After being so 'illiterate' for so long, I have once again been able to read and finish a book. I've made up my mind to bring Noah to the library every week to borrow books and so every two weeks or so, I am also able to enjoy the luxury of walking through shelves, scanning books and sniffing pages as if they were some kind of drug. The last one I just read, albeit interesting, gave me a bit of discomfort.
It was one of those stories where, there isn't really much of a climax and everything seems mundane. At some points the characters almost seem surreal, while in other parts appearing very ordinary to the point of being invisible to one's comprehension. Before hitting midway, I was able to digest the point that the characters are indeed cowards; people who wanted something, wanted more, but were either too cautious to pursue their dreams and desires, or simply, unfortunately, incapable.
And there lies the seat of my discomfort. It was like hearing Roberta Flack in my head singing 'Killing Me Softly' while being struck by the nature of the characters and their cowardice. They could be me. This is the story of my life, isn't it?
I cannot tell you how often I think about what I could have been.
I could have been a doctor.
I could have been a geneticist or molecular biologist.
I could have obtained a PhD.
I could have been a tenured professor of Sociology.
I could have been a human resource manager.
I could have been a poet or writer.
I could have been many great things, 'successful' things.
Most of you would probably argue that it's wrong of me to think that way because I could still be many things if I so desire it. But we all know that's easier said than done especially for someone my age and my circumstance (a wife, parent, limited financial resources, foreign educated with mostly foreign work history, and the list goes on). I also acknowledge that, much like the characters in the novel, I am a coward. I admit it. I am afraid of failure and I am much too well-versed in the art of self-sabotage. My own sister has pointed out to me before how I'm the type who thinks of all the bumps in the road even before I take a single step and visualize the end as achievable. I am aware of my tendency to quit when I know that it is something I will not be good at or excel in. I also know that I lack confidence in my own abilities.
Much too often, I have felt so frustrated with myself for not being REALLY good at anything; for being mediocre, at least by my standards. I can teach, but I don't think I was a great teacher. I have not had any complaints from any of my previous employers and have even had some minor office awards and things like that, but I still don't think I was the 'Best' in the group. I can sing but I'm not a 'real' singer or someone who would have the guts to sing in public. I cook and can cook but I'm not a 'chef' or an exceptional cook in my view. I love organizing around the house or any space for that matter, but I'm not a professional organizer. Most of all, I can write, but I am not comfortable to call myself a 'writer' and always cringe at the idea of labelling myself as such.
It was so easy for me to shake my head while reading the novel, to effortlessly feel frustration over how the characters were living their lives and making (or should I say NOT making) choices. But that's natural for people, isn't it?...to judge others' lives more easily than give a verdict for their own; to find solutions to others' tribulations than work through the countless labyrinths in their own minds. It's always so much easier to see that all the 'perhaps', 'what if's' and 'if only's' in someone else's life exist only to incapacitate them. When it comes to our own, my own, it's always so much harder and I often find myself powerless against these personal demons.
How do others see me? How do others measure my life? I wonder if they think I'm not living up to my highest potential? Do they think I've compromised my standards? Do they think I'm a wasted investment? When they see me or think of me, do they think deep down, "She could've been more"?
These voices have become too familiar to me, unfortunately. And it's not that I regret my choices. It's not that I don't think raising a child and having a family are unimportant or worth 'less'. Neither is it about not enjoying myself with the things that occupy me now.
I guess the one thing that scares me most is that, while I was reading the novel and figured out a common denominator for the characters and their lives, the fact that I was able to easily relate to the characters' lives and felt how similar my biography is to theirs' means that I too share that common denominator---ordinary. The characters were ordinary.
The thought of attaching the word 'ordinary' to myself brings me much trepidation. All my life, I strove to perform, excel, be recognized or simply achieve something that would make me feel special, exceptional, different. Looking back though I'm realizing that I have either failed or just haven't tried hard enough. I don't know. What do I know?
What is 'special'? How would you define it? How do I change my lens so as to view my life and my self better, kinder? In a previous blog I know I wrote that I need to be gentler to myself. I suppose I haven't gone far, have I?