I’ve never been good at making decisions. Big ones or small ones, though it’s the big ones that are more daunting. I never had that rebellious streak as a teenager; my mother came up with a lot of suggestions for how to spend my summers, and I usually took the advice. There were several trips, through my school and the Experiment in International Living to Mexico and Spain doing volunteer work, living with host families, and sometimes taking language classes. Not surprisingly, these trips changed my life, shaped the definition of who I am and how I see things. Just about anything you do at that age does, but especially when it’s something you really love. It got me interested in learning languages, travel in general, understanding and integrating into other cultures, and perhaps most importantly, social justice and my expectations for my life and myself. It set a standard somewhere in my subconscious, that work has to have some kind of purpose, whatever it may be. Maybe that’s why I’m so fickle with jobs and life plans and what I want to do now.
Perhaps it all started with her recommending those trips, but I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps in many ways, without ever consciously deciding to, or any pressure from her. I can only explain it as “the way things worked out.” She majored in French Literature and I in Spanish Literature, she spent a year abroad in southern France and I spent mine in Barcelona. Not everything has been the same: when she was my age my mother had already been married for two years (eek). Her next step was joining the Peace Corps with her first husband and teaching English in South America. And now here I am… contemplating moving back abroad to get a teaching certificate to do the same, possibly very soon.
…But it’s hard to decide. Since I graduated college, this hasn’t seemed like a clear path; maybe it didn’t to her either. I also studied art history extensively, and for a while I was working in that, although it didn’t take too long to realize it was none of the things that I really wanted. I’ve studied fashion design in my spare time, but I don’t think I ever seriously considered going in that direction. Mostly I’ve spent my time not having any idea what I want to do, with lots of dead ends and few clear thoughts. So am I choosing this because it’s what I really want to do, or because I feel like I’ve run out of my other plausible options? I just don’t feel like this NY thing is working out for me, even though it’s my hometown. It isn’t for everyone. I know I should be making my own decisions by now, not just following what others say. But I think my mother’s example exists as a possibility in my mind somewhere, and in times of my great uncertainty and indecision, I tend to fall back on that. Is that wrong? Is there any way to know without just going for it, and seeing what happens. “See what happens” — I definitely like that mantra.
I’ve never had a strong interest in teaching, I never saw myself doing it or being any good at it. But then again I was always quite shy growing up, and maybe for that reason I never let the option really enter my mind. Living abroad, even on my own, starting over making new friends — none of these things scare me, I find them exciting. I’ve been there before, and never felt more alive. Teaching still intimidates me, but that’s what the course is for, and I’ve been on the other side of that classroom many times before. Maybe it intimidates me because I don’t just want to be a teacher, but if I do it, I want to be a good teacher. I’m not by any means a perfectionist, but doing something half-assed is not on the program. But maybe I will be, like my mom was. Or maybe it will lead me somewhere else, my own branch of the path.
Does mama still know best when we’re adults (well, adult-ish)? Or at a certain point should we be thinking for ourselves first, taking input second?