Friday, April 10, 2009

I wish I'd ...

There's an ad for the Peace Corps on several of the bus stops around town, with the slogan "Means you'll never have to say I wish I'd ..." A post on the News Cut blog on MPR was The War on Parenthood about how pop culture claims we influence our children's eventual moral and character development.

I thought about this, and my immediate response was there are two major rules to parenting:

Recommendation 1: Do the best you can. What else can the world reasonably expect of you?

Recommendation 2: There is absolutely no way you can possibly control the actions or thoughts of another person (like your children). Don't bother trying.

If my children become self-sufficient men capable of loving others, and respecting and loving themselves, I will have succeeded as a mother. Anything else is icing on the cake of life.

Then I thought about it some more during my 15 minute break from the panic of turning in homework late. and later. and an exam due in a few days that I haven't started ...

This obsession with blaming me for anything wrong in the future with my kids is simply a left over of the eugenics "your children are born with their character already predestined, which is why you're so poor and I'm not".

The journalist did a series of interviews with college students (of all ages) at the smaller colleges in Minn. One of them gave up her dreams of being an artist because her parents said "you can't make any money at it".

I really want to believe that I will never tell my children they shouldn't bother to at least try. The next Steve Yzerman? Go for it. A professional portrait painter? go for it. The next president? You're nuts, but hey, go for it.

Will they actually make it? Maybe not. My brother, STFU&GBTW no doubt heard "there are too many people who all want that job, go do something that you can succeed at". You know what you should do? Go watch his name zooming by on the next James Cameron movie. Or Lord of the Rings. Or whatever it is he's doing.

I read an old Life article when I was about 12 or 13 about a physician somewhere in BFE Appalachia who did housecalls for the destitute (i.e., just about the whole area). I was so inspired. I decided that's what I wanted to do with my life. Not the Appalachia part, but the improving the quality of people's health part. I thought you had to be a doctor to do it. So, I decided to go to med school. (That, at least, generally gets parental emotional support.) After about 3 semesters in college, I realized there was no way in hell I would ever make it through med school. I was so disappointed that I couldn't pursue this career. I didn't know what else to do, so I figured I'd just finish what I started and be a chemist. I am quite certain I would have made a piss-poor doctor.

Fast forward 30 years ...

You know what I really really wanted, back in 1979? I wanted to go into Public Health. A field which doesn't require being a physician (one who deals with the individuals); I wanted the large-scale public aspect of it. Had I ever heard of it? No. Would I have done it then? Yes. Would people have supported my idea of going to some third world country to make their lives better? I'm pretty sure not.

Where am I in 2009? The University of Minnesota School of Public Health. I finally figured out what I wanted. Am I doing it? Nope. I'm sitting in the midst of a good school - (well, I really wanted Johns Hopkins which I would have done, had I not married Mr. Gopher) - with a good global public health infectious disease program. Now that's what I wanted to do with most of my life. Nope, I'm in the Environmental Health Science's Industrial Hygiene program. Most people wonder if I clean teeth.

I'm still stuck in the "I wish I'd ..." If I hadn't been married and forced to confront the reality of balancing my life with someone else? Hell, yes, I'd have popped over to Baltimore for a few years.

But, you know what? That beautiful piece of paper which will say University of Minnesota Masters of Public Health doesn't come with an expiration date. I know what I want. Perhaps one of these days I'll get it. And, unlike the kid nextdoor who idolizes Wayne Gretsky ... at least I'm not too old to pursue what was once my dream.

3 comments:

ccyager said...

It's not necessarily the destination but the journey there that's important. You're getting an awful lot of experience in your life, and maybe you don't see it now, but you will be able to use it someday. Professionally or not.

Otherwise, you go, girl!

Gopher MPH said...

Just because something was a goal once doesn't mean it needs to stay a goal. I can look at it and say "that's an admirable thing to do with one's life" without thinking it's the only admirable thing.


I repeatedly tell people that there is no experience which is ever truly wasted. Did I really want to spend a year doing biochemistry? Nope. But the tangential tasks caring for the lab mice made a great impression when applying for a safety management job at a company where animal safety was part of the business.

Did I really want to spend that many years seeing a psychiatrist? Hell no. But it has given me the ability to see people in a much clearer light. This makes doing my job much easier.

Did I really want to get arrested? No, but it makes for a great party story. And, actually, getting arrested the first time was a god-send the second time it happened (which would have resulted in me staying in jail longer, had there not been some previous record of who I actually was).... now that was an odd confluence of events.

The longer we live, the more life experiences we gather. More books we read. More people we meet.

Very little is wasted, if we actually pay attention to our lives.

There are things I wish I'd done; there are things I wish I hadn't done. But I don't regret living my life. It is often trite sounding, but I (usually) like the woman I am (well, not this week, and probably not the rest of the month, either). Other experiences would simply have resulted in me being a different person.

STFU \& GBTW said...

Haha, not a day goes by that I don't think "man I really want to be in a band".