Thursday, August 20, 2009

How to Inspire?: that is the question

I’ve spent a large portion of my life trying to impress other people, only to find out that people haven’t been all that impressed. I think that’s because the people who surrounded me in my formative years had very different ideas about what it meant to be successful. I grew up watching my sisters buy nice cars, take trips with their girlfriends, get married, buy houses and decorate them in a way that made them into homes. Basically, I watched them build solid, socially acceptable lives for themselves. I, on the other hand, followed a slightly different path, as I did none of those things. Instead, I went to college to become a teacher in Catholic high schools for the first seven years of my professional life and consequently never had any money to buy a nice car, take a trip or save for a wedding, God forbid!

I do not mean to imply that I chose the teaching profession as a springboard to fame and fortune--how utterly naive that pursuit would have been! Truthfully, though, anyone who knows me would attest to my genuine love of and passion for what I do because teaching--what I do--has become the defining element of my identity. The problem is that I no longer “do” anything since I was laid off, so how do I come to terms with that void in my identity? I mean, how do I answer the inevitable question from the strangers I will inevitably meet at barbecues, in the park, or at the grocery store: “So what do you do?” I’m almost embarrassed to share with friends(who, by the way, are all teachers) the news that I’ve taken to blogging my days away, spilling my soul into cyberspace where my thoughts will likely remain suspended, floating, unread. I’m embarrassed because it probably seems to them to be a sad little pursuit for someone who just last year was sitting pretty so to speak, earning a very decent salary that allowed me to travel, buy furniture, and build a savings. How could that girl be the same one who sits at this laptop today, forced to take stock of her life in a seemingly futile effort to stay sane?

It’s quite obvious that part of this journey is going to involve a paring down of my needs. That means no more Coach purses, Burberry sunglasses, or trips to St. Thomas (oh, those bougainvillea!) over spring break. But really, what does all that stuff amount to anyway? Isn’t it really just stuff? I think I need to work from the inside out instead of the reverse as that is the only way I will ever be able to understand what I was meant to do during my short time on this planet.

All that stuff I worked so hard to accumulate in order to attract people to my life had the opposite effect, I think. All that stuff is the brick in the fortress I've built around myself in order to keep true friends at bay. Why? I don't know. But in order to rebuild those friendships, the fortress will have to be dismantled, one outrageously priced purse at a time. For so long I’ve tried to inspire envy in my sisters, colleagues, and friends by being the overachiever who seems to have it all together. Now, I ask myself, “Do I want to inspire envy? Or do I just want to inspire?”

That is the question.

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