I read a status update on Facebook by an unschooling page I follow. It was essentially all about how difficult it can be to support others, to inspire them, and always have to push your own dreams aside. That it is okay to never achieve your dreams if you help others. The line that really hit me was something like, ‘Sometimes I feel I will always live on the edge of a black pit, helping others climb of their black pits.’ That resonated. Strongly.
The author finished the post by saying hey, that’s okay! This is the good life.
That bit didn’t so much resonate.
Parenting requires, no, DEMANDS more squashing of self than I could have ever prepared for. Of course, I transform, I submerge myself with abandon into this new life, mostly. I want my children to be more courageous and creative than I am, and I feel that I play an instrumental role in allowing them to explore, to be who they are, to experiment and wonder. I want them to be curious and engaged and philosophers. Scientists. Artists. Literary giants.
I don’t begrudge them these things. Sometimes I question myself and my own motives, wondering if I am already trying to live vicariously through them. I pull myself back. No one deserves that pressure, we all need to be our own selves in the most authentic way we can. And that doesn’t come from other people telling us how to live or what to think.
So this status update made me angry, and made me sad, and made me THINK.
Then a lone sliver, a wisp as white and frail as anything else, floated across my mind. That one of my happiest and most fulfilling times in life was at camp. And my job, my life, was about inspiring children, young people, and adults. To help foster an environment where children could play and learn how to be themselves and take risks in a supportive environment. My life was all about helping others, and fuck, was I happy.
But I can’t lie. The campers at that place fucking loved me, and that fuelled me. I was able to be more fully, authentically me there than I had ever been anywhere else. The crazier I dressed, the weird impulse to shave my head, the outrageous singing and making a fool of myself – the more me I was, the more people loved me. And so, of course, that sweetest of lessons helped me grow and be joyful.
I feel on the cusp now, but it isn’t the same cusp I know and am old frenemies with. This cusp has that black pit on one side. I don’t know about the the other side.
The grand dreams, the feeling of factual endless possibilities, I don’t think it is there anymore. Those things may actually be in my own black pit. I think of my best friends I’ve known fifteen years, longer. How we all started with big dreams, and the certainty they would come true. I’ve watched people’s dreams deflate, and I’ve mostly felt sad about that. Because I know what we are all capable of.
But now a quiet voice says, find a third way. You don’t have to always give of yourself so constantly and consistently, this is a season in your life. When that voice is pushy, it asks uncomfortable questions about what sort of model I am being for my children. When it is melancholy, it asks what sort of life I am living for myself. Can I look up to me?
How am I so good at inspiring others, at believing wholeheartedly what I say, but then I sit here, in my tattered and comfortable slippers, perched on the edge of a black pit?
Maybe it is the time to look for an overgrown path. It’s small, dusty. Meandering. I’m not sure where it leads, but I do know it is away from that pit.
Or maybe it is still the time to sit here. Trying to rest and regroup when I get small moments, stretching my neck and checking my supplies. Casting my eyes about for that path, debating if I even want that path, or something else. I’d like my black pit edge to have a stream for my feet to rest in, but then I don’t want it to be too comfortable.
So I sit here, helping my children be and believe in themselves.
While I wonder who I am. That old me, who is still in Country A, laughing in thunderstorms and driving golf carts wildly? Eating ice cream in the summer twilight?
The impossible me who was brave enough to move across the world for true love?
The new and older me, who is often achey and short tempered?
I think I’m all those, but I feel I’m something else, too. Maybe my dreams have shifted, maybe I don’t want to chase them, maybe I’m just taking a breather. Maybe it’s easier to try to forgive myself for not trying at this moment in time. Maybe it’s okay to not know. Maybe it’s fine to let the sun warm my back, to sip water, to extend a hand to others. Maybe it’s not my time. Not yet.
Maybe it will be, soon.