I am a woman driven by emotion. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Emotion fuels my creativity and I would never wish it away. The love story enthusiast inside me adores the sweet romantic picture of me this way – ruled by my heart, not my head. But emotion shouldn’t outweigh intelligence in crucial life decisions.
Oh, but it has. I have allowed my emotions to run my life. And I’ve made some terrible decisions.
I have a sister fifteen months my elder, almost to the day. I love her. We get along great and have always been close. And she is my polar opposite.
Since high school, she has known what she wanted to do with her life. And she has done it. She worked her ass off and graduated second in her class. She attended college with purpose and goals. She landed the stepping-stone jobs best suited to achieving those goals, including one that paid for her master’s degree. She has always made choices truly right for her, not worrying about anyone else’s expectations or opinions. She is professionally happy, fulfilled, and successful. I envy her.
However, she is on her own. She never married and never had (nor wanted) children. She has friends, old and new, but when she goes home at night, it’s to an empty NYC apartment. I don’t envy that.
Much of what I did in high school mirrored what my sister had done a year prior. Her path, not mine. I did not work my ass off and graduate second like she did, though. I never had to work very hard and still graduated seventh. [God, I can still hear my mother’s voice, “Imagine what you could do if you actually tried!”] I never struggled academically, especially with all things math. I know. What a nerd. But I had no purpose or goals. I went to college the fall after high school graduation because it was expected of me. Waiting would have been the smartest decision ever. I stood at the diverging paths and chose poorly. And that has made all the difference. Unfortunately.
I didn’t pick a school based on my future career goals since I had none. I chose a school based on geography. Proximity to a particular someone influenced me the most. Bad decision. Oh, it was an excellent school, but I was as aimless as ever. And the particular someone exited my life before I even moved into the dorm.
Once entrenched in college life, I faced the what’s your major question with increasing frequency. I had no answer. After freshman year, although I breezed through calculus, my favorite class was my studio art foundation course. Professor M was amazing and I never wanted to leave that third floor studio. What’s your major? Art. Bad decision. What does one do with an art degree? I have no fucking idea.
And then school was over and life kicked me in the equivalent of a man’s nuts. What now? I had a largely useless degree and no clue what to do next.
Over the next few years, I moved around. From my parents’ house to an apartment close to my old dorm and to another apartment with my on-and-off boyfriend to another apartment with horrible roommates and one more apartment on my own. I muddled through a few miserable office jobs. A whole collection of bad decisions. I never found motivation to change things because beyond wanting desperately to fall in love, I didn’t know what I was after. Still.
I am married now [more on this later] with two great kids. We have a home, my children are happy and healthy, I am loved. And I’m endlessly grateful for all of it. But I am also confused, unemployed, aimless, and without limitless pockets of cash to survive while I try to correct or at least improve the dire results of my poor decisions.
Why doesn’t every high school have a required course called Decision Making 101? I’m pretty damn smart. Intelligence is one of the few qualities I admire in myself. I may doubt myself on many fronts, but not this one. Yet I have struggled my whole life with making good, healthy, smart decisions – making decisions for the right reasons, not the emotional, immediate gratification reasons.
That I had to seek professional help over this should shock no one. [More on this later…]
I can remember times of momentary clarity when I knew exactly what choice was right, but even then, my emotions squashed my rationale. I’ve done things solely to fit in. I’ve made important life decisions based solely on what I thought was love or what I thought others would perceive as cool. I placed importance on things of little significance and tried to please people who were irrelevant in the end. I let my relationships take control, but not the ones that should have mattered most. And when it all inevitably went to hell, I wondered who was out to get me. (Me. It was me. You got that, right?)
The little demon inside me can make the stupidest decision seem like the best idea ever. It’s rather remarkable in its own self-destructive way. See? I can be positive. Ha.
Now for a poetic ending… (not my forte, please don’t laugh. much.)
I’m a picket barely hanging onto my rail on an abandoned fence,
Swaying in the wind, waiting for a gust to rip me free…
So I can fall face down into the dirt beneath.