(I was not able to respond to all of yesterday’s comments but I did write one comment reflecting on what everyone said. So if you commented and want to check it out, please do.)
As I’m sure you all know, this week has been hard. Sunday was a parade of panic attacks and uncontrollable sobbing and Monday was much of the same. My therapist was kind enough to fit me in for an emergency appointment just 36 hours after our couples session. I left feeling decidedly less panicked but still incredibly sad.
The rest of the week I feel like I’ve been wandering around in a kind of fog. For the first time in my life I’m somewhat thankful that final grades are imminently expected because at least that gives me something at work to focus on. Though grading all the tests, homework and projects has felt relentless I’m grateful to have such a long and mind numbingly boring to-do list. It’s a good way to just get through the days without thinking too much about anything.
When I do contemplate our situation I feel an unrecognizable mixture of confusion, panic, denial, and intense sadness. I feel stuck in this life that I have built for myself.
We are currently a family without a plan. Because we are so unsure of where we’ll be, both financially and emotionally, in the future we’re not making any plans for when we’ll move forward with building our family. One to two years is both impossibly far away and an unfathomable long window for me. My rigid, planning-inclined Type A brain literally cannot conceive of that level uncertainty. Whenever I think of it, I start either cry or panic. Sometimes both.
I know I need to be better about the unknown, the uncertainty. I know I need to focus on the now. I’m working on all of that. The truth is, the now feels very different than it used to. The now is not nearly as comfortable as it seemed when we were planning on trying again in less than two months. The new now, devoid of any plans for the future, lacks hope. The new now is a product of our troubled union and is mired in the constant needs of our fragile, sometimes flailing, relationship. The new now numbs me, makes me want to do nothing other than flee into the future. Except the future no longer holds any promises that things will get better, and that is terrifying.
So I’m thrust back, again and again, to my current situation. Without a future to dote on I’m forced to return to the present. Sometimes, when things between Mi.Vida and I are better, it’s not so bad. There are even moments of healing light and space. Other times even the repairs we’re making don’t seem like enough.
Listening to Mi.Vida at couples counseling last Sunday made one thing abundantly clear. He will never be happy at a job that makes much money. His identity is very closely tied to how he spends his time and what he accomplishes at his job, and he is just not interested in the kind of work that pays well. So if he’s not ever going to make the money to provide the life I’d envisioned for myself, that leaves me. I left our Sunday session deeply depressed and clinging to the assumption that our relationship woes were too immense an issue for me to tackle. So my mind immediately turned to something it could have some control over, my job. I obviously need to change professions – make some more money and get us into a more comfortable position financially. Doing that would ease so many of our burdens.
It’s ironic that I became a teacher to spend more time with my children and now the meager earnings of my profession are keeping me from having the children I so desperately want. That is irony, right? It seems cruel, whether it’s coincidence or irony or something else entirely.
So I started looking into become a therapist. I’ve been in therapy for years and I think I’d be good at it. I’ve heard you can make six figures in our area and even have some control over your hours. Investigating the requirements felt like a good first step.
Turns out I can’t possibly be a therapist. The journey to licensing starts at bachelor-level classes and requires at least a Masters, probably a Ph.D. It would be ten years before I’d even be making a low-level salary (which is less than I currently make). It’s impossible.
A colleague shared another terrible truth with me. As a teacher I’ve been paying into CalSTRS instead of Social Security for the last eight years. I can’t receive retirement payments from both STRS and Social Security so if I leave the profession I have to accept a payout from STRS. That payout would be about 1/3 of what I put in. If retirement is important to me, I have no choice but to remain a teacher, at least in some capacity, for the rest of my life.
I’ve never felt so stuck, not ever. At 31 years old I literally have no options, at least none that I can see. All I can do is keep trudging forward, trying to repair my relationship, constantly searching for tutoring opportunities to make more money and living out this life I’ve carved for myself.
When we were young we were taught that we can have anything and everything. I’ve spent the last ten years learning the hard way that it’s just not true. Now I have to accept that if you make mistakes along the way, chances are there won’t be opportunities to fix them and you’ll have to make devastating decisions about your future that aren’t really decisions at all.
You’ll simply be stuck, like me, settling for something very different than your dreams.