Today is my 34th birthday.
Wow, 34. In the words of Wil Wheaton, “I’m not going to lie to you, Marge,” it feels odd. Adult, maybe. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it. Getting older has always been a mixed bag for me; I look forward to new beginnings (as I do at New Year’s – I’m lucky that I get to reflect twice a year, and it’s almost exactly six months apart, give or take thirteen days), but I also reflect on all that I didn’t accomplish over the previous year.
This year, I’ve got a lot to be proud of: I finished all the coursework for my Master’s degree, and with a kick-ass GPA to boot. All I have left is to finish and defend my thesis, and I’m done done.
At the same time, I’m still working at the same barely-above-minimum-wage job I got last summer to fill in the financial gap a bit, and this summer it’s not helping as much (because I know there will be no Financial Aid check in August? Perhaps, perhaps). I know I could do better, probably a lot better, but some part of me hesitates every time I set aside time to work on my résumé, look for jobs, or even think about the kind of job I want to get. I think part of that is that I really want to look for teaching jobs, but I know (from doing my homework) that even the community colleges will want my Master’s degree completed – All But Thesis isn’t good enough. I understand their reasoning, even as I deplore the way it’s biting me in the rear.
So if teaching is out, what is in? I know I could probably go back to teaching high school, but I don’t think that’s the right choice either, for a lot of reasons, but I haven’t done anything else in almost ten years – it’s scary.
I couldn’t sleep this morning, so I jumped in the shower, and out of nowhere, I had a thought (a lot of my best thoughts come in the shower; I don’t know why). A lot of really smart people that I trust advocate choosing a word to serve as your “theme” for the next period of time (length is up to the individual, but they often recommend choosing a word at times when you naturally reflect, which for me is New Year’s and my birthday, so the word I choose today will be my theme for the next six months or so). Once I remembered the concept, the word seemed to just appear out of nowhere. My word for the next six months is “dreamcatcher.”
Why “dreamcatcher”? For a lot of reasons, really. For one, going back to school was the first dream I chased that I felt was just for me, and I liked it. Now that I’ve more or less “caught” my degree, I want to chase some more dreams – it feels good. So “dreamcatcher” represents a verb (I’m going to chase and catch my dreams) and a title (I will be a person who catches my dreams).
Another reason is that I like the idea of the Native American dreamcatchers. Wikipedia tells it better than I could:
The Ojibwe people have an ancient legend about the origin of the dreamcatcher. Storytellers speak of the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; she took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America and it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and sinew, or cordage made from plants. The dreamcatchers would filter out all bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter our mind. Once the sun rises, all bad dreams just disappear.
I like the idea of filtering out the bad and letting the good pass through; that’s how I want to live my life. I don’t know that I’ll ever stop venting, or worrying incessantly, but I do want to keep reminding myself to embrace the good things in life and not worry so much about the bad. So the dreamcatcher itself will be a symbol of the way I want to live for the next six months.
Finally, anyone who knows me better than just in passing knows that I am an awful procrastinator – I tend to put things off constantly, to the point that some days I don’t really accomplish anything. I know I need my downtime, but by choosing a word that can be used as a verb, I also want to remind myself that I can’t catch dreams just by sitting around and playing with my technology – catching dreams is an active process, and I need to remind myself to get off my butt and do something, if I want something to happen or change.
So what dreams am I going to chase and catch? Obviously, Dream #1 is to finish and defend my thesis; time to finish writing is scheduled for this coming week, and I don’t plan to flake out on myself this time. Once it’s in my advisor’s hands, then I can start on Dream #2, which is to find a better-paying job. Not a forever job, just a good-paying job that will let me pay my family’s bills and put back a little money. The money I save is for Dream #3: I want to buy a house. I’m surprised by this dream; I always said I didn’t want the responsibility of owning a house. I always said renters had it easy, because if anything breaks, the landlord has to fix it. Maybe it’s just a symptom of getting older, but I want to know that the money I’m paying for my housing will amount to something someday, rather than just going to line some person’s pocket (especially a person that I don’t know and who doesn’t know me – I liked renting from a person much better than I do renting from a big company).
So for the next six months, I’m going to catch me some dreams.
P.S. Here is where I found that picture. I was going to say that someone should buy it for me, but the page says it is Currently Unavailable. Crud.