One of my 10-year-old’s favorite conversation starters with me is the fact that I have a Ph.D. in theatre (and from a very prestigious program and school too. Please allow me to brag. I kind of need a little bit ego booster lately. In addition, I am reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and felt vindicated when she said that women do not share with others our accomplishments often enough for fear of not being liked. But of course, I digress)
Perhaps because children are more honest and straightforward, they instinctively know the most vulnerable place to aim? Or perhaps my child, Mr. Monk, is a future David Frost in the making. Either way, he has a talent of asking me questions that make me feel cornered. I have no answer to any of them, or perhaps I simply don’t want to answer. Afraid to.
“And you are not using your degree at all? Then why did you get it?”
“Isn’t it a waste?”
“Do you remember anything?”
“Is anything that you learned useful?”
“What good is your Ph.D. degree then?”
“Why didn’t you do something with it? Why didn’t you fulfill your potential?” Yup, he said that.
We would be doomed if our kids ever turn the table and ask us to assess our lives with the encouraging words that we use to inspire them.
“Have you reached for the stars and followed your dreams?”
“Have you lived your life to the fullest?”
And we’d have to bite our tongue.
Finally, after much pestering which at that moment felt more like missile attacks, I looked him in the eye and confessed, “The reason why I refrain from answering these questions of yours, about why I did not do more with my life, is because anything that I want to say, if I am being honest, may be misinterpreted as I regret having ‘this life’.”
How apropos then that soon after our unavoidable heart-to-heart, we moved everything out from the basement and I decided that it’s time I threw away the research material for my dissertation.
The box contains three years of my life and more than ten years of secret self-delusion that I am a research scholar/academic/intellectual at large.
Farewell to secret double life that never was. I only wish that I could have set it ablaze to send it off in style instead of unceremoniously dumping it into the recycling bin.
Story of my life.