Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The end of a dream?

So as many of you know, I've been wrestling with trying to figure out the life I want to lead. Am I career woman who balances work and family seemingly with ease as I publish papers, teach the masses, raise the kids, make a loving home for my family, bring home the bacon and fry it in pan? (Mmmmm...bacon) Or am I the stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) who knows all the latest and greatest innovations in child rearing, home-making, and recipe cooking? OK, realistically I knew I wasn't going to fit in to either one of these categories, so where do I fit in?

Up to this point in my life, I've been a drifter. Whenever the end of one era of life came along, another door that seemed logical seemed to pop right open. At the end of high school, college was the logical step, and while others were paining over the decision of where to go, I really only had one choice. Sure I applied to a handful of other places, but I knew I belonged at the U of A. After undergrad, I really had no prospects. School seemed fine, I wasn't burnt out, and the 9 month schedule with great time off was real nice. So, when the math department told me that they needed more graduate students to fill their assistantships I went along for the ride. Teaching and keeping up with my own work wasn't too hard, and like I said, there was always plenty of time to go to games, spend time with the hubby, and sleep. (It was during my first year of grad school we discovered I have a thyroid problem. Apparently sleeping 14+ hours really isn't normal, even for a college student.) Then, as we were closing in on the end of my master's program some guy came up from Baylor to talk to me about pursuing a doctorate. I accepted the lunch date figuring at least I could get a free meal. And then he offered to pay for my husband and I to go to Waco to check out the campus. Seeing as how we were racking up some student loans and had great parents who took us on family vacations, we hadn't gone on a road trip just the two of us since our honeymoon (and even that was more of an air trip). So we decided that an expenses paid weekend away, even in Waco, would be a nice little trip. Still having no intentions to carry on my education or to move nearly 7 hours away from family. But then the guy who bought me lunch and paid for the trip also put Stanton in contact with a fantastic researcher who had found a way to combine mechanical engineering with some truly meaningful and impactful ideas. And so, we both enrolled at BU not too much later. And then just as it seemed our time was up here in Waco, we stayed. Sure I had another very enticing job offer back home at UAFS, sure we had no idea exactly where $$ was going to come from in the near future, but we knew we were right where we were supposed to be. And before long, Stanton was indeed pulling in a pay check and I was able to grab up a post doctoral position in the stats department where I was already so comfortable.

And now, before you know it, it's two years later, we've got one kid, another on the way, and we've purchased a house in Waco (Hewitt technically). And in May another chapter closes for me. The post doc ends. Naturally when I saw that the BU stats department was posting a tenure track position starting Fall 2010, it seemed like another beacon calling me. So I applied. And then I thought about it...and then I prayed about it...and thought...and prayed...and let that cycle repeat for way too long. Once I came to the conclusion that I would let the search committee make my life decision for me. If I was offered the job, then it was meant to be and I would jump at it. If I wasn't offered the job, then it was meant to be and I would just be a SAHM. That appeased me for about 2.3 hours. Then I realized that I needed to be more aware of the direction that my life was going. I needed to make a decision and not let someone else make decisions for me. And more than that God was telling me that for my own sanity I needed to be more in tune with where he was guiding me.

And so I wrestled...I was already feeling overwhelmed trying to balance research, teaching, and Chaselyn how could I take on an even heavier workload and devote time to another child? But being a SAHM is a daunting task as well. What do I know about what kids need to know? What tools they need to develop properly? Can I be at home with 2 kids all the time? I love kids, but do I love them that much? Can I really just forget about the past 8 years of my life that I spent laboring to learn and grow as a statistician and be comfortable with only being called Mom? And before too long I was beating myself up from both ends. "You'll make a horrible SAHM." "You want someone else to raise your kids?" "You're failing miserably at your research, just give it up."

And I finally just had to say enough is enough. The truth of the matter is that I cannot physically, mentally, or emotionally trudge on in a job like the one I have now, much less one even more demanding. I am constantly bombarded with a feeling of defeat in all areas of life. I'm not living up to the job description for the post doc. I am not living up to be the mother I want to be. I am not the wife I want to be. And the more I try to fix one area, the more another fails. And I appreciate so much those people around me who have stepped up to accomodate my short comings and those who have supported me all the way. It's because of all the support and love that I have felt that prolonged the whole meltdown in the first place. If you people would just stop being so confident in me, I would have given up long ago.

But on Friday, I finally told my advisor that I wouldn't be able to handle the tenure track position. That it's just to much for me and my family right now. A tenure track position would mean lots of sacrifice, and if any part of my family is going to sacrifice, it's going to be me, not my children, not my husband. And just in true supportive advisor fashion, he said that he totally understood. He was so happy that his wife was able to stay home with their young children and that there were no hard feelings. He was so much more understanding and supportive than I deserved. I shouldn't have expected anything less, but for some reason I did. And as I talked with him, I realized that there was some relief of finally letting the cat out of the bag, but I still had this underlying feeling of disappointment. It obviously wasn't coming from my advisor and I know that I'm doing what God wants, so why do I feel so down?

A friend suggested that I was grieving the end of a journey. It may not have been my life long dream to be a statistician, but I have worked hard over the past several years to make a go of it. And I achieved something only the top 1% of Americans achieve, a Ph.D. And beyond that, only a fraction of these people have an article published in a scholarly journal. And now, essentially, I am turning away from that journey. I do hope to stay involved in the community of statistics, working on publications when I can and possibly doing some teaching now and then. But in general, my choice to leave the field now all but guarantees that I will not pursue a tenure track position in the future. And without some real extra effort, I will most likely be relegated to teaching lower level courses when I can pick those up. And there's nothing to say that a person can't be sad over the ending of one era while really looking forward to the next. So, I allowed myself to grieve and to give respect to the accomplishments I have made and commit to doing the best darn job possible over the next couple of months I have left.

But, that wasn't all. I still had this feeling of disappointment. And it wasn't until Sunday afternoon when I pegged it. I had admitted defeat. By going to my advisor and telling him that I couldn't handle it, for the first time in my life that I can recall, I said "It's too hard. I give up." And that is not my nature. I have never been pushed so hard that I felt like I had to break. And I feel that I've done a lot of things in my little life. And this 28-year-old woman felt like a small child who decides the bumps and bruises aren't worth the freedom of a bicycle ride. I failed. I failed. I failed. I'm not the golden child. I'm not the one that people are going to say..."Look at her, she found a way to do it all, surely you can too." And I wanted to be that person. More than being a successful statistician. More than being an outstanding mom. I wanted to do both. I wanted to make it work. But I'm not that person.

I'm the person who has to admit that she is only one person and I can only handle so much at one time. And I am glad to say that I can admit defeat. I believe that is what I was really wrestling with. I was wrestling my pride. My innermost feelings of being the one who has it all and can do everything. I give it up. I'm not that person.

I'm the person who is happy to have finally been broken and shown what true pride there was in her heart. I'm the person who will never be upset that she gave up on the dream of being the perfect woman who does it all to just be the mom who is there for her kids. I'm the person who will (try to) remember always that any time I feel like I gave up on myself or missed out on my dream that I am indeed living the dream that God has planned which will far surpass any silly little idea I ever had.

So, that's where I am today. Still living the dream, just a different version of the dream than I thought I was living. I needed to write this blog, not for you, but for me. So that future me can come back to this post and re-read the wisdom that I feel I have right now. The clarity of perspective as to what is going on in my life right now. Because I know I'll need to be reminded repeatedly of what in the world I am doing with my life.

1 comment:

  1. Brandi, I'm so proud of you. You have exceeded in all aspects of your life and have been fabulous at everything you have done. Try not to feel defeated because your accomplishments will continue on...through your children. :)