When we are young, our teachers and parents paint us this picture of the “American Dream” – a young, happy couple with a bouncing baby and a Labrador tucked safely into a nice house somewhere in Levittown, USA. There is usually a white picket fence and a high paying cushy office job inserted somewhere in that grand vision.
I’ve been obsessed lately with my version of “The Good Life.” I always thought that after college, I’d get a job. And that after a few years working at that job, I’d find a nice man, settle down, and become a baby making machine. After 18 years of being a homemaker, I’d be about 65 years old, retire to a quiet beach town, and be too old and/or tired to write the Next Great American Novel I’d always wanted to write. After that, I’d become that washed up old lady sitting by herself in some dumpy bar telling the younger generation how great I could have been “if only…”
Over the past year, I deviated from that path. I got laid off from the job I thought was going to be my big break. Losing that job meant losing everything that I had deemed precious in my life. I lost my income, my apartment, the ability to play roller derby (since I no longer had health insurance), my sanity, and ultimately, my diginty. I had to move back in with my folks for a month and figure out my next plan of attack.
I had hoped that I’d get another editorial job with a different newspaper, move back to the city, continue dating the guy I was seeing at the time, and pretty much carry on the way I had been living for the past three years.
I did manage to get another apartment. I also managed to turn down that job at a newspaper I thought I had so desperately wanted and try my hand at freelancing. And my boyfriend at the time ended up dumping me.
So there I was, 27, newly single, back in the city, working from home, and terrified.
Over the next six months, my work became my life. I was obsessed with making a living off of my writing. I wrote, I sent my resume out, I got some clients, I wrote some more, sent more resumes out, and got even more gigs. It came to the point where if I wasn’t writing at least a couple hours each day, I thought I was being lazy.
When I was 23, all I wanted was an apartment in South Philly, a job at a newspaper, and to play roller derby. Within a year, I received all three of those goals.
When I was 27, all I wanted was another apartment in the city and another writing job. And now I have both.
All the evidence points to me being satisfied with the outcome of my life so far. I literally have it all, and I don’t say that to sound cocky. I just can’t wrap my head around what else I would need or want in my life to feel satisfied. I have a great apartment, a wonderful, supportive family, awesome friends, a loving boyfriend, a well behaved dog, and a roller derby team that I can go back to as soon as I get insurance again. I am young, healthy and a size eight with a roof over her head and food in the ‘fridge. And yet, I want more…
But how much more do I need to acquire or work towards to make myself feel okay? How much does it take to satisfy my self worth?