October 8, 2012

Perfect

After a few interviews, waiting on results of a background check, and some paperwork, I finally start my new job tomorrow morning. It's an orientation day, from 9-5 at a different store than the one where I will be working. The rest of the week is full of training shifts.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to be working again, and thankful for the paychecks. Still, it's hard to not get down on myself. The last time I worked a job that paid an hourly wage was the summer before grad school. I hated it. The town I worked in was full of wealthy people who treated people in my position like trash. I'm talking, throw the change on the counter instead of possibly accidentally touching my hand when you go to pay for your groceries. Ridiculous. But I did what I had to in order to make a little money before heading to Chicago.

When the summer ended, I kept the card that I used to clock in and out, and I kept it on my desk all through grad school, along with a note: consider the alternative. No matter how stressful teaching was, no matter how many pages I had left to write, the hours, sweat, and tears I invested in grad school were an investment in my future. I was making sure that someday, I'd be doing something I really loved.

And for two years following graduation, that was the case.

I've been fighting my own heart and head lately. I'm trying so hard not to think that leaving California was a mistake. I didn't regret it for a second, until I found out I was pregnant. Suddenly, it wasn't about me anymore. I wasn't happy in California for any of a dozen reasons, but for that kind of money, for security ... I don't know. There would be negatives about raising our child there, though - even just being pregnant there. The closest hospital was an hour or so away, and the town would not have been a great place for a little kid - bad schools, no parks, no museums, no library.

I'm trying to appear very brave and very positive, even though I'm entirely terrified. Some days I'm excited, but it's fleeting. I'm mostly scared to my core. I know the job situation is temporary, and a teaching position will open up soon - in fact, I've already applied to one and am in the process of applying for another, for Spring or Fall 2013. Neither position is in Chicago, but they are both very prestigious schools, and should I receive an offer from either one, relocating would be a no-brainer. Branch of the University of California in the middle of nowhere? Bad idea. Ivy League schools on the East Coast? Worth considering.

Still, I can't count chickens before they hatch, so my focus right now is figuring out how to make everything work with the situation I'm presently in. It isn't ideal, but it's the way things are currently. Cashiering is not what I'd envisioned in my future after spending over half a decade and tens of thousands of dollars on my education, but I am neither afraid of hard work, nor ashamed of doing what I need to do in order to provide and make a good life for my little family.

I don't know what is going to happen long-term. But one thing I am certain of is that I want to break my perfectionist habits before the baby arrives. I don't want him or her to feel pressured by my unreasonably high standard for perfection and success. I want a happy, self-confident child. A child who doesn't feel the need to hide his or her true feelings in order for others to think that he or she is flawless and unafraid.

I'm on the right track to reassessing perfection. It sounds silly, or perhaps a bit cheesy, but I think it's this overwhelming feeling of selflessness that's come with being pregnant. That my decisions aren't my own anymore, that they don't affect only me. It's a good part of why I haven't binged in six weeks - because if it hurts my large, fully grown adult body, I don't want to imagine what it could do to the helpless little fig-sized baby growing inside me. The decisions I make are not always perfect, but they are always the best I can do in a given situation - taking an hourly wage job, for example, instead of waiting for a salaried teaching position.

At a moms-to-be orientation at a local clinic the other day, I met with a midwife, a nutritionist, and a breastfeeding counselor. I shared a bit of my story - my weight loss, my history with eating disorders, my moves in the past year - and they offered good advice and support. I talked about being terrified of failing, even now, before the baby is born. One of the women put her hand on my knee and said
Mama, everything you do for this baby is perfect.
She clarified, saying that by eating well, I'm doing the baby and myself a tremendous favor - but mostly myself. The baby will get whatever it needs - if not through my food and my prenatal vitamin, then through my body. (For example, they said expectant mothers who don't get enough calcium from milk, yogurt, cheese, etc., tend to have problems with their teeth, because your body surrenders its calcium stores in order to make a healthy baby.)

And I waited until after I got my blood drawn and walked out of the clinic to let the tears flow. I repeated it to myself, over and over and over.

Everything you do for this baby is perfect.

I'm soothing myself and my stresses by taking that to mean exactly what I need it to right now.