Monday, March 30, 2009

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same

I spent some quality time last week with my sister and three of her four children in Florida. We don't see each other very often because we live far away from each other and, to be honest, we just don't make an effort to see one another enough. I like to spend time with my sister though, she is the only one I have, and there is a special bond between us that can never be broken. Maybe it is because we are only eighteen months apart and growing up we played together all the time or maybe it is because we are just like every other set of close sisters; very much alike in many ways. On the way home on the plane I kept thinking of the old French proverb, "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, " or "the more that things change, the more they stay the same." This is how I think about my relationship with my sister.
We have taken different paths in our life. My sister had her first child when she was twenty six years old. She was ready. It had been her dream since we were young playing our childhood game of "Maize and Nance" to be a mother. "Maize and Nance" went to high school in their hip huggers, went to college and kissed boys and eventually sat around the play kitchen "smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee" while chatting about their children, dogs and husbands. She had been thinking about being a mother for years. She has four children, the eldest being twenty one and the youngest eleven. She stayed home with her children for many years and then decided to become a teacher. Now she teaches third grade.
I on the other hand was stuck in "Maize and Nance's" after college phase for a number of years. I wanted a career and felt that I needed to establish myself professionally before I entered into motherhood. So I worked and pursued my masters and waited for the right moment to have my children. Well, the best laid plans don't always turn out the way you hope. After four years of infertility treatments and thousands of dollars, I finally had my first child at the age of thirty six. Having waited for this moment for so long, I gave up my career to stay home with my baby.
So here we were at the beach and I thought about the flip flop our lives had taken. She is working and planning to pursue her masters and I am home with my young children. We never seem to be doing the same thing in our lives at the same time. What do we have in common anymore? Truthfully everything. We always seem to show up with the same outfit on or the same shoes. We worry about the same things; our children, the economy and cancer. We get mad at our husbands about the same things and comment often that we really married the same man. The kicker is that we each have a redhead daughter with a very strong will. They seem to have inherited our telepathy for fashion because they even picked out the same exact bathing suit even though they live hundreds of miles away. When they are together I see the special bond forming between them too.
Inevitably, my sister and I sit down over a bottle of wine and start remembering our youth. We tell "Maize and Nance" stories and laugh about my white plastic go-go boots(that is another story in and of itself). We talk about the disruptions that occurred in our young lives as we moved from Chicago to Australia, back to Chicago and then to Atlanta all within a three year period. We remember how we vowed we would never do the same thing to our children as we admit that both of us have done just that within the last five years. Ultimately, we run out of words and put ourselves to bed.
With that our week at the beach came to an end and all that I can think is that the more that things change the more they stay the same.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is it a Mid Life Crisis?

I wonder if I am having a mid life crisis. I am trying to figure out how to reenter the work force after a hiatus of almost nine years but I am having a difficult time identifying what it is that I want to do with my professional life. I would love to write. I have always wanted to write but instead I ended up working in marketing and sales and pursuing an MBA. Now it is later; after cancer and babies, and I keep coming back to the thing that I have always wanted to do. The only problem is that I have to reinvent myself and that isn't easy. I realized that I am fast approaching middle age and I am somewhat obsolete.

This became even more apparent to me the other day. I actually had my first job interview in probably twelve years. I was excited. The whole idea of getting dressed up and talking to someone about my accomplishments was enough to get my adrenaline going. I talked at length with the interviewer about my former life as a mid level manager in a large telecommunications company. I did have a very exciting career and as I talked about it I realized that I had accomplished a great deal. It made me feel good.
Then I took a an assessment to determine whether I knew the software that this company manufactures. I was so sure that I would do okay on one of the packages that I didn't really study the tutorial very well for that one. I did, however, study for the other two tests because I haven't worked with those packages in years. Well, you can guess what happened next. I failed the test on one of the software programs. That burst my newly inflated bubble and made me think long and hard about what I would really like to do.

Then my friend called me about starting a business. She suggested that we import wine from South Africa or Argentina. We could try to sell boutique wines to specialty stores and restaurants. How intriguing, I thought. It would be fun to travel to South Africa and go to vineyards for wine tastings. Never mind that my knowledge of wine is limited to $10 Chardonnay, this could be it. Then I called Jim, a friend of mine who has been involved with buying wine for years. "I don't even like South African wines," he began. He then spent an hour telling me all of the reasons that this was going to be a difficult business for me to delve into. Shoot. Another great idea down the tubes.

When it comes down to it, I keep coming back to the thing that I want to do the most and that is writing. I wrote a book while I was sick in honor of the women who helped me through my cancer. I want to see this published. I want to write this blog and touch any one I can through these words. I also want to pick my children up from school and be there to tell them, "It is okay, mommy is here," when they have had a bad day. I can't do that with a high powered job. So for now I will plug away at my dream and get in the carpool line.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Living up to our Potential

I had a very proud moment today as a mother. My kindergarten age daughter sang a solo at her spring concert. She sang loud and clear and I was beaming as her voice rang out in the gym. I wanted to yell, "Way to go, Bridget!" But fortunately for her, I just continued to document this moment in her history on my video camera. Thank goodness it was charged up because usually my battery runs out just as I am trying to record this kind of important event.
As I left the concert I thought about potential. How do we fulfill our true potential as humans and why do some people figure it out earlier than others? Often times it takes a parent, teacher or perhaps a coach to recognize the potential in a child. For Bridget it is her music teacher. I think that he "gets her." She is a natural performer and loves to sing. She happily skips everywhere she goes while humming a tune. It is a wonderful sight to see and makes me think of all of the opportunities in life that await her.
Will she develop to her full potential? That is the tricky part. There are so many ways that she can go wrong. The path will be crooked and treacherous for her just as it is for all of us. How will she manage? I won't know for at least fifteen years. Will there be an ah-ha moment for her that helps catapult her forward toward becoming the best she can be or will she get caught up in a whirlpool of self doubt and spiral downward? I as her mother, can only build her up and hope that I can give her the tools that she needs to continue her trajectory forward.
As I sit here and think about her future, I have to force myself to live in the moment. There is such joy in her voice and happiness in her face everyday. She loves to climb in the tree and make a fort and play with her friends. I need to remember this and not get ahead of myself. These are the threads that will help her weave her quilt of life. These moments should be nurtured and cherished because hopefully they will provide the stability she will need to reach her full potential.