Thursday, May 22, 2008


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.


  1. I loved reading your post. I am also a thirty-something, except I am living in PR. I wanted to continue in Academia until I was called Dr. But I soon realized that it was only a title and that it would not make me any better than anyone else.
    I am a resume writer and my task is to fish out the accomplishments that people have acquired through out their career.
    From the looks of it, you have accomplished being a parent, wife, and educated career woman. Many people in the states can and do not have all of the things you have accomplished up to this point.

  2. 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.

    WOW....You just described EXACTLY how I feel when I hear /read about others from my school who have gone on to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. I try to tell myself "its not too late" but, sometimes, I think it IS too late.

  3. The main problem for me, Meleah, is that I can't get over the "unfulfilled dream feeling." It really wasn't my dream to be an academic, but it's what practically everybody in my circle went on to do, so somehow I feel I did not live up to the expectation.

    Now, writing is a different matter. That is something I used to love, and turned away from. It has been supremely hard for me to write again, with the frequency and intensity I used to write. I don't think I embody the spirit of a writer who needs to write or will die. Maybe I'm too lazy.

  4. I do NOT think that you are LAZY.

    At All.

    Its just that the corporate life really truly BEATS the creativity right out of you. And as a mother of 2 children, you have your hands full.

    Stop beating yourself up!


  5. Well, I stayed the course with my life...did the whole med school thing, got the title.

    And I have an unfulfilled dream too. I know in my heart that I should have been a high school English teacher. I was motivated by a need for a money and didn't follow my heart.

    So..those who you thought had persevered may have gone in the wrong direction.

    I like the way you write. And who knows? Maybe something will come of all this, yes?

  6. Ingrid...I loved this post so much, I read it twice. You really hit the nail on the head. The important thing to realize is that we ALL go through the same feelings. Take it from a 43 year old who goes through very similar feelings, bordering on outright panic.

    I am submitting this comment and going to reread your terrific post.

    Thank you!


  7. Thank you, Meleah. Sometimes I need that.

    Maria, your comment reminded me of a dear old friend who did stay the course. Back when she was just in the early years of graduate school, and I had just dropped out of it, she told me she admired me for being true to myself and dropping out without a safety net (or plan) in place. She was not sure she wanted to follow the path, but felt like there was nothing else for her to do.

    I never found it was admirable or brave for me to drop out of school; my friend's take on the situation was interesting more for what it said about her than about me.

  8. Thank you very much, Dan. It means a lot to me when something I write resonates with a fellow blogger.

  9. Ingrid, firstly thank you so much for stopping by. I really appreciated your comment.

    I have just finished reading your post and was truly moved. I can relate so much to every single word that you have written, and frequently feel the same anguish.

    Ironically, I did the opposite to you... I spent the whole of my 20's building up my career, and forgot about my life. I'm now in my mid 30's and am still single. All my friends are now happily married and have families. I often sit here in my empty house and wish that I could give up everything that I have and swap places with them.

    I guess we all wonder what may have been if we chose a different path each time we came to a fork in the road of our life.

    Ingrid, from what I have read of your blog tonight, you are an amazing lady with a wonderful family and a great career. You should be truly proud of how much you have accomplished. Although I completely understand what you mean about the mantra... trust me, I have tried that one myself many!

    By the way, you have just gained another reader. You have a fantastic blog and the most beautiful way with words.

    Warm wishes ~ Graham

  10. I dropped out of a Master's Degree in my twenties due to illness. I still regret it. I still beat myself up over it. I tend to focus on it when things aren't going well in my life as if it is the reason for everything bad that happens.

    You have achieved so much. You are a sensitive, articulate, intelligent woman with a loving family. So many people don't have that. Stop beating yourself up. I'll make a deal with you - I'll try to stop beating myself up too. Perhaps the academic life wasn't our destiny. Perhaps we were meant to go down different paths. Enjoy your holiday.