.
Maybe that is the element that gets me down. I have never known myself well enough at the actual time I had to make a life choice. [It could be argued that I still do not know myself and that I have never really made a choice.] Motherhood is what teaches me so much about myself, my relationship, my issues. I wouldn't even be aware of most of the crap on my mind if it weren't for being a mom. So is it the wistfulness about the time travel of "if I knew then what I know now"? If I knew myself as well as I do now, would I have majored in women's studies? [I did have a lesbian music phase (Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, etc.) which seems at least stereotypically appropriate (and please know I say that with love, not from being homophobic -- I really wish I had gay friends in my daily life, I miss mine so much)]
Is it reviewing your life and wanting to combine the best of each part? Like curating a fabulous museum exhibit, picking and choosing what pieces of your own puzzle would fit together into the ideal? So, let's see, I would be a mom in the city with gay friends, politically active and attending salons where smart people discussed Important Things ... um, yeah, not so much. That is not me either. (Not trendy enough or intellectual enough to pull that image off!)
I think it is just the curse of suburbia, the fodder for books like "Little Children" and shows like "Desperate Housewives." Everyone wants what we have, right? The proverbial picket fence and two kids and the minivan in the garage? No one wants to know the reality is a lawn that your husband does costly chemical battle with in an effort not to have weeds, no minivan ~ a crossover sports utility vehicle with 100,000 miles, but still not in the garage because that is so full of house crap (ladders, rakes, shovels etc.), old crap (boxes that have moved every move with you since the apartment in the city before kids) and sports crap because, yes, you do have those two kids, and do they ever generate a lot of stuff.
We want to move out to the suburbs, for the space, for the house, for the American Dream. And find ourselves feeling trapped and suffocated and caged. Ironic (dontcha think? I was a huge Alanis Morissette fan, too). Some of us more than others, some days more than others. But an ironic twist nonetheless.
And I have to leave this train of thought for my gig as a substitute lunch monitor, which is so deliciously related to this post, but, of course, all another story ...