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Finding Out What You Love

I am almost done with these posts about Matthew Quick’s book, Every Exquisite Thing.  You don’t have to read the book to follow these posts and have an opinion because I’m using the book as a springboard to other mental spaces.  If you want to read the other posts I’ve written about this book, you can find them here, here, here, here, here, and here.

It’s sometimes hard to know what YOU want and what you think you want.  Or what you think you should want so you try to make yourself want it.  I think everyone who gets a surprise diagnosis of infertility goes through at least a few minutes (some people marinate a lot longer) asking themselves if they really want to be a parent or whether they’re doing it because they think they should be doing it.  If you’re about to go above and beyond usual family building protocols, you’re going to do a gut check.

(Personally, I think even if a person doesn’t experience infertility, it behooves them to really sit with the decision for a while before committing to an answer.)

But it’s hard to know.  You think you know, but do you really know?  The same with college and marriage and every big life commitment; are you doing it because you get a sense it’s what is supposed to happen next, or are you willing it to happen because you love the idea?

Nanette struggles with this in the book.  In a conversation with her therapist, June, on page 172, she learns what every adult knows: that your first goals are rarely your last goals, and sometimes we don’t realize what interests us or who interests us until we’ve gone down a lot of dead-end streets.

When she’s asked what keeps her going (in other words, what she loves), June volunteers that she loves ice cream and the idea of going to Japan.  Those are the things that keep her going.

Nanette doesn’t know what she wants or loves, so she remains quiet.

June says, “I didn’t know I wanted to go to Japan when I was your age. I didn’t know I wanted to be a therapist, either. I thought I was going to be a surgeon, mostly because my father was a surgeon. You pick up goals and hopes along the way. Don’t worry, there are more in your future. You’ll see. And you will change. Change can be good. Caterpillar to butterfly.”

Later on page 254, Nanette asks:

“But how do I move forward? I have no idea!”

“Sometimes you just have to pick a direction and make mistakes. Then you use what you learn from your failure to pick new, better directions so you can make more mistakes and keep learning.”

It’s so simple. And yet it’s so scary. You’re only on earth for a short period of time. You don’t want to mess it up.

What did you think you wanted to do when you were younger?  I thought I wanted to go to Oberlin and become an oncologist.  Life turned out a little differently, which upon reflection, was a good thing.


1 a { 06.13.17 at 10:41 am }

I am a drifter with the ability to notice opportunities (most of the time – I do still sort of regret that time when my dorm neighbor suggested that we just take off for South America on a whim and I was too responsible to take her up on it.), so I had no particular goal that I was working towards, career-wise. I wanted something that was secure and paid well. So I got a job at a pharmaceutical company with a reputation for never laying people off. It was fine, if annoying. Then I came to work for the state, where I added flexibility. Different kind of annoying, but also fine.

I don’t worry too much about messing up. But that’s probably because I have plenty of self-confidence that says I can fix most things or move on to something else. Also, low expectations – that’s the key. If you never set a goal, you don’t have to be disappointed about not reaching it! 🙂

2 torthuil { 06.13.17 at 10:49 am }

Ummmm….how young should I go? When I was very young I wanted to be a ballet dancer. That didn’t happen but my ballet lessons shaped who I am in profound ways. I’m still surprised how deep that influence is in my life. Then in my teens I wanted to be a writer: a poet, most likely. Well, I was a poet. I thought I wanted to publish and be “famous.” I equated fame with having accomplished something. In university I realized fame had little to do with accomplishing anything (as I defined it) and I stopped caring about being published, too (I learned more about so called literary culture, didn’t like it at all). I thought for a while that I would work at some indifferent job then go into academia. I discovered I disliked both indifferent jobs and academia. My insight was that I needed something big to commit to, something where I got clear feedback on success and failure, something with tangible, with everyday relevance and meaning. I have to see my work making a difference in the world. So I took a leap and went into teaching. For me, finding what I wanted includes exploring things I didn’t want. I think insofar as I’ve been successful, it’s because I do my best at whatever I try, no half measures, and that helps me both to understand who I am and where I fit in the world.

3 Beth { 06.13.17 at 12:10 pm }

I was for sure going to be a pediatrician but not have a family of my own. I’m now a stay at home mom to two girls (both of which were far more challenging to come by than my younger self could have imagined) after teaching high school for 10 years. I’m glad my younger self was wrong. This is so much better.

4 Ana { 06.13.17 at 12:14 pm }

I’m also a drifter. I sort of just…ended up wear I am by taking the path of least resistance. Its not to say I’m lazy or don’t work incredibly hard on the path I find myself on. Its just that when there is a fork, I don’t push necessarily decide I want to go the way in which I need to push back the brambles and hack through the thicket, you know? But this is SOLELY in work/career. All the other things I’ve chosen have been far far from easy, but I’ve been so absolutely sure I’ve wanted them that I didn’t even consider the easy path (having children, my marriage).

5 Chris { 06.13.17 at 12:50 pm }

The first thing I wanted to be was an actress. I loved drama, I loved performing. That was literally beaten out of me by my father’s mother who said that was “wrong” The next thing I remember wanting to be was probably an even longer shot: I wanted to be a professional golfer. I spent every free minute practicing, playing, improving. I suffered through 4 years as the only girl on my high school team with a really sexist coach. And then, I got hurt. Really hurt. And I haven’t been able to play since. I always knew I WANTED to get married, and I’ve kind of floundered my way into a career. But whatever I do I do 110% so it works out I guess.

6 Sharon { 06.13.17 at 1:04 pm }

From about age 5 to age 20-ish, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. When the reality of what that would mean hit during my junior year of college, I decided to change course. I have not regretted that choice, although to this day, I am not 100% sure it was the right one or made for the right reasons.

Apart from that,

7 Sharon { 06.13.17 at 1:06 pm }

Oops! Didn’t finish my comment before I hit enter. *sigh*

Apart from that, I have actually (eventually) accomplished all the goals I had for my life. Although I will say that none of those other things happened in the way, or on the timeline, I expected. 🙂

8 Dreaming Of Diapers { 06.13.17 at 11:42 pm }

From a very young age I wanted to be a fashion designer…I remember taking an old sheet my Mom threw away and creating a dress for my little sister to wear in 1st grade…sure, it looked a lot like a toga…but I put my sister in my creation and walked her to school….I was proud….but yeah, I wasn’t supposed to do that…got in trouble with my Mom…and didn’t do that again. I took “garment making” courses throughout high school but then everyone is supposed to go to college and study something “real.” Fashion design wasn’t a “real” major at my college so I studied journalism. I was happy with that but then got into musical theater…and I knew I would be an actor….moved to L.A. after college..and tried but never really gave it my all. Instead, I fell back on journalism and was a television reporter. I enjoyed it but it was a lot of work for the hours and little pay (even when I had a network contract!!) Then infertility hit and my career didn’t matter. I became obsessed with trying to figure out how I could get pregnant. I tried everything and it didn’t happen…but was thankful to my toga-wearing sister who carried our little embryo-that-could and I’m happy to be a freelance journalist and finally a Mom now.

9 Linda @ Circle of Daydreams { 06.14.17 at 7:24 am }

When I was young I wanted to be a gazillion different things, and now I still want to be a heap of different things… I just don’t have enough time or money to achieve most of them! I love teaching, but also would love to be an interior designer, a graphic designer, an author, a photographer, an anthropologist, a researcher, an artist, a jewellery designer, a web designer, a forensic pathologist, a tarot card reader (I can probably squeeze that one in), a criminologist, a profiler, a naturopath and still more. Sigh. I’ve always had so many interests and been so curious about so many things that I resent sleep because it gets in the way of all the things I could be doing! I’ve also been down many a dead end street, and made heaps of mistakes… but I don’t think I’ll ever find life dull and boring!

10 Inexplicably { 06.14.17 at 9:21 am }

Ooh this is a good question. I am a weird combination of not knowing what to do, but sticking with things that I start. Definitely pick up ideas as I go… E.g. I got to the end of my undergrad studies and just ended up doing a PhD that I didn’t know whether I really wanted to do. But I started it, and so I finished it. When I finished school I wanted to be a vet, psychologist or pharmacist. I ruled out vet due to animal allergies, and then pretty much did something random like tossed a coin… and got psychology… and I’m still doing it, and it’s a really good job that remains interesting and is such a broad career that you can change within. I would be curious to get in to forensic psychology which is out of my current area. I love Japan, wish I could turn Japanese. I’d love to study more… perhaps anthropology or philosophy. I’d definitely like to write, that’s why I’m doing this blog thing!

11 loribeth { 06.14.17 at 3:40 pm }

Oh, I almost always wanted to be a writer (after toying with the usual actress/teacher/nurse ideas — I very quickly realized, even as a kid, that nursing was NOT for me…!! but it was one of those careers that little girls of my era automatically gravitated to because very little else was open to women then). But even the writing dream evolved over time. I was originally thinking “author” (of books, like the ones I loved to read) — but the older I got the more I realized that very few people made a living at doing that… and then I started thinking journalism. I did go to journalism school & worked for a weekly smalltown paper for a year before I got married. But the newspaper/magazine field in this city was (& still is) very hard to break into, and I’m not sure I have that killer instinct that the best reporters have. And so I wound up in corporate communications, which was just beginning to take off as a “field” at that time, and I made a career of it for 28 years. It wasn’t exactly what I had dreamed of doing (and it got more frustrating in later years), but I was relatively good at it and it paid the bills and gave me a decent pension before they decided they were done with me and ushered me out the door, three years ago. :p My parents were always a bit skeptical about my career choice, but my mother said a few years back, “I guess the writing thing didn’t turn out too badly…!” which was an incredibly satisfying moment for me, lol. 😉

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.25.17 at 11:05 am }

I didn’t know you wanted to be an oncologist once upon a time.

I wanted to be a scientist. I thought that meant looking into a microscope and a telescope and figuring out how things work. I still kinda love to figure out how things work.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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