Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live life on the easy setting. I tend to find myself deliberately doing things the hard way, and challenging myself with the life-choices I’ve made. Take college, for instance. I chose to go back to it, after a 20 year hiatus, to obtain a degree that I had not done earlier, when it would have been easier. I chose a degree that challenged me, rather than one I could have done easily. The career I started on after school isn’t an easy one, either, it challenges me often to grow and stretch intellectually, and when it ceases to do so, I’ll seek out other ways to keep it hard in life.
I write easily. I blog daily (or just about, at least) putting out an essay a day for nearly five years now, so if I wanted to make my way in life as a writer, it wouldn’t be a hard thing, would it? Do I value my writing less because it comes easy to me? I certainly don’t think I could make a living as a (non-fiction) writer. Even writing fiction I’m not sure I could support my family with it. Perhaps. If I could write full time it would be easier than working as a scientist. But for me, in my heart, I value the science more highly than the writing, perhaps because it’s harder for me.
I recently had friends tell me I really ought to consider trying to sell my art. That it’s worth putting out there. But I find that I consider it easy to do, it’s just… it flows from me when I’m in the zone. It’s not hard to do. Sometimes it doesn’t come out but that isn’t hard, it’s just tedious. So I tend to tuck my art in the closet and just make more of it because it makes me happy. It’s easy, so I don’t put a high value on it, and find it hard to sell because I feel like I ought to apologize for it. It’s just… there.
Sometimes I wonder how this has shaped my life, this giving value to what I see as being hard. Wouldn’t it be easier to seek out the career based on what I already knew and was comfortable with? I’ve sweat blood and tears over what I’ve chosen to do, and I’m contemplating seeking out math classes again because it defeated me before. I see it as the big obstacle in my path, that calculus class that didn’t go so well. Oh, I didn’t fail… but I might as well have. So now I want to conquer that. I don’t want to set my sights for graduate-level classes on a subject I can already do – I could seek out a degree in writing, say, or literature, or psychology… I’ve put serious thought into Criminology. But none of those would be challenges. Sure, time-consuming. But not hard, so I discount them in my mind.
It’s my life. If I want to live it by making it as difficult as I can (and really, I’m lazy. I don’t do this in every aspect of my life)that’s my own choice. Where I wonder if I’m doing the right thing is with my kids. How do I pass this on to them without also dropping the workaholic aspect on them? I know that some of my ways date back to early education – being homeschooled leaves a mark, and in me it means I’m an autodidact with no patience for make-work and boredom. That, um, makes ‘normal’ jobs a bit painful. Which is why I love my current line of work so much. I’m rarely bored, and there’s enough flexibility to find work on days my normal duties are slack. Plus, I can be listening to books, podcasts, and with the MIT OCW app, lectures while I’m at work. My brain is happy. How do I pass this on to the kids?
Do I even want to pass it on? I want them to value their talents. If it’s easy for them to write, or create art, I want them to value that, not like I do with my own work. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Also, I don’t want them to feel like they can’t relax and do nothing unless they feel overwhelmed with guilt about it. They need to have a healthy life/work balance. I am just not sure how to model that for them. Instead I seem to model a full-speed ahead until I’m sick, and then I struggle to keep up with anything at all. Which was frustrating this last week or so as I’m trying to recover from the flu and it keeps knocking me down again.
I don’t know. Parenting is hard. I suspect I’d value it highly even if it were easy, because kids are so richly rewarding. Christmas with kids is a joy – I highly recommend it even if you don’t have any of your own. Find a family to hang out with! My favorite gift this year was a knit hat my daughter made me. It’s even got a (slightly shaggy) pom-pom on top. It’s warm, and soft, and she made it for me. It wasn’t an easy ‘Mom, can I have ten dollars…’ gift. I will wear it until it falls to pieces. Because she’s only a kid for so long, and then it’ll be her turn to strike out into life. This coming year has so many big milestones potential in it. And me? I’m looking at the kids leaving the nest, and I still have questions. I don’t have all the answers, and I am beginning to suspect I never will.