Options Open

oh the wide-eyed optimism

Theme: Hey girl!

***

by Laura Gene

I am a former overachiever and recovering perfectionist. If there was a Perfectionists Anonymous support group, I would bring donuts every week. As a kiddo/pre-teen/teenager, I was an ambitious, passionate, somewhat cocky and extremely energetic young person. If I could meet her now, I would smack her in the face and tell her to relax because everything she did or was going to do would all be in vain. But I make it a rule not to hit people so I’d probably just smile and pretend I didn’t see her.

I was salutatorian of my class, a non-profit volunteer, an accomplished thespian, a competent athlete and, of course, a straight A student. I was that annoying kid in school who actually enjoyed curling up with her microbiology textbrick, studying and taking notes; I even went through and answered all those additional thought-provoking questions at the end of the chapter. Nerdy but fearless and unafraid of ever looking silly. All of it was important, but none of it really, truly mattered. After all, I was going places, bigger and greener. I was going to an Ivy League (damnit!) to beef up that resume so I could become an accomplished actress (as though a degree would matter), or powerful business exec. I like to leave my options open; one always needs a fallback.

Then reality happened. The Ivy League became the back-up school. The actress, a thing of the past – beaten down by failed callback after callback – along with the realization that I didn’t have the right look for my accompanying ability. My college studies began to falter. It was the first time in my life I actually busted my ass and still just couldn’t get it. The first C in my academic career. Philosophy 101. How devastating to tarnish my perfect run! Previous notions of what my life was supposed to be began to fracture. But I was stubborn. Always stubborn, and determined. So me and my scrappy self regrouped and reformulated the plan. Maybe the stage wasn’t for me but behind the curtains, behind the camera. Stage managing, producing, coordinating – stuff I could do well without even trying. Second nature kind of stuff. That seemed to work out, for a while, but I was incredibly bored after years of staring at lines of Excel reports and taking countless notes. What little remaining passion I had I left behind in that big brick studio. Eventually, I wised up and stopped this masochism. Moving across the world distracted by an exotic new life helped me get away from it all too. The excitement of the new eventually normalizes though, and I found myself right back where I started.

Passion. Vision. Ambition. What am I if I can no longer claim them? What defines me now?

I write. So you’re a writer now?
I bake. Are you a baker?
I yoga. Are you the enlightened yogi?

Being now an unemployed expatriate, the most fun question to be asked is so what do you do? I stumble around mumbling something barely audible with my confidence deflated and answer nothing right now. The friendly conversationalist prods further. Oh! Well what do you want to do? Ugh. Not sure. Awkward silence. End of conversation.

It’s the same question I ask myself every night while brushing my teeth, foaming at the mouth. You think I’d have developed a more insightful, witty response by now, but something in me doesn’t want to, not yet. I’m not quite ready for that question not to matter.

Every day I still don’t have an answer. Every day the question gets harder – more emotional and more disappointing. It feels like failure when the ambitious enthusiastic overachiever no longer has a clue. When the passion eludes you and your dreams become fuzzy and gray and your career becomes an abstract memory, what then?

Who are you? Who am I.

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