I think as humans we have an innate need to compare ourselves to others. We use this to evaluate our wants and needs, our successes and failures, and to gain a general assessment of our environment. A rare few individuals have overcome this in an attempt to banish social norms and overcome conformity. However, I think comparison is good. After all, how can we ever improve without some kind of check and balance system and defined benchmark? Unfortunately, I think too often it’s taken to an extreme and it begins to permeate every aspect of our lives and thoughts. The height of this is probably during the junior high years and, hopefully, slowly diminishes from there. I do believe, however, that it can have small peaks later with the ebb and flow of life. I think I’m at one of those peaks.
These eleven weeks that I’ve been home, I’ve been self-reflecting (between feedings and diaper changes that is). I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the social networking site, Facebook, reconnecting with high school classmates. For those of you who do not know, I attended the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences (now Math, Science, and Arts). It’s a residential high school for academically gifted juniors and seniors in Arkansas. Basically, it pulls the best and brightest students from across the state, asks them to live together, and attempts to exhaust them with course loads equal to that of top colleges. (Sounds almost like a science experiment, huh?) These kids go from being the top in the class to just an average student, and, speaking from my own experience, it’s an ego crusher. Thankfully, when I went off to college, I regained my top performer status and my confidence started to rebuild. It also continued when I was successful in my career.
But now I’m not working or attending school. I’m a stay at home mom, which is something I never pictured me doing, and as I reconnected with these old classmates, I began feeling inept again. Many of them have astounding achievements: Harvard, MIT, West Point graduates; law school, med school, and the like. There are more Master’s degrees than marriages, more PhD candidates than parents. I started to feel like I had given up on myself and my future. I felt like I wanted more. Then I realized, I could have more. Chris has always supported my aspiration to work on a Master’s degree. I have childcare if I ever need it. The only thing keeping me is me. I don’t want to leave Cecilia for several hours a week to attend class, and I definitely don’t want to juggle homework, homemaking, and parenting. I’m a perfectionist, and if I had to divide my time, I could never put enough effort into the three areas to keep me happy.
When I was in second and third grade, the school motto was “Be all you can be,” and I feel like I’m doing that. I’m being the best mother that I can be. I can catch up when it comes to post-graduate education and I can try to make up missed time in the professional world, but my only chance to raise Cecilia is right now. Though I can dream about going back to school and earning the title of Dr. Baker-Hefley, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. And I bet that if I compare my happiness to that of my former classmates, I’m probably head of the class.
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