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satisfaction & learning about myself

The things that I expect from my life are influenced by how I grew up. We all know this, but sometimes, it takes a little perspective to see how much our upbringing really affects us. That was what part of my wknd was about. I went to go see some friends this weekend, and we hung out and had a good time. We’re all Adventists, so we all have that common background, but no two people are ever raised exactly alike – even in the same family, so the diversity in viewpoints is to be expected. I was raised to be fully independent as an adult – interdependent enough to appreciate having friends, etc. but not to be looking for a mate to support me the rest of my life. I internalized those values and they’re a part of me.

One of my friends was raised to be able to take care of herself if necessary…but there was the understanding that it probably wouldn’t be necessary. She maintains a fairly good balance in her life with her husband – they make decisions together and are a pretty awesome couple, actually. Another one of my friends was raised to become a career woman, but her dreams were to be a wife and mother. And she’s living the dream. She wants nothing more, as far as I can tell, and she seems truly happy.

I got to know another girl a little better this weekend. And in observing her husband, learned a little about myself. She and her husband met in college, and got married, while still in school. He got a degree in chemistry or general science [I’m not entirely sure which, as different people kept giving me different info], and she got a degree in…math, I believe. Well, having a degree in chemistry myself, and realizing that it’s kinda rare for me to meet people [outside of work] in my field, I tried to talk with this guy.

That didn’t work.

Now, just so you know, I didn’t start off with, “hey – I’m a chemist, too! Wanna talk about bond angles and SN2 reactions?” I actually didn’t get to start a conversation with him. I happened to have a small part in some discussion that a bunch of us were involved in, but once I got involved, he shut down. I can’t remember the exact topic – it was somewhat analytical, but not about science.

But then, one of the kids asked him a question about how soap works. And he decided to do an experiment for them, right then, so they could see the wonders of water/surface tension/how soap works. [Needle floats on water because of surface tension. Add soap, needle sinks.] And I realized, I wanted to be involved. I wanted to help. I wanted the kids to know that I knew things, too. It was about me. I backed off. I wasn’t getting any attention anyway, and I wanted to start understanding why I was feeling so left out.

Later, I was talking to Mr. Scientist’s wife again, and found out that she works at Panera. I love this place – basically cuz of their Mediterranean veggie sandwich [heaven between two slices of…heaven]. She works at Panera, and he’s unemployed. He’s unemployed. Has been … since he graduated.

Now – I’ll tell you, it’s hard times out there. There are chemistry jobs to be had, but it’s not the gravy train it was in the 90s. You’ve gotta go where the jobs are. And if you’re willing to move and start at the bottom so you can get some experience – you can begin to build a career in chemistry. But I know from experience that chemist jobs do not just walk up to you while you sit in your house and invite you to work.

So, when he started explaining E = MC2 to the kids, and their eyes started to glaze over, I said, “isn’t that part of the theory of relativity?” I’m not against learning things early – by any means – but sometimes, I think 9 year olds need a little better foundation before they jump into more advanced models of thinking. I know – I’m painting the picture like I’m all awesome – and I’m not. I was once again, wanting to be recognized for knowing stuff. He answered back and said, “No, it’s about the relationship of matter and energy.” That’s when I finally got the hint. And shut up.

Even though I was right, he needed to be able to teach those kids stuff. Later, I heard him telling them about WWII and some American history, and for their part – most of the kids sat in rapt attention. If they’re learning, who am I to barge in, just cuz I want recognition? That’s my own issue.

On the flip side, as I talked further with his wife, I found that they’re moving to Korea in a couple months to teach English. She’s very anxious to move, because she said she’d really like for him to work, too. And not just her.

But she seems satisfied.

And that satisfaction that I detect in my friends’ marriages is relative to their own ideas of how things should be. As much as I know that we’re in hard times, I can’t tell you if I could find it in my heart to be satisfied with a husband who could get a job for four years. Or two years. I wouldn’t be satisfied with some things, but maybe there are others I would be, that my friends wouldn’t.

I’m still trying to figure out this sticky thing called choice and how it relates to freedom. Generally, I know that feminism frowns on judging other women’s choices, but I struggle with this because of my own ideas about how things should be. If one woman is being judged because of her ambition, does this make it ok to judge another because of her lack of ambition? Or is the fight all about the right to not be judged at all? It’s hard. Trying to live up to my own ideals.

Especially when I realize how much of my own drama still needs to be dealt with.

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