3rd Grade Dreams Unrealized

I recently found a friend from elementary school on MySpace — we were in the gifted program together from first grade on, and lived a couple blocks away, but after my family moved when I was 13, I never saw or talked to her again. So I e-mailed her — wrote about things I remembered and some good times (and one of those things that I stay up at night feeling guilty about still). She wrote back and told me about her family and her memories, and walking by my old house. And she said that she wasn’t where she thought she’d be — she thought she’d be ruling the world or something, and (ridiculous and exaggerated as that seems) that really resonated.

I think part of the quarter-life crisis is that suddenly you realize that you won’t accomplish everything, and that what little you do accomplish will take supreme effort (or so it seems). Most of us won’t be CEOs at 30. Or ambassadors or senators or astronauts or renowned artists. Some of us might be doctors and lawyers, but even that has lost its ring. A bachelor’s degree isn’t our ticket to the world — it’s our ticket to a few years of unpaid internships, a piecemeal of part-time jobs, doing things we don’t want to do just to get our feet in the door. Somehow we didn’t realize that we, too, would have to start at the bottom. Working your way up isn’t just for other people. And for most of us, ruling the world just isn’t a good fit.

And then there’s the family option… I have a lot of friends from high school who have families, and at first it was really strange to me. A friend reminded me that their path was no less noble than my own (and, in fact, I think it is often more noble in some cases than anything I’m doing with myself right now). It’s hard for me, though, to think that I’m not living up to my potential. I was a smart kid — I could do anything (so they said), and I’m not unhappy where I am, but really — is this it? I’m not saving lives, I’m not doing revolutionary things, I’m not making tremendous amounts of money. On a smaller scale, I’m not anyone’s mother or partner or anything. Not that I’m in any kind of rush, but I’m feeling a little insignificant. In limbo or something. Like potential energy (as opposed to kinetic) — ready to do something (maybe), but not actually doing.

I say all this, and then I think about my day: the highlight was getting my first set of professional business cards. They’re probably plain to anyone else, but I’m pretty excited about them. And I’m so sending one to my mom.

Sigh. The sleeplessness continues… I don’t know what’s going on. My nap yesterday was only about 35 minutes, and I’ve cut out caffeine after noon. I should cut it out completely, but sometimes green tea is excellent motivation in the morning… it keeps me from buying and drinking coffee, but it does make me have to pee about twice an hour.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “3rd Grade Dreams Unrealized

  1. christophermgomez

    Why do you write things that make me want to cry?

  2. Pingback: Nail On The Head « Anything But Mundane

  3. Susie Dykstra

    Reading this made my heart happy. Last week, after yet another string of moderately well-failed experiments, I burst into tears while consulting with my boss. I think the exact phrase that came out was, “I just miss being excellent at anything!” (in a slightly wailing voice, no less). Funny, those dastardly expectations we hold for ourselves.
    On a slightly different note however, I feel obliged to say that, whether in limbo or simply in a state of potential energy, you will always be, quite simply, a phenomenal individual. You’ll never be the average Joe. Nor will you ever be insignificant. You are a person whose influence is sometimes more subtle, but still thoroughly pervasive (in a good way!). In short, you make hearts smile.
    Congrats on your business cards! You are now established!

  4. Melissa

    Yes, that’s it exactly! We spend our idyllic youth dreaming about becoming someone remarkable, only to discover in our treacherous mid-twenties that life doesn’t owe us a damn thing, even if we’re “gifted.” And so instead, we try to carve out some significance in the mundane. We work at settling down and accepting that we can’t change the world, and that maybe it’s enough just to be in it.

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