Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm My Own Guidance Counselor

Remember when we were in high school and guidance counselors were there to help us face and figure out what inevitably would become our future? I loved my guidance counselor because she always made me feel better for the choices I was about to make. She gave me encouragement and helped me decide what was of benefit to me. She also inspired a fire inside of me that other people, like the parents, weren't able to or didn't want to do. When I look back at my life now, I wonder, what happened to that inspired 17 year old that had that guidance counselor that only ever envisioned the most perfect future for me?

Personality-wise, I'm still the same... still considerably funny and intelligent, determined and task-oriented. I've honed a lot of quality skills since then, but I'm basically still the same. What I find amazing, as I look back on my life and judge the past 48 years; it seems to me the last 20, I've managed to somehow bury the "right" to go for those things that once were encouraged by my guidance counselor. I ask myself... why? A lot who know me might disagree since I seem bolder than most of the people that I live amongst, but I somehow feel that what I've put forth so far is really only the tip of the iceberg.

In my 20's, it was about firmly planting my independence in the face of those who had gone before me and succeeding when all the odds were against me; specifically because I chose to not go to college. I worked my way up from the file clerk position at an insurance company to become a purchasing manager handling a $6 million annual inventory. Not that that is a lot in this day of mega-corporations, but in my day and the fact that I didn't have a college education, actually pretty good; and also, considering that it took me less than 10 years, pretty respectable. Granted, someone who went to college may have gotten there sooner, but that's my point... in reality, it probably took us the same amount of time. Only, I didn't have to spend 4 years or more in college to get to that exact same position. All it took was hard work, perseverance and determination. Yay for me and for my accomplishments, but I recalled, as I was starting out on the course called my life, I looked back over my shoulder at who I was becoming and I realized that I was taking that child full of her future and starting to put her in a bit of a box. I distinctly remember asking myself in my early 20's - when did you start lying to yourself? Just a little bit and then just a little bit more every year. It seemed to me, at the time, I justified it because that's what growing up and fitting in was all about.

In my 30's, my life dramatically changed focus from what I was doing to what I could do for my kids and my husband. That was a transition that challenged everything that I believed about myself, but was probably the best thing I've done in my life. At times, it took every ounce of strength to do the right things and stay sane. My friends who really know me understand what I mean. Parenting is not for the weak of heart, especially those parents motivated by a less than palatable upbringing of their own. I wanted it to be NOTHING like what I had and went to whatever lengths I had to take, in order for it to be better than what I experienced. It took a lot out of me and required more of me than I ever thought possible. Being a good mom is something I'm very proud of, but again, I look back during moments of reflection and I see parts of me hidden, more and more, making me seem unrecognizable at times. Another wedge between who I was or wanted to be and what was actually taking place in my life. I don't regret motherhood, not in the least, it is one of the greatest accomplishments to date. I'm VERY proud of my kids, love them utterly and more deeply than I ever thought I could love anything and wouldn't change a day of what it meant to get them safely to adulthood. But there is a but... it's a feeling of a sort of loss and it doesn't get any less as the days go by.

In my early 40's, I was starting to look around me and to yearn for something, but I didn't know what. That longing continued to take a back seat while every one's lives around me changed, adjusted or just happened. But the discontent or dissatisfaction of what I thought I wasn't continued to creep into my consciousness when I had more than a few moments to take a deep breath and take stock. It is only recently that I really started to get big hints that a change is evolving to the foreground of my life.

Approaching my 50's, I have to say this has been the sweetest time for me and one of incredible rediscovery. It's been a reaffirmation of my strengths and a time of forging very wonderful new connections that I've had the privilege of making recently. Not working, at the moment, has been a happy coincidence and the fact that my children are of an age that doesn't require constant supervision, is also helping to add to the amount of relaxed, reflective rediscovery I can now take for myself. Say that fast 5 times. :)

The thing that I had to remind myself of, during this time, is that I don't need a guidance counselor to ratchet up my enthusiasm or my direction... I AM the guidance counselor! Not that I didn't make choices or live my life other than what it was supposed to be at the time, but this time.. NOW... I'm returning to living my life the way it started out when I was in high school. I see directions that I want to take and take them, without hesitation or fear or wondering if there are other opinions or thoughts I need to take into consideration before making that decision. It's making me fully responsible again for what choices I want to make next.

That... is a beautiful thing!

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