I keep up on the people I went to high school with, the people I went to college with, pretty much anyone I've met who interests me. Maybe it has sometime to do with loving stories--we share a moment in time, and then we go separate ways, often to very different places.
There's one group in particular I track. In high school, my biology teacher started a group called G squared. It was a group for gifted girls to meet and bond and in some ways, unite. Now, the group didn't always get behind everything this teacher envisioned--we were small-town girls growing up in a post-feminist world where we could someday vote and work. I think most of us didn't really see the whole "being a girl" thing as much of an issue.
Now I see that it was. All of us set off in different paths, envisioning the great things we were going to do to change the world. Many of us wanted to be doctors, biomedical engineers, lawyers, architects--big-wigs. Most of us got lost along the way.
Wendy married her high school sweetheart and had babies. Her dream went from being a biomedical engineer to a school-teacher to a stay-at-home mom. She was bright and capable and so driven to be the best--I'm sure she's thrilled with her kids and striving to be the best mom in her town. I wonder a bit who she's competing with now.
Alice wanted to be an architect, then a doctor. She went to Notre Dame to play volleyball and take on the world. Rather than do either, she graduated and, like me, joined a teaching program where she taught for two years. Now, she has her masters in Nutrition and is probably helping people be healthier. She'll do great things no matter where she is--but I can't help but think she would have been an incredible MD.
Lucy also wanted to be a doctor. She's loud, brassy, and currently working as a nurse. She's pregnant with her second child, and I'm sure running things on her floor. But her story itches at me. So many of us are falling short of the marks we aimed for. Why? Because husbands and babies got in the way?
Or were we just saying those things because we were supposed to? I know that I was guilty of paying lip-service to a dream I didn't really yearn for deep-down in my gut. I majored in Biology and took all of the obligatory pre-med/pre-grad school classes. I worked my tail off, but at the end of the day I didn't have the passion to study for the MCAT or apply or spend ten years working through med school. So I met a boy, let the dream slip away, and drifted from one thing to another, scraping up enough money to survive and trying not to think to hard about who I was becoming or what I was doing.
I've had a lot of time to think lately. And I want more. I want a piece of that dream back, the one where I'm somebody in this world. The promise of Gsquared was if we reflected on things, if we asked for more of life than being mothers and wives, we could aim bigger. Do more.
The dream that has been slowly building up inside of me is to be a physical therapist. It's not a doctor--I'll go to school for less time, make less money, and probably have a whole lot more time for babies. It's what I want, the compromise that will make the most of all of my dreams. But it makes me ache a little for the girl who said she wanted to be a doctor and is, five years later, finally blowing the dust off of her dreams and seeing what's salvageable.
But this post isn't about me or Wendy or Lucy or Alice.
This post is about Breanne. I facebook friended another Gsquared girl who's a physical therapist in Seattle--from what I can see she's living the life I'm setting my sights on one day. I was flipping through pictures of her wedding, when I realized the pint-sized maid of honor looked familiar. It looked like Breanne. I hadn't thought of her in years. Her name has changed, but when I googled the new name, I found Breanne's picture in a group photo for a hospital in Salt Lake City. She's an MD--a radiologist at a big hospital.
I told my husband and my roommate, and they smiled politely, but they don't get it.
Breanne did it. Out of all of us who sat in that biology classroom at lunch and tried to puzzle out the meaning of being a woman, of being an adult, of chasing down dreams, she's the one who did every last thing she set out to do. She went to med school. She got married. And ten years out, she's strong. Powerful. Important.
There's part of me that's jealous. I kind of would have expected that. But I didn't anticipate being proud. She's representing all of us--the ones who tried, who had to compromise, who settled for less or realized that they didn't have the passion for their goals. I'm not judging, and I think that whatever life path a person chooses, no one path is better or worse. People change, priorities change, life goes on.
But Breanne did it. That small-town girl went out and knocked down doors, took no prisoners. I want to thank her for her success, for being the one to make good. I want to ask her how she did it. I'm sure that her life isn't perfect, that she has triumphs and heartbreaks and that life will at some point bring her to her knees. Who knows? Maybe she is just beginning to realize that her dream of being a doctor is hollow. That's life. But in the meantime, she's saving lives.
Her story is like a thorn in my side, poking at me. I want to gather up the bits and pieces of my rambling path and begin making something out of them, too. Maybe not the big, important life I'd once vaguely envisioned. But something comfortable, something strong. Something I, too, can be proud of.