Writing about Casanova and Jeanne has gotten me thinking about dreams, what helps us fulfill them–and what prevents us from fulfilling them. A long time ago–in another lifetime, it sometimes seems–I went to a career counselor.
I was being downsized at my job. I had been offered another position within the company, but I felt sick at the thought of taking it. I had been teaching part time, and loving it. At the time, my dream was to become a full-time college professor. Still, though, there’s a big step between being a part-time instructor and a full-time faculty member. I had found myself involved in a messy affair at my “day” job, and wanted to end it, but feared losing my job. Now, though, my job was ending anyway. It seemed like time for a change. I didn’t know what that change should look like, but I knew if something didn’t shift soon I wasn’t going to survive it.
And so I went to a career counselor. Her name was Helen, and Helen gave me a whole boatload of tests. She tested my skills. She tested my interests. She tested my IQ. She tested my aptitudes. She tested my personality.
And then she called me into her office. “You’re one smart lady,” Helen said. “You could do anything you wanted. You’re above average on just about everything, and on some of the scores you’re off the charts. You can be anything you want to be.” She hesitated, then went on. “All that’s standing in your way is you.”
She began to ask me some scary questions about my past, and my childhood. “No,” I insisted. “There was nothing like that. Things were hard, but none of us were molested.”
“Maybe not,” she said, studying my scores again. “But some of your scores indicate that something had a similar effect on you.”
She suggested I visit a therapist. She gave me a number.
I left her office feeling at once shamed and oddly enough, like I was standing in a doorway, looking into a new land. I called the therapist she recommended. And I took the first steps out of my own way.
It’s been years since that day. In those years I learned that my scores were accurate after all. I learned what it means to break, to fail, and to start over. I learned the freedom to be found in having had the worst happen.
In some ways, I have moved out of my own way. I have found my feet as a single mother. I have kept us in a house and peanut butter for fourteen years now. We have weathered loss. I have seen the first glimmerings of success.
But I think of the dreams I dreamed as a child, and I think of Casanova, who singlemindedly pursued his dreams right past other, seemingly attractive alternatives, and I realize that while I have managed to travel a long way up the path, I am still blocking my way to some of the trails that lead toward my brightest dreams.
And so, again, I find myself facing the same challenge that Helen posed to me all those years ago. I am one smart lady. I can do anything I want. All that’s standing in my way is–me.
To be honest, I have no idea how to get out of my own way. I’m not even sure why I’m standing there. Am I afraid of flying too high, only to fall too far? Am I protecting myself from some unseen danger? Or am I trying to hold onto relationships from my past that are both comforting and limiting? I don’t know.
So maybe the next step is not bludgeoning myself out of the way, but sitting down with myself and asking a simple question. “Bodie, why are you standing here?”
And when I know that, I will know everything.