I was a privileged child. Not rich, mind you, but privileged. I had two parents (still married today after 40 years), two brothers, loads of extended family living locally and, up until a month or so after my 16th birthday, three living grandparents. When I was very young we had a beautiful dog named Patches, then Tiffany (rescued from an abusive home in Trenton), then Lucky (named by my then-5-year-old brother). In other words, there was always someone around that I loved and who loved me.
I don't know what kind of money my parents made then or make now, but I do know that we always had food to eat, a house to live in, comfortable clothing that fit us, vacations in August, and gifts and parties for our birthdays and all major holidays. In other words, I didn't have much to worry about.
Having been raised on The American Dream - you know, that beautiful notion that each generation has greater opportunities, and therefore greater expectations, to succeed in every way possible - I felt it was my duty to continue it. My father held a Bachelor's Degree, so I thought it was expected of me to earn a Master's. My mother volunteered a few hours a week, so I believed I needed to sit on a Board somewhere. My parents were high school sweethearts who married young and raised three children in a four-bedroom house in a safe suburb with great schools and a neighborhood park. Surely I could manage even more.
What nobody realized was how easy it had been for me to take that charmed early life for granted. Boyfriends came easily to me, but relationships didn't. In a world where technology was rapidly taking over every aspect of life, I was still in love with old paintings, Greek philosophy, and the smell of a newly-purchased paperback. I moved slowly, was a bit of a technophobe, and didn't plan very well. The truth is, it had never even occured to me that it would have been possible for me to fail. Graduating from college with very little money of my own, few job prospects, and enormous looming student loans was frightening. Over the ten years that followed, I destroyed my credit, pursued 5 different careers with 9 different companies (always managing to stay steadily underemployed), failed 3 separate attempts to pursue a graduate degree... the list goes on. That decade was marked with dozens of weddings for cousins and friends which I happily attended before returning to my apartment, more frequently than not, alone and absolutely miserable.
Recently, though, things started to turn around. I've been re-evaluating my goals and discovering how many of them weren't really mine to begin with. And when I boiled my life down to what I really want, I started to realize how much of it I already had.
Those early adult years are really difficult as we come to grips with our expectations and our dreams. The more I opened up and talked to people about my discoveries, the more I came to understand that their own struggles, though differently themed, often had the same set of rules for resolution. I found that many of my friends were struggling to juggle their joys and challenges in a way that left them feeling rewarded, instead of giving in to the inevitable disappointments. I started to wonder how many more people there are out in the world, coping with these issues and struggling to make a life they feel they can be proud of, without ever stopping to consider what they take pride IN.
So I've decided to blog a bit, and see where it leads...