Sometimes I jump from blog to blog randomly. Sometimes, in that six degrees of separation way, I find a ghost from my former life. As I did this morning. I saw on someone else's blog a mention of someone I knew back when we were both at the Honors Studies Program of the U.P.R. She got her PhD, teaches at the U.P.R., and has now published a book. I remembered she was a good person, someone I looked up to, and I was proud to see her accomplishments.
That being said, inevitably, I am overcome by the same sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get every time I hear about any of my accomplished former college mates (especially the writers, the college professors). I can't control the barbs, the digs: that could have been me, if only I had stayed the course. If only I had persevered. If only I had not thrown my life away.
Never mind that the academic life was not something I particularly enjoyed. It was the path to follow in the circles I ran in back in college. It has remained the big "what if" of my life. It doesn't really matter that I have been successful in my career, that I have come quite a long, long way in eleven years with my employer. It doesn't matter that I have a family I love and a good paying job at a Fortune 500 company. The mantra of reciting my accomplishments never works.
The mere thought "I was not cut out for that life" causes a paroxism of despair. Trapped in the echo of a time long gone and forgotten, I will forever be the girl who dropped out of graduate school, the one who chickened out. I am the mediocre writer who stopped writing because she had nothing interesting to say. Failure is my identity. If I was not cut out for Academia, for an intellectual life, that means I am beneath them, their inferior. And I can't stand to be at the bottom. I am an idiot, a lazy, indulgent idiot; a sellout who can't even keep a blog in her native Spanish.
At a certain point down this spiral of self-hatred, I manage to step back and look at the mess I have become, all teary-eyed and trembling. Why can't I get over this? Why is it that I am powerless to conquer this block? Why do I anticipate a judgment, why do I worry so much about what these people would think of me? They probably don't even remember me, and those who do may not be as critical as I imagine.
Finally, a survival instinct kicks in. I stop crying and get bored. I remember that I need to be working, not bemoaning my past. I think about the vacation we are taking starting tonight. I start looking forward to sitting by the hotel pool with a good book. The knot in my chest loosens and I convince myself that it was only a harmless, childish fit, a momentary lapse of reason. I am really not as hung up on those people and that period of my life as it seems. They have no room in my current life.
As I click away from the blog I was reading, I push the vestiges of my recent outburst deep into a corner of my recondite mind, where they will continue to fester until the next time I hear about a ghost from my past.