Monday, April 16, 2007

Small Town Success

The pinnacle of achievement in my hometown seems to be marrying young and settling down to connubial bliss. It’s the same in every small town on the North American continent. I had a hard time in high school, and really disliked a lot of the people I was forced to see on a regular basis. I never fit in anywhere in particular and had a small set of friends. My main goal was get out of town as fast as I could and academics were the perfect conduit. By maintaining high grades I guaranteed myself a spot in a University away from the hometown, and perhaps some scholarships or bursaries to help me out. I was pretty serious about my education and focused on getting the marks. In the end I graduated with a 93% average, was accepted into every university I applied to and netted some scholarships upon graduation. When I left that September in 2000 I was ecstatic and so excited to start fresh in a place where no one knew me and where I could be who I wanted to be and do anything I desired. I never really looked back.

Not too long ago I joined Facebook, and started looking back. Almost all my roommates were on it, as well as a lot of my friends and a few of my siblings and cousin’s. I joined out of sheer curiousity and boredom. Facebook really is the perfect place to spy on old housemates, classmates, friends you don’t talk to anymore and anyone else you feel like. I have mixed feelings about this “social networking site”. While it provides some good laughs between my close friends and I, it has also confronted me full on with the same people I’ve avoided since graduation 7 years ago. Discovering who’s married, who’s dating whom, who’s engaged or having/had a baby is disconcerting to say the least.

The downside of all this is that I have started torturing myself with this information. It doesn’t help that I know I would be married now had Mr. Intellectual and I stayed together. We had plans to get engaged during our Master’s and married shortly after the completion of our respective degrees. Instead I chose to pursue a Doctorate and a partner that would help create an awesome marriage, and not just an ok marriage. I didn’t want to settle for decent, I wanted extraordinary. So here I am three years later, alone and embarking on my Ph.d. He’s chasing that white picket-fence dream with some other girl and they’ve been together for almost 2 years now.

Intellectually I know how utterly ridiculous this is, but I feel like a failure. Like I’ve dropped the proverbial brass ring. I never cared about getting married and settling down immediately. Those small town objectives were never part of my persona or priorities. I was quite content to be on my own and if need be spend my life alone- I love what I’m doing, I have some great friends and my family is more than I could have ever asked for. While marriage and kids are a desire, I would still feel complete and blessed without them. I think it would be awesome to be “that Aunt”. The one who spoils her nieces and nephews and adopts them as her own, taking them on trips, indulging them on special occasions and when ever I feel like it, just because I can.

From the outside all these old classmates seem happy and stable with their lives. Who knows if that’s the truth or just the public façade. Some of the pairings seem odd, and I have to wonder if the fear of being alone has forced some of their hands into an early marriage with whatever was available in the home town, instead of waiting. The girls who became baby-momma’s, while smiling and beautiful with their dimple-faced angels, give me a moment of pause. Children are a blessing, but their unexpected arrival and the complications that creates cannot be easy. As deeply sad as it makes me to look back and see what I don’t have, I know I am infinitely better off where I am. I’m following my dreams and passion’s with my doctorate. I’m unencumbered and free to do as I please and be as selfish as I have to be to get to where I want to be in the next few years. As much as I desire someone to share my journey with I understand the value of my freedom.

One of Vladimir Lenin’s famous quotes comes to mind:
“Liberty is precious; so precious that it must be rationed carefully.”
It is easy to take it for granted when you have lots, but for those who don’t have as many freedoms it becomes so important. The irony is that in my final year of high school, in the graduation yearbook, I used that quote in my profile. I also said that my future plans were to become a Doctor, and on some level I knew that what I was embarking on would be the path less traveled. Its also good to remind myself to take advantage of my liberty now and enjoy it to the fullest since soon enough I will have a lot less of it when mortgages, family, career worries and real life comes marching in.

So while I may have failed the litmus test of my small town, and I let it bring me down, in the end I wouldn’t change a thing with my life. I just need to keep looking forward.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You go girl!