Must I have a grand calling in life?

I'm an IT professional. I want to be a mother. Isn't that enough?

Published September 10, 2005 2:51AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am not one of those people who has found a great purpose or passion in my life. I don't love my work or have a hobby or care deeply about this or that cause. In my mid-20s this bothered me quite a bit and I read a bunch of books about how to find gratifying work, but although they all had great advice on how to transform what you love into a job you'll love, they weren't so helpful if you couldn't find what you loved. I even quit my high paying information technology job and spent a year trying out jobs in various professions and wandering around the city, looking for something I might find inspiring, or at least something that I could see myself wanting to do. I didn't find anything I liked, let alone loved and left the whole process very depressed. Some days I felt worthless and on the other days I just felt incredibly dull. Eventually I decided to go back to an IT job, since it paid well and I didn't mind it. And really, there are many good things about my job -- the people I work with are nice, my boss is flexible, and the work is interesting probably two out of five days. I have a loving husband, a great family, some good friends, a house and a dog, I have a nicer than average life and I am grateful for it. But even still there is a feeling that I am not being who I am really meant to be.

Around the time I turned 30 (almost 32 now) I decided wanted to be a mother. I've always planned on having children, but now I really wanted to be a mother. And it had been a very long time since I had wanted to be anything. It took a year to convince my husband that we were ready for a family and five months to conceive. During that time I watched my refrigerator all but disappear under glossy baby pictures and birth announcements. I smiled happily and watched as my two closest friends had their sons two weeks apart. I listened attentively to their conversations about co-sleeping and breast-feeding and sent them Mother's Day cards. And I was mostly happy for them and only a little bit sad for me, because I felt like I finally knew what I wanted to do and despite my best efforts, I couldn't make it happen.

When we got pregnant and found out the baby would be born in January we were excited and nervous and all the things newly expectant parents are. It seemed perfect that we would start out the new year with a new baby. I planned on quitting my job and staying home full-time. I knew how hard it would be to take care of an infant, but I could hardly wait to finally spend my days doing something that I cared about. And to be quite honest, I was very much looking forward to throwing out project work plans and technology updates and all of that other stuff that currently fills my day.

Three weeks ago I lost the baby. I was nearly four months pregnant and it was totally unexpected. My pregnancy had been normal with all development happening right on schedule. All the doctors could say was "sometimes these things happen." I know that it is very common to miscarry and I know my chances are very good that I will conceive again and have a perfectly fine baby. My husband, family, friends and work have all been supportive and sympathetic, but I am having a hard time. I come to work and stare at my computer doing nothing. I think about continuing with this routine into the new year and I want to curl up in a ball under the desk. I know I should stay at this job. I am planning on getting pregnant again and I have been here long enough to earn a decent amount of maternity leave and I can work my schedule around doctor's appointments, morning sickness, etc., but I really don't see how I can come into this office for another year.

I guess I want to know how do I get through another year of just waiting for the life I want to start?


Dear Childless,

To be quite frank and not only that but possibly boring and repetitive as well, the way you get through the year is you do it one day at a time. One day at a time you get up in the morning and one day at a time you go to bed at night. If you are a person of faith you call on that faith every day. Every day, if there's a prayer that you know, you say it. If your doctor says you're depressed, every day you take your medicine. Every day, if there's a posture that you assume, you assume it. Every day you write the book. Every day you notice the minute shifting of light as the earth quietly surrounds the sun. Every day you take note of the precise quality of the miracle of life. Every day you write down your check numbers. Every day you count your change before leaving the counter. Every day you press the button for your floor.

And never do you let the coming year rise up like a monstrous wave and crush you with unimaginable tedium. Never do you let the dread sink in until you feel cold and dead inside; if you find yourself staring into the abyss you switch seats and think of ice cream.

Aside from that, the interesting thing to me is that you are willing to admit that you have no commanding passion -- you don't dream of being on Broadway or becoming president of a cosmetics company; you're not outraged about global warming or the state of coastal wetlands. Not that that's so unusual -- on the contrary, I just think you're refreshingly honest. It's so nice to meet someone who isn't faking it. What a crushing burden it is to be required to have a calling. I mean it's nice to think that there is a plan for each of us and each of us matters and each of us is unique, which is what we're told, but what's wrong with living a simple, dignified life, doing what we do, one day at a time, appreciating the good things and accepting the bad? Isn't that enough? Moreover, isn't it your choice alone whether it's enough or not? Why does it even have to be enough?

You're fine. You're refreshingly honest. I salute you. Enough with the dreams already. We're already suffocating in everyone else's destiny. We're up to here in other people's dreams. I say more power to you. Take it one day at a time. Pay attention to the small things. The time will pass more quickly than you know.

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