My mom has been my soothsayer and my truth teller. I’m sure all moms have things they tell their kids all the time, but my mom had mantras: “Pay attention.” “Don’t put yourself in that situation.” “Be sure your sin will find you out.” “Do not terry with the trash of the earth.” I heard one of these, attached to conversation, every day of my life.
I was raised by two ADULTS. My parents were 38 and 47 when they had me. They had lived Entire Adult Lives before I ever came along. I capitalize that, because I realize how true that is every day. Karen had been divorced, ran two businesses, had several careers, and all the while, living her life being uncannily observant. After all of that, she married my dad, gave me life, and continued to be stronger than me (Believe. I am strong-willed.). This woman didn’t raise me to just be thoughtful about my life and independent AF, she raised me to be prepared. My mom was the Three Eyed Raven, and she spent my entire childhood downloading everything she knew into my head. I knew how to drive in the snow before I knew how to drive. I knew how to balance a bank account before I had money. I knew, because she told me how, every time she did it.
She sat me down when I was 14 and we had the talk (not the sex talk…that happened at least 6 years earlier. I told you: prepared). My talk consisted of her telling me roughly what life would be like. She told me my 20’s would be fun, and I would spend time finding out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Then she told me that when I turned 30, I would have a crisis, and realize everything I had done so far was meaningless, and I would realize something was missing. “Almost all women do this,” she said. I really had no choice but to listen. By then, it was just the two of us– My mom and I were the bizarro Rory and Lorelei.
Being prepared was helpful. I spent most of my 20’s figuring out exactly what I didn’t want to do. I thought I wanted to be a band director. Nope. Definitely not. While I find teenagers endlessly entertaining, I was much more interested in entertaining them than teaching a whole group to play a Bb scale simultaneously. Also, the paperwork was horrible, and I like curse words way too much.
I thought I wanted to play in an orchestra. I found out pretty quickly into my masters that it was not the job for me. I love playing in an orchestra, I’m just not interested in the political baggage. I actually like blind auditions (I find them the least stressful), but regardless of whether I was “good enough” or not, my heart just wasn’t in it.
Academia was eye-opening. I had wanted to be a professor for almost my whole life. I had spent most of my childhood wanting to become my teachers. When I was about halfway through my doctorate, I realized that I was in the middle of Game of Thrones, Academic Decathlon Edition. This wasn’t just the students. I watched professors play this game. I watched professors and students doubt each other’s credentials, and put down their art, all the while trying to reconcile my feelings of inadequacy and doubt about my own potential to do anything with music. My professors were super supportive to me (though, by the end, I’m sure they wanted to get rid of me), but a lot of my colleagues had a different experience. I was Sansa Stark, season two. All I could think about was my own survival. I finished my doctorate, and realized that my path was very different.
My 30’s hit and I was like “Damn, where’s the crisis?” I was waiting for baby fever to hit (thank god, no), or waiting for like, idk…a spiritual vision quest, or something.
I spent most of last year just getting over the PTSD of finishing my doctorate. Then, about 6 months ago, I realized I had spent so much time figuring out what I didn’t want to do with my life, I wasn’t entirely sure what I did want to do. My whole life had been meaningless! I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I have a damn doctorate. WTF, life? WTF.
Then I remembered my mother’s sage advice. I remembered that this was something that was supposed to happen. I should have been totally prepared…….but the fear is real. I can’t ignore it. For the first time in my life, I have dreams, but I also have fear. I’ve never really been afraid of not achieving. I always had a clear goal. I have fear that what I’m doing isn’t going to lead to anything. I have figured out what I want to do with my life, but is it a thing that is going to happen? I’ve already failed in many things, but this time it’s personal. No one is telling me what to do, but me. I have no one’s expectations but my own. I no longer have teachers, professors, mentors….it is just me.
My mom told me all of this would happen, and I was prepared for the purge, but I was not prepared for the personal turmoil that comes with it. I don’t know if anyone could be prepared for this.
I don’t know if I’m fighting imposter syndrome, or shame, or whatever my friends are telling me is happening. I don’t know if it is just the factor of the unknowable that is scary, or if I’m just being over dramatic. I’m so grateful to be able to stand on my own two feet and fight through the fear. I realize some people don’t have that luxury. I still don’t know what life holds for me, but I’m working with a lot of great people to find that out. And luckily, I still have my mom to tell me when I’m being a dumbass.