Unlived Lives

A few years ago, I got an incredible opportunity. I had just graduated from college and was so depressed that I hardly left the house. (I talk more about that time here.) In an effort to rectify that, I took a volunteer job gardening for a Montessori preschool down the street from my apartment. I worked there a few times, digging up dead lavender plants and turning over topsoil, and then I got hired part-time as an afternoon caregiver. 

By this time, I had gotten certified to substitute teach, so I would sub during the day at the public schools, get off around 3, and then go to the Montessori until 5 or 6. I loved working at the Montessori. I totally clicked with the founder and the other teachers, the kids were so smart and inquisitive, and I saw a lot of potential in the Montessori methodology. 

The school was interested in expanding their services and becoming an elementary school, and they got a grant to do so. They asked me if I would be interested in getting training and certification so I could head that program and teach first through third grades. It was an incredible offer and I was floored that they wanted me in that capacity. It felt like the perfect job, to get to work with kids every day, and then go home and write. I love working with kids because you can see their progress each day-- it's tangible. I wanted to take the offer.

But I didn't.

No good reason/a million good reasons. I wasn't sure I could commit the handful of years necessary to properly establish the program. I wasn't ready to be tied down. I didn't know if I would be financially secure. I worried I wouldn't be any good at it. They wanted my ex-boyfriend to get certified as well to start the grades 3-6 program. I didn't know if we'd be together that long (spoiler: we weren't.) We said no. 

A few months later, I got the job I have now and we moved away. Make no mistake: I'm happy where I'm at. I'm still working in education, although I don't interact with students directly. The work I do is worthwhile. I have made many connections and learned so much. Next month, I will have been at this job for two years. I just signed a year lease on a new apartment. 

The Montessori opportunity is firmly in my rear-view. Saying I "regret" not taking that chance is inaccurate. I don't regret it. I just feel a hollow wondering. How would things be different had I done it? How would I be different? WOULD I be different?

Labor Day is a depressing holiday for me, probably because it's the death-rattle of summer, which means everything will start dying off. The cold will settle in my bones and stay there until spring. Maybe this is why I'm feeling particularly weird and sad. 

Also, when I'm really sad, I feel acute guilt. I have an excellent support system. People love me and care for me. I am lucky and grateful. So I feel guilty for being sad-- for not coping well with my excellent resources and support systems. And then I feel super shitty for wheatpasting it all over the Internet. I worry people think I do this for attention, or that I'm being a downer. I don't know. I get very in my head about it. 

This morning, as I got ready for work for the first time from my new home, and I tripped over unpacked boxes, and wiped away a doorframe spiderweb, and locked the door behind me, I got magnificently sad about the sameness of it all. The hallway outside of my duplex smells like the temple where my grandpa used to take me. The keys to each new apartment are pressed the same. The nosebleed I got this morning tasted like every nosebleed I have ever had. I go to therapy, I do yoga, and the next day I'm raging because I can't get my mind to quiet down. Everything I do is-- somehow, at once-- new and routine. 

Do we fantasize about our unlived lives because in that version of the universe we might be different, or better, than we are in this one? Who are we kidding, anyway?


Song in My Heart by Diane Suess

If there’s pee on the seat it’s my pee,
battery’s dead I killed it, canary at the bottom
of the cage I bury it, like God tromping the sky
in his undershirt carrying his brass spittoon,
raging and sobbing in his Hush Puppy house
slippers with the backs broke down, no Mrs.
God to make him reasonable as he gets out
the straight razor to slice the hair off his face,
using the Black Sea as a mirror when everyone
knows the Black Sea is a terrible mirror,
like God is a terrible simile for me but like
God with his mirror, I use it.