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First let me say that I am always planning out my life. Perhaps ‘imagining’ is the right word, instead of ‘planning’. ‘Planning’ connotes actual plans, I suppose, while ‘imagining’ lets me be whomever I please in the confines of my own mind for ten or fifteen seconds. In these constant daydreams, I, like Cinderella, can be whomever I’d like to be (Rogers and Hammerstein? Anyone? Anyone?): someone’s personal assistant in New York, a London local, a bakery owner, a pastor, a wife and full-time mom.
It is this last vision that has swum in and out of my dreams for the last 5 years or so. Before you decide that that is a totally creepy thought, hear me out.
When I began college, I still had the high-school-youth-group mindset that you go to college, get married, have a family, and that’s life. No career necessary. I remember standing in my voice teacher’s room, tearful when she asked me what it was I wanted to do with my life. “I just want to be a mom!” From there, however, I changed directions and threw myself in to my opera studies, deciding that it was opera that was my heart’s desire and not motherhood, as they were a dichotomy.
And then I graduated. And suddenly a career in opera seemed unattainable and, quite frankly, undesirable.
So that’s the background. This all came back up the other week when I read an article on Burnside Writer’s Collective (one of my favorite places online) called “She” by Sarah Thebarge. Sarah wrote a brilliant piece and really managed to encapsulate some of the pressures of being a woman. The bit in the article that grabbed me the most was a section where she explains women’s history to a friend of hers:
For the first few thousand years, women stayed at home. While their husbands hunted and fished, women raised children, made clothes, and cooked the meals. When the Industrial Revolution began several millennia later, women – especially single women — were free to leave their agrarian, patriarchal homes and venture into the city. They lived in communities and worked full-time.
Then men began to give up their farms and urbanization began, and droves of men came to the cities and took over the factory jobs, forcing women back into the home. And then came World War II. So many men were away at war, it became socially acceptable once again for women to leave their homes and take their places in the workforce. But then the war ended, the GI’s returned, and women were driven back into their home. Women spent the majority of the ’50s and ’60s at home, and instead of simply being expected, this role was now glamorized and glorified.
And then the feminists reared their heads and let out a roar that shook the country, maybe even the world. They were independent, militant, vitriolic. They gave men a scathing review on the way they’d been running society, and attempted a coup. Once again, women left their homes in droves, determined to assert their intelligence and independence. But it seems that for many women, this was an empty and unfulfilling pursuit. Many of them also found they could not manage both a household and a full-time job. So in the ’80s, after a few decades of feminism, women once again retreated back into the home.
“And now we’re in the postmodern era where there is no standard,” I explained to my friend as the dryer buzzed. “There is no expectation. There are no established roles. The new message is that women can do anything, which women often interpret to mean they can do everything. So they try to have a marriage and a career and a family and end up feeling guilty all the time because they never do anything really well.”
This all struck me, because, well, for the past few months, the big question has been “What is my life’s work?” And as getting married in the next few years really seems like a possibility, I start to wonder how that factors into “my purpose”. As a disclaimer, let me say that I’m sure there are women who really do get to have it all–big career and well-raised children (my mother, for one)–but I have started to wonder if maybe my biggest success won’t someday be a couple of crazy kids.
Does that sound crazy? I’m sure to parents it must not be totally off the wall. A few weeks ago at church, we did an exercise where each of us had to complete the sentence “I am…” with something we wanted to be down the road. Two things immediately popped into my mind with almost equal ferocity: ‘hard-working musician’ and ‘great mom’. ‘Great mom’ won out in the end, and I think was when it hit me: “I really just want to be a mom.”
Obviously, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to figure out what the heck else I’m supposed to be doing with my time. And for heavens sakes, no, I am not prego, nor do I intend to be for another few years. However, I think it does mean devoting more time to things I love, like music, and not spending too much time working at jobs that aren’t my heart’s desire. I think it means living life beautifully and meaningfully and full of love. This has all been an interesting thought process, and I’m glad to have finally taken some time to pour it out of my fingertips.
Praise be to God that this journey is on-going and ever-evolving.
I can’t go to an opera without bursting into tears at least once. Is that normal?
For most, I assume not. Many seem to find opera inaccessible and boring (sidenote: if you think that about opera–GO SEE ONE. then decide. geez.). For a while, I wanted to devote my whole life to it. That is a big thought! I was ready to sacrifice having a family someday and normality and safety for art and culture and travel and loads and loads of practice. It was the practice that got me in the end, and the yearning for something more stable. I can’t even describe it, but something deep inside me wanted more.
Then a couple weeks ago, I went to a friend’s senior voice recital, and she was fantastic. I went home, watched the dvd from my own recital from a year ago, and bawled my eyes out. What the crap!? Really. Just crying. Snot, the works.
Then today a friend of mine who thought all her life that she’d go to seminary told me she decided she’s going to grad school for voice. What is my instant reaction? Jealousy! I am envious that she has the drive. (Even though now I am the one heading to seminary…)
And that’s just it. The drive. I lack it. I lack the motivation and discipline to spend 4 hours alone in a practice room every day. It’s just not going to happen for me. I gave it my best shot, and it turns out I’m not cut out to be a diva–at least not an opera-singing one–and although I know in my heart that’s not my path…I am envious of those who are made for it.
So now what? I guess I need to just be prepared to lean on the Lord to swallow the jealousy and dive in headfirst to whatever it is that’s on its way.