Friday, December 14, 2007

The Unexamined Life, or: I Should Seriously Get Up Early Enough To Cook Eggs

I've been trying to do an exercise, for the past couple of days, to help me with my... um... "life coaching."

(I'm not an actual life coach, nor do I have one. I just read books written by life coaches and steal their ideas.)

I feel like I am at a point in my life where I could go anywhere, and do anything (albeit at the entry-level), and it's a bit overwhelming.

The one path I steered myself towards, for a number of years -- until right before I left for Hyderabad, in fact -- was becoming a university faculty member. A few things happened last summer, however, that suggested this might not be a workable path for me. (I might write about them in a later post.)

So, to borrow a video game metaphor, I feel kind of like I'm in SMB3, World 7, and I just went down a big green pipe and lost a life, and now I'm at the beginning of the level again, Small Mario with no powerups, and I don't know which pipe to jump into.

And I thought "Okay, I'll borrow an activity from Martha Beck. I'll write down what I would like an ideal "ordinary" day in my future life to be like, and see what adjustments I need to get myself there."

The beginning was easy.

Morning: Feed and pet kitty, do yoga, eat hot breakfast with coffee.

The reason writing down an ideal morning was easy was because it was pretty close to my actual morning. Right now I really do wake up, feed and pet my kitty, and do yoga. (Before I hear anyone snipe at me about how I can't possibly understand yoga, let me mention that due to my theatre training, I have been taking yoga classes off-and-on for the past five years -- and yes, I know my classes are nowhere near how yoga is practiced in India.)

The one part I'm missing is the hot breakfast part, which -- although I love my eggs and toast -- is time-consuming and makes a mess of the kitchen. Usually my breakfast is a granola bar eaten in the car. Still, in an ideal world I'd have eggs or oatmeal (or idlis and chutney, if I had an idli-maker) for breakfast every morning.

Anyway. With my morning written out, I set out to describe the next part of my day.

I drew a blank.

Where would I be? In an office? In a classroom? Writing a novel in a ridiculously chi-chi Manhattan loft?

Certain things pop out at me, in my vision of the "ideal" future. I want to sell my car and switch to biking and public transportation. This means living in a certain type of city. I also want to have a garden and grow my own vegetables, which seems to mean living in a different type of place (or a place which supports community gardens). And I seem to want both of these despite the fact that I've killed every plant I've tried to grow, and I haven't been near a bicycle in fifteen years.

But the job part is blurry.

It may have something to do with the fact that I've always looked at my jobs as things to be gotten through before I can get down to the business of living my life. So perhaps I can't imagine, yet, a career that isn't based on "getting through the day so you'll have enough money to pay rent."

I also made an unnerving discovery while visualizing my "ideal" life. In all my images, cooking or biking or reading or cleaning the kitchen (yes, on an ideal day I would clean my kitchen), I'm always alone. Well, alone plus cat.

I can rationalize it by saying "well, you've never lived with a significant other, or with children, so you don't have the sense of the reality of those images to put into your fantasy." Which is true. I have no idea what it would be like to come home to a family for whom I was responsible, or a husband with whom I was sharing and negotiating our mutual-linked lives.

Another unnerving discovery is that my "ideal" life seems to be just as tightly frugal as my current one, and it seems to take place in a tiny studio apartment. Is this my way of combining fantasy with truth, or a fear of dreaming for anything larger?

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