As I drove my mom-car laden with children down the street of my super-suburban middle-American neighborhood on the way to drop Charlie off at the church preschool "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down came on the radio. I had a sudden and vivid flashback to the summer between undergrad and grad school. I listened to this song ALL the TIME (having "file-shared" it then made a CD then made a cassette tape to play in my car! Holy retro-technology Batman!).
I was driving my Neon with the windows open and the radio on WAY TOO LOUD. It was extremely hot, but I loved having the windows open and the radio on WAY TOO LOUD (It's a wonder I have any hearing left at all.). I was on my way from the little house I shared with another girl to my favorite coffee shop. After that I was going to head out to work at the research center where I worked, which was a twenty-minute drive outside of town. It was probably ten o'clock in the morning and I was probably proud of myself for getting out of the house that early (and I was probably still expecting to beat my advisor to work by a good ten minutes).
I was also extremely self assured, professionally, having just had a paper accepted for publication, and spent every waking minute working. Reading papers, doing data analysis, working on our instrumentation, hanging around with co-workers talking about work, having anxiety dreams about work, leaving town for two weeks with an hour's notice to collect data from a hurricane seven-hundred miles away.
I knew exactly where I was headed. To a PhD and then maybe a postdoc on my way to a tenure-track position at a major research university.
When I wasn't working I was obsessing about whether Ryan would EVER propose. The only thoughts I ever had about kids were about how annoying they were and wishing people would have the courtesy to not bring them out in public where I was trying to do my Very Important Work at the coffee shop.
Sometimes I wish I could get that intensity back (except for the no-kids plan part, of course, I'm not giving them back!). Maybe I will one day. Nancy Pelosi has five kids and her full-time political career didn't start until they were in school. For now, though, my priorities MUST be different. I am struggling to make any progress on the three papers I've outlined from my dissertation work. More than the time limitations, it is the energy limitations that are hampering my efforts. The more experienced of my friends say that will get better. I marvel at the organization skills of the women at church whose kids are school-age.
But. I am HAPPY. So happy. Much happier now than when I had it all figured out (at twenty-three, when my roommate and I liked to float in our huge blow-up baby pool in the back yard and read magazines). Even if Charlie screams when I drive with the windows open. I love my part-time job. I will have a heavier teaching load next spring, and a little more autonomy. I am learning a ton and in that way am moving forward in my career. I love that I have time to cook a healthy dinner every night, work hard in the yard, and volunteer at church. I have wonderful neighbors who love my kids almost as much as I do, who are available for anything--an egg, a laugh, a shoulder, breastfeeding advice at two o'clock in the morning, a bug-killing husband when yours is out of town--who drop by with baked goods to thank me for watching their dogs, and best of all, an appreciative and supportive husband.
And, you know, these guys, who are hysterically funny and (can be, on occasion, under the right rest and nutrition conditions) heartbreakingly sweet.
Still, maybe I will use this song, and its associated memories of my other life, as motivation to get a little bit of academic work done every day. I feel like I would regret it if I didn't try.