I’ve had a LOT of time to think during the pandemic. I wasn’t a social butterfly before, but the daily routine of commuting to the office, scheduled friend dates and weekend outings kept me pretty busy. It was rare that I had quiet time at home to just reflect. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve reached most of my material goals. I’ve got my degrees and I own a home. I finally upgraded from my Honda sedan to what is, technically, a luxury SUV (used though, I’m not paying new car prices in this economy). On the personal front I’m married, mostly at peace with myself, and in a place where motherhood is on the horizon. So the question is what will fulfill me in the next stages of my life?
I used to think I wanted a big career. I used to be in the gifted program, graduated valedictorian of my high school, made the Dean’s List almost every semester of college, and I’m a freaking lawyer. Surely I should be stomping down hallways fixing crises like Olivia Pope, or in a high rise office making million dollar deals. Instead, I work for legal aid making a fraction of what my years of experience would command in private practice (and probably less than I could make working for myself, if I had the inclination). I’d be lying if I said I did scroll through LinkedIn from time to time and feel a bit inadequate when I see how far some of my college and law school classmates have risen. But when I ask myself whether I really want that life–whether I’m willing to make the sacrifices of 12 hour days at a minimum, having to check in at the office even while sick or on vacation, giving up part of every weekend just to stay on track with my billables–the answer is a resounding no. Any envy I feel is purely rooted in ego and a reflexive “well, EYE could do that if I wanted to” type of response. What my job lacks in accolades it makes up for in flexibility and personal satisfaction. I’m challenged, but most weeks I don’t work more than 40 hours. My pay is enough to keep me comfortable, the benefits are competitive and I’ve got generous PTO. If I can keep working from home permanently, or at least a few days a week, then I don’t have any reason to move on anytime soon.
So what do I actually want to focus on moving forward? My health, first and foremost. Last year I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), a condition which causes irregular periods, metabolic issues and can affect fertility. Apparently there’s something bigger than willpower behind my ten year struggle to lose weight. There’s no cure but with the help of modern medicine and supplements I have finally been making progress. Most of all, I feel better. I’ve also been reacquainting myself with my hobbies. Last year I bought a keyboard so I could play the piano again. Music was such a constant presence in my childhood and even though I regret quitting piano lessons, I enjoy messing around on it even if I’m no Beethoven. I am extremely pleased with my ability to bang out the chords from Cardi B’s “Money” and the piano riff from “What’s Poppin” by Jack Harlow. If I manage to learn the Game of Thrones theme song I’m going to play it every chance I get!
At this point, I’m just realizing how short life is. But also how long. Either way, it’s too precious to waste on things you don’t care about it. You have to have some sort of guiding purpose in your life or you just end up chasing down dead ends. Early in life you need a plan because there are so many more distractions and ways you can go wrong. But as you mature, it becomes less about having a plan and more about having a set of principles. Your job may change, your relationship may change, but you have to know what you value in life in order to make good decisions for yourself.
I’ve always felt a little misunderstood but I’m glad I stuck to my guns. A lot of things have been popping up lately that might have thrown me off, had it not been for the fact that I planned early. And now I have the luxury of choice.