WIS: What-if Syndrome

I’ve never been one of those people to always think “what if…” But as of lately, WIS has reared its ugly head, invaded my thoughts, and sent me into a tail-spin of sorts. I guess I’ve been coming down with it for a few weeks, but after attending a scholarship luncheon for the WSU College of Engineering I became totally disabled with the disease. Yes, I was inspired by these students. They were engaged, passionate, grateful, and smart. I was especially taken by the four returning adult students, one of which had spent the last 13 years pursuing her dream of being an engineering graduate. They decided what our society labels as “middle age” as not so middle, but more as a next-step age.

That’s when my fever started. My brain began assembling all of the what-if’s in my life, beginning with my decision not to attend the two colleges I was accepted my senior year of high school: Loyola University-Chicago and Stanford. I wasn’t ready for college life.  I wanted to see what it was like to just live, be an “adult,” work my way through. Then the what-if’s jumped to ten years ago when I made the decision to return to school. What if I hadn’t changed my major one and a half years in? What if I’d stuck with dental hygiene? What if I hadn’t decided I wanted to teach English at university level? What if my husband hadn’t lost his job in ’07 and I had to give up my GTA? What if…what if…what if…

I despise those two words. They’ve caused me to question where I am, something I haven’t done since I turned 30. The day of my 30th birthday, I began to panic. What was I doing with my life? What was I thinking? Soon after, actually three years later, I got married and enrolled at WSU. Now, here I am feeling the same as I did fifteen years ago. I don’t believe it’s an age thing. I’m good with 45. Really. But it’s like something is not quite right, maybe missing. But what?

So I began analyzing my job. I love being at WSU. I love meeting people who feel the same about the university, learning their stories and sharing mine. I’ve met some amazing people, witnessed some incredible accomplishments, and helped some people through very difficult times through memorials.  When I take pause, I do love my job. But I can’t help but feel boxed in. That this is it. And my writing? It’s become a back-burner priority, put on simmer and left to evaporate slowly.

What to do? Do I look for something that allows me more time to write? Do I buck up and force the time? Do I give up writing? What? I have no answers, but I’ve begun the search, taken notes, contemplated. Will I cure my disease? More than likely, and  the percentage is high, the fever will break and I’ll realize how stupid I’ve been. But until then, I’ll continue to wonder.

It reminds me of that scene in “Pretty in Pink” when Annie Potts’ character, Iona,  describes to Molly Ringwald how a friend of hers always has this feeling something’s  missing, “She checks her pockets, checks her purse, counts her kids, but nothing’s gone. She decided it’s side effects from not going to prom.”

I went to prom.

One thought on “WIS: What-if Syndrome

  1. spooky. literally feeling the same thing, and realizing that I had same sort of discontent 11 years ago. mine might be ‘mid-life crisis’, although I detest that terminology. just don’t seem satisfied with the status quo – but I can’t quite pinpoint what exactly will make me happy (that I can control). I feel I’ve always been somewhat of a late bloomer – so maybe I’m in another chrysalis stage, and things are as they should be – just not easily visible right now.


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