"Making choices is easy, it's living with them that's hard." I'm not sure where I first heard that, but I think it's often quite accurate. While making choices isn't always exactly easy for me, of late I have been feeling some of the burden of choices made or, if not explicitly made, made nonetheless. The specific issue I've been giving a lot of thought to is what I want to do next - from a professional/impact the world beyond my home sort of way - and my general place in the universe - what and who I want to have an impact on.
I've been told by one of my dear friends that this is an inevitable passage you go through right around when your kids turn three if you're a stay-at-home mom. Lots of people end up having more kids right about this time so perhaps that forestalls some of the questioning by doubling down on the first set of choices, but that's not the path for me. So I know one choice that isn't right for me, but I'm not sure what the right choice is. I've loved spending most of my time the past few years focused on my family and I know it was the right thing for us, but I've started to feel a bit unbalanced and feel a strong desire to expand my universe.
I think somehow with turning 36, my last official year as a mid-30, I've had this sense of feeling mired in my choices - that some of the choices I've made have closed other doors, that there are lives I may never live or experiences I won't have because of choices I've made. I agree with the Katherine Mansfield quote that "Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can't build on it; it's only for wallowing in," so I hate to admit that I've probably been indulging in more than my fair share of regret and wallowing of late (though I'm thankful to some of my favorite friends in the world who listened to me as I broke down in tears over more than one cup of tea or glass of wine on my last SF visit as we discussed this very topic). Now I'm trying to refocus my energy towards what I am going to do instead of what I have (or haven't) done.
What's been particularly challenging for me is that for the most part, I think that most of the things I've done in terms of professional/public roles - product management for Internet company, magazine editor, board member for non-profits - don't feel like quite the right answer to fill the void I'm feeling now. So I guess what I'm feeling is the need to re-invent myself, and, at the same time feeling the burden of my own expectations - that ever looming question of "Is this what you got an MBA and all that education for?". I've always loved stories of people who re-invented themselves - either rising from the ashes of failure to climb to great heights or simply having another success in a new realm - so I'm trying to view this more as an opportunity than a burden (haven't quite gotten there yet.)
After not having a formal forum for engaging with the world for so long, I know I miss it - I miss the intellectual experience, I miss the challenges, I miss the intensity, I miss working towards specific and achievable goals, I miss building and creating. There are myriad ways people fulfill these needs. I'm just trying to figure out the path that's right for me.