This morning I woke up at 4 am. Since I went to bed at 8 pm (I am an exhausted mother of a toddler after all!) I felt well-rested. I was also jolted awake in part by a dream I had—an incidence that’s been all too often this week. Well this dream wasn’t a scary nightmare kind like the others, it was more of an awakened state, albeit an unrealistic one.
Inspired by having recently met a fellow Brandeis graduate who is currently in med school, at the end of my dream last night, I had a feeling that I could go to medical school. This young woman was doing it with a baby, I could too! I, my husband, and my toddler daughter could all move to Israel or somewhere in the Caribbean (it’s calmer there) and I could take the rigorous course load and become a doctor! Just like I had considered in the beginning of college—when I was pre-med for the first two years.
There is a part of me that yearns to go back to school. Med school (followed by the exhausting years of residency, and possibly fellowship) doesn’t make sense, because I want something more experiential and less demanding. Also there’s the primary part: I don’t want to be a medical doctor.
Being that I have been working as a teacher in my daughter’s preschool for the past year and a half, I have had thoughts of getting a masters in early childhood education. But that doesn’t have the clinician piece—which I really like about being a registered dietitian nutritionist. I love educating patients and their families, being a trusted source of information as well as empathy. Being an authority, as well as an advocate. I can do this as a teacher, but I’m not prescribing diets/lifestyle changes as I did when I was working as a nutritionist, and I miss that.
I keep hearing about OT. We have teacher trainings led by OTs, and the more I learn about what they do, the more I feel it may be right up my alley. I would get to work in a school one-on-one with a child as a clinician, but instead of focusing on food, I could focus on self-regulation skills and stress management—things I myself sorely needed more of growing up—and still do, to this very moment!
I glossed over a lot of my issues because I did well in school, and then in high school I chose a moderately challenging school in place of one that would have been highly challenging and demanding. I was at the top of my class in high school and got straight As in college. So went the narrative in my head: I am successful.
Was I successful?
I had some close friends growing up, but I never felt truly understood by them. In college, I still wasn’t great with emotional intimacy as I continued to fear confiding in even my best friend, and had an emotionally confusing relationship with my college boyfriend (we shouldn’t have dated for as long as we did, but I REALLY liked the feeling of being loved and belonging to someone). It didn’t get better the last year of college, when my father died suddenly in first semester. A few months after that, I embarked on an even less healthy romantic relationship. That one lasted about a year and catapulted me into digging deeper into my psyche for the first time.
2008—the year I started therapy AND the year I started grad school.
Thus continued my inner dichotomy: socio-emotionally struggling while academically thriving.
For the most part, I seemed to let my academic—and later professional—success, overshadow my deep socio-emotional struggles. Unhealthy dating relationships here and there were reminders of my unhappy internal state. Therapy continued, but so did my overall malaise.
Finding my future husband was a damn miracle. Only weeks before my therapist had told me that it would be years before I would be able to sustain a healthy long-term relationship. But I knew there was a healthier self inside of me, since it did resurface now and again—with the help of spiritual retreats and seminars—and I recommitted to dating as my healthy self would. I found my future husband only a few months later. (Oh man, I wish everyone could do that—the singles crisis is so sad and frustrating!!!)
It had been a heck of a long decade—professional growth combined with personal ups and downs—but I had finally landed on solid ground. I could finally have that emotional intimacy I had yearned for with a life companion, as well as the dream of becoming a mama. I had arrived. Well, at that particular step of the giant staircase of life.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I decided that I deserved a break from the trajectory of my life. I didn’t want to work at the hospital full-time when I would have our first child, and I wanted to give myself space in general to process life. Everything had moved so fast, with so little healing, why not have a refreshing change of scenery? I could reevaluate my profession, and evaluate for the first time, what I envisioned as the kind of mom I would want to be. I felt like if I stayed in NY, I would stay on the same track I was on my whole life. My husband always wanted to move out of the tri-state area at some point. We both weren’t a fan of the fast-paced NYC life.
So, after visiting some relatives in the area, we packed our bags and moved to Atlanta.
I got what I wanted, I wasn’t forced to work full-time and send my baby (who was 5 months in my belly when we moved) to daycare all day. And we really liked the community. I even found work I could do WITH my baby—being a baby room teacher. She moved up rooms after a few months, but I still would see her during my lunch break. It was work-momlife balance heaven for me.
My husband ended up switching fields, not without much consideration of which exact field to switch into. This has been the greatest challenge of moving here.
But this morning, I remembered why with ALL that living in Atlanta is a blessing.
This morning, I opened up my new Conscious Discipline book by Dr. Becky Bailey. I have attended a seminar and read a chapter provided by my preschool director, but this morning I was beginning the book and the journey to step-by-step integrating this into my practice.
Reading the beginning of the book, reviewing the Brain State Model (Survival, Emotional, and Executive modes) as well as the executive skills, I was reminded of why I am in Atlanta:
To take a step back and focus on areas which I didn’t give adequate attention to in New York: on developing my executive functioning skills, on living from a place of conscious awareness and acceptance instead of a place of constant fear; on accessing my higher self, and better yet, living as my higher self.
Pondering this I realized I have been living in the survival state; constantly stressed out, in fight-or-flight, on edge, about my husband’s job/career journey. I suppose the state I live in—New York or Georgia—is not as important as the state I live in—Survival, Emotional, or Executive.
I needed to move away from the known, the expected, to invite myself to begin again. With Conscious Discipline, I really CAN begin again.