Reclaiming Wife: Boring And Proud

When I was twenty-two years old, I had grand plans. I was going to live in Los Angeles and do something creative. Be a comedy writer, or perhaps a casting agent. I was, after all, a former theater geek majoring in film. Or perhaps I would move to Washington, DC and work on Capitol Hill, because I was also a political junkie. I was going to do something super cool. All my friends were going to be like, “Have you talked to Katherine lately? She just went to a party and Matt Damon/Bill Clinton/Britney Spears/Keith Olbermann/[insert-someone-else] was there!” I was going to be somebody. A non-obnoxious Carrie Bradshaw, if you will.

When I was twenty-three years old, I met my husband. That was when my plans began to unravel. We were both seniors in college and planning our futures. Even though at that point we barely knew each other, we both quietly began planning our lives around one another. I figured out that he hated LA, so I decided not to pursue the Hollywood lifestyle. He eventually withdrew his application for the Peace Corps, since I made it clear that wasn’t an option for me.

Meanwhile, the invention and subsequent popularity of Facebook was allowing me to keep up with all of my friends in a very dramatic way. It seemed as though everyone around me was graduating from prestigious universities and landing impressive jobs in major cities. I, on the other hand, was deeply in love but lacking direction. We both attempted a career in politics, but very quickly realized that watching MSNBC every night does not mean you are cut out for the campaign trail. With our tails between our legs, both my boyfriend and I came back to my hometown. I waited tables for two years and felt like everyone was snickering behind my back. “Have you talked to Katherine? Yeah, I know…she’s a waitress.” Tired of being ashamed of my life, I decided to go back to school to explore a career I had always thought about but never really thought was stylish enough for me: teaching. Within a year I had my credential. Soon after that we got married, and just two months ago moved from our trendy apartment in an understated urban neighborhood to an old bungalow in the suburbs.

I have friends from high school and college that are living the life I imagined for myself. Actually, lots of them are living lives way cooler than I could have imagined. I have not one, but two friends who went to graduate school in London. Another friend is in a position that requires her to have lunch meetings with the head of microwaves at GE. (Apparently there is a real person who is head of microwaves at GE, and it’s not just something that was made up by Tina Fey for 30 Rock.) I have a former roommate who is a model, a college classmate that edits video for network television, and countless old acquaintances working for senators, congressmen, and national nonprofits.

I, on the other hand, teach first and second grade. I sit “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor and say things like, “I don’t think tetherball is a good choice for you,” and “I’m sorry you are upset about your sticker chart,” on a daily basis. I am in bed by 9:30 most nights and have never met Matt Damon. The most exciting part of my week is leftover pastries in the staff room.

Some people may look at my life and think, “How sad, she gave up on her dreams.” But I don’t think I did. Looking back I have realized that my dream all along has been happiness, and that is what I have found. My twenty-two-year-old self thought that rubbing elbows with celebrities or power lunches with executives would make me happy, but then I grew up a little bit and my priorities shifted.

While I am admitting to you that my life is fairly boring when put up against the lives of others, I still think it is pretty damn exciting. Every day I go into a room with twenty-eight six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds, and I teach them things. And every day we all come out a little smarter. (Except for the days when kids have to leave early because they puke on themselves. It happens.) Society might not place my job on a pedestal, but every CEO I know of had to pass the first grade. I am also a person who believes that love, of all kinds, is very important. So the fact that I found someone that I love, married him, and now get to eat breakfast with him every morning is not just exciting, it is incredible. Sipping coffee with your soulmate may not land you on magazine covers, but it is something to be valued.

So really, when I think about it, nothing has changed. And nothing will change. All of my life I have dreamt of being happy, and I am. The greatest part is that my life is (hopefully) far from over, so I get to continue on this path to happiness. The exciting part is figuring out what that happiness will look like along the way.

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  • BB

    Personally, I think teachers are (all too often unsung) heroes, and I would love nothing more than to “sip coffee with my soul mate” every morning. Your life sounds like the dream to me. I’m admire your strength in realizing that your goals have shifted, and that’s okay–great, even! I hope that I can get to that place, too.

    • Jaime

      Honestly, teaching is a highly sought profession in Canada. There’s nothing wrong with being a teacher. So many people want to be teachers and they just can’t find jobs. Be proud!

  • “Some people may look at my life and think, “How sad, she gave up on her dreams.” But I don’t think I did. Looking back I have realized that my dream all along has been happiness, and that is what I have found”

    Exactly this times about a million. Life goals have a tendency to be about how we intend on achieving happiness and following other paths isn’t giving up.

    • That’s what I was thinking too! I love the line about the dream being happiness.

      Someone should put that on a pillow.

      Or a shirt.

      • perhaps on an APW shirt? eh?

  • Teresa

    Shortly after getting married, I noticed that I had this overwhelming feeling–a need to stay home with my husband. When I finally decided I could say it out loud, I described it as kind of like nesting, but without wanting to decorate or having children. Mostly I just want to sit next to my husband and drink tea and grin at each other. And I feel terrible about it. I live in New York City! There is so much to do and see all around us, all the time! And I just want to stay home–I felt like we were wasting our time, but I just couldn’t shake that feeling. Then I saw this pin on pinterest (too many of my converstations begin that way…) that said “it is okay to be happy with a calm life.” When I saw that, something settled inside of me. I still sometimes feel like maybe we should be going out and doing more, but most of the time I feel perfectly content making dinner for my husband and I and watching some HGTV!

    Also, as a school librarian, I can sympathize with not feeling ambitious enough or powerful, especially when I talk to my friends with high-powered jobs. BUT, the work that we do is SO important. I mean, you teach kids to read!

    • Eenie

      I’ve been on vacation with my boyfriend to an exciting city and we usually end up hanging around the hotel room a great deal.

      • LALA

        My husband and I do this as well!

    • 39bride

      Me, too! I keep joking about when we’ll stop cuddling on the couch every night and become productive members of society again. It’s been seven months so far…

      • Dawn

        It’s been four years so far for us and we’re still spending the majority of our lives outside of work cuddling on the couch every night and all weekend not even trying to be productive members of society. Cuddling is highly underrated.

      • Moe

        A big night out for us is when we go buy groceries.

        • Teresa

          I freaking love grocery shopping! Our big plan tonight is to do laundry!

          • Moe

            Sometimes we get CRAZY and clip coupons!

    • Hannah Smith

      For nine months my fiance worked swing shift and I worked a standard 9-5 schedule. We never saw each other, and it really affected my life happiness. Now he’s back on a similar schedule. This made me realize how precious time together is. Don’t be afraid to savor it!

      • Sarah

        This is my husband and I right now, and it is the WORST.

    • Panpan

      This is me too!! Living in NYC would make you feel boring for staying home, but its the best part of my day when my fiancé and I get to be together. HGTV has become my favorite channel as I dream of us owning a house one day…

    • Bethany

      I feel exactly the same way! I have a job that requires travel several times a month. Some of it is international, which is a dream. I used to love it and get a thrill from all the new places to explore. But since we got married in September, I get really, really homesick. I miss my husband like crazy when I’m gone, so I’ve started looking for a new job that will give me more time at home. I’ve struggled with feeling guilty over this (No one my age gets a job like this, why would I give it up? I’m wasting my potential! I have so much more to learn and offer!) but am trying to listen to the wise words I heard once that just because we don’t have the same dreams we did when we were 16 doesn’t mean we’re giving up. Thanks so much for this post!

    • I live in NYC, and work at a really cool company.

      But I don’t go out. Ever. If people ask me what I did over the weekend, it’s usually “Caught up on my DVR” or “Played board games with some friends.”

      And I love it.

  • Three years ago I was in the awesome position of being anything or anyone I wanted. I could go anywhere or do anything. While I was dreaming big dreams, I met a teacher and fell in love with him and all the big dreams I had, turned to big dreams about a happy life with him. Relationships are rocky roads and I’ll admit there were times I turned back in my mind and wondered if I gave up too soon on the ultimate possibilities life once held. Then I reminded myself that in my head, my perfect life was a house with kids and a husband who adored me. Simple. I can be happy lots of places doing lots of things, but I can’t be happy without him so that became the ultimate dream. We’re lucky people because we don’t have to go chasing after our dream life, its already here and it can be as dreamy as we make it.

  • Love this post. It feels like a takedown of all those “can women have it all???” articles. Not all women (or all people) ultimately want to be the head of a movie studio or a congressperson or do brain surgery. But why should our life’s priorities be focused on a few big “important” jobs? Why can’t priorities be focused on the everyday joy of life and family and friends? I love how Katherine says she’s someone who “believes that love, of all kinds, is very important.” And that’s someone who brings enormous value to the world. I know that I feel similar pressure about having an “important” life (is my job impressive enough? am I using my degree in the right way?), but I hope that, at the end of my life, I can say I’m someone who believes the importance of love.

    • Chalk

      I’ve also been uncomfortable with the “women can have it all if they try harder” buzz that has been emphasized by “Lean In.” Of course, having it all means a high powered an high profile career. And you articulated what I’ve been trying to articulate for myself in response to this mindset!

      • KB

        I’ve been uncomfortable with the notion that you should FEEL like you WANT to have it all as opposed “I would like to be happy.” It seems like very simple logic to me in that most highly successful people (men and women) have had to sacrifice something along the way to get to those glamorous lives. Some people are cool with that, other people want to try and have it all, and then other people take a look at those options and say “Screw that, I want X, Y, or Z – which makes me happy.” I think we need to shift the focus from what SHOULD make us happy to what DOES make us happy. We all should be “happy enough” – and if we’re not “happy enough,” we should figure out what it takes to get there and be at peace with that.

      • Samantha

        I think the key point that we are forgetting is that “ALL” does not have the same definition for everyone. I can have My All and you can have Your All, but that does not necessarily translate to the same thing.

    • I think that it is important to remember that feminism isn’t just “women can do these important jobs, too!” but also “the jobs that women have always been doing are important, too!”

      Right now, we still have a tendency to see a career in teaching as “settling” because we, as a society, do not correctly value that work. So this highlights another thing we (as feminists) need to work on changing: attitudes about what work is to be important and valued.

      • Yes. I get uneasy when the feminist focus is all on breaking into traditionally male roles. It feels like that emphasis states that there isn’t any value to the roles women have been allowed to hold.

        • HRC

          Yes, exactly! I get so irritated when people say I’m failing the sisterhood for being a housewife at the moment. It feels like I need to justify it with ‘it’s not permanent’ or ‘it is just until I get my business up and running after an overseas move’ It’s like people are horrified that a woman can believe in equality and still not wish to be a CEO. Or worse, wish to be a homemaker.

          I hated ‘Lean In’. There, I said it.

  • Meaghan

    See, I have a theory that no matter how cool your job sounds, it’s 90% very un dramatic “boring” stuff. I have a job that, by title, sounds very glamourous, but on a day to day it’s most similar to Deputy Cat Herder on a Budget (some days, anyways).

    • NB

      Ack! Ack! I accidentially reported you when I mean to “exactly” you! Sorry! (Sorry, moderators!)

      I can get behind your theory. If 22-year old saw me and my fancy lawyer business cards having fancy lawyer lunches, she’d give me a high five. If she saw the remaining 90% of the time, when I’m getting stoked about vending machine pretzels and trying to teach old partners how the internet works, well….Yeah. She might think twice about that LSAT business.

      Anyway, I think this post is awesome and perfect for this month. That is all.

      • Jashshea

        HA – I actually sent a message to a coworker yesterday saying that if 25 year old me read the email I sent yesterday, she’s tell me to get right. Contained the phrases “aligning to enterprise best practices” and “demarcating responsibilities.” GLAMOUR!

      • Meghan

        NB – hysterical! :)

    • Anon for this

      Ha, I am actually the director of a research center which sounds oh so impressive and my business cards are gorgeous but meanwhile, at this very moment I am taking a break from doing mundane data entry to surf the web.

    • Sarah

      Yeah, see, I’m an architect, which about half the strangers I meet say they would have liked to be, so it seems it sounds cool. However, I spend 95% of my time sat at a desk doing iterations of the same thing over and over and much less than 1% actually on a building site seeing the stuff I draw get built. Today I drew a timber fence. Not even an exciting timber fence, just a regular, close boarded timber fence. On Monday I’ll draw paving slabs. In every job there is dull.

      • Can’t exactly say why, but your comment makes me want to get some crayons and draw a bird. Maybe a bird sitting on a fence. ;) Your fence probably looks more like a fence then mine will though.

    • Diane

      Hahaha, totally the same with this medical thing. I love my time with patients and do feel that I make a meaningful difference. And then I go back to the endless piles of paperwork and charting and insurance authorizations and formulary changes and it is the least glamorous thing ever. I was a teacher for two years and I am far more effective at this job and much happier but I can’t say that it’s glamorous, it’s just a better fit for me.

    • Not Sarah

      An old friend from high school said when I ran into him a couple of years ago “I’m just a construction labourer, not like your fancy software developer job.” And I basically told him that when it all comes down to it, they’re both just jobs.

      Sure, mine required a 4 year degree and may or may not pay better, but when it comes down to it, it’s still something that I get up and do from 9-5 (ish) 5 days a week where I deal with people I don’t always like and sometimes spend days dragging stuff around on the computer screen to make them look Just Right or spending an entire week Googling stuff to figure out how the heck to do it and other mundane things like writing goals for the year. What keeps me going is the really awesome days of thinking through fun algorithms and mentoring more junior people.

    • My husband designs roller coasters. At the end of the day, it’s just a regular job. But people are much more apt to talk to him at parties than the girl who practices domestic violence law, so I keep him around.

  • Kess

    I don’t know if it’s the same in the US, but in Canada teaching jobs are so hard to find that when I see a person around my age who actually has a steady teaching job, my first thought is that it’s incredibly impressive and they must be super smart! Not to mention the fact that teaching is such a challenging and important profession. Good job!

  • Daisy6465

    I too am a teacher, but I look at that as my radical, subversive, totally non-boring, life path. Teaching puts you on the front lines of building the future of your society and planet. There’s nothing ho-hum or boring about that! How many people do you know who can honestly say that their jobs are never the same from day to day?

    Seriously though, I came to teaching straight out of college through a service program with the big aspirations of “Teaching to Change the World.” My goal was not to be the best at literacy centers but to Raise a generation out of poverty! To right our societal wrongs! To level the playing field for students regardless of race or socioeconomic status! (See, teachers can be radical leaders too).

    Over time I’ve had to realize that my goals were, perhaps, a wee bit too ambitious. Maybe being the best damn science teacher my 25 3rd graders have ever had is good enough too. Maybe it is okay for me to want to build a family of my own and not eat, sleep, and breath educational reform. Society needs people with single-minded passions to move it forward but the vast majority of people are not truly happy living that way. And that’s okay.

    • KC

      I’d just note that my 3rd grade science teacher influenced me permanently, positively. So there’s that. You *might* actually be helping a generation to rise, 25 kids at a time. :-)

    • Katie

      I also had incredible teachers. I keep in touch with most of the ones who rocked and expanded my world. 4th grade science, 8th grade writing, Debate Coach, Band Director, my Senior Year English and Biology teachers (I should say that again: Ms. PARHAM, Mr. Dennison, I am a better person because of you!!!) And then several professors. Seriously these people had a profound effect and a ripple effect. I help others and am kind to others and that spreads outward from their initial touch. I remember particular lessons and lectures. I remember projects and candid conversations. Having positive adults in your life is the difference between flailing and fostering growth. Let’s hear it for teachers!

  • Lizzie

    I am really jealous at the utter contentment expressed in this kind of post. I left a highly-demanding and incredibly stimulating job over a year ago and am wondering when, if ever, I am going to feel that kind of satisfaction in my work and creativity and capabilities again. I don’t regret leaving that particular job for a second — it was a pretty warped work environment and after three years there, both my physical and mental health we’re staring to wear a bit thin — but I still miss it a lot. The job I’m at now is pleasant enough, but I’ve never felt the desire to put in much extra effort. I’ve got a number of other things going on right now (closing on a house this month, completing professional licensing next month, having a baby the month after that…), so while I’d describe my life right now as relatively calm, it’s certainly not stagnant. And for the most part, I am more content than I’ve ever been before, but even so, I have the occasional panicky moment where I feel like all my best and most interesting work is behind me and I’ve lost the drive to change that. To me, workaholism is seriously like a love affair with a bad-boy boyfriend who you know is wrong from you, but you can’t get over the amazing sense of how alive you feel when you are really in it. I really don’t know if any amount of good cooking, relaxed weekends, or shared bliss with my growing family will take away the yearning for that feeling, and I guess I’m in the camp that thinks you can’t (at least simultaneously) have both. In any case, thanks for the thought-provoking post, and cheers to all forms of happiness.

    • Emilie

      “To me, workaholism is seriously like a love affair with a bad-boy boyfriend who you know is wrong from you, but you can’t get over the amazing sense of how alive you feel when you are really in it.”


      • Jashshea

        Can’t exactly enough – I used to sit in my cubicle, alone in the darkened office and HIGH FIVE myself when I figured out the solution to whatever the prevailing issue of the day was.

        …And then walk home because I’d missed the last bus, make myself boxed velveeta because all the stores and restaurants were closed, and stay up half the night because I couldn’t quite work out all the janky, coffee-and-adrenaline-fueled energy.

        America: Where being an addict is okay as long as it’s work-addict.

    • Other Katelyn

      Encouraging you to find the right job– it sounds like you get some major satisfaction from your career, and that’s important to honor.

      • Lizzie

        Yes, thanks for the encouragement. The plan is to look for the right job when there is a bit less else going on, but of course I have a hard time imagining what exactly that job looks like with a baby at home when the only job I’ve had that I really loved involved 100+ hour work weeks… For now I at least have Don Draper returning to TV on Sunday to commiserate with…

  • Jen

    What a timely and authentic piece. I would contest that teaching, though doesn’t come with the salary, profile or ‘glamour’ (whatever that is!) of a high profile job like a casting agent or congressman, it still has all the multifarious demands of a challenging and rewarding career. Long hours, challenging conversations, creative and flexible thinking. It’s an admirable and noble job, and one I doubt many CEOs or actors would have the balls for!

    The tone of this piece is also right on, as is the general wealth of advice on this site. As someone recently engaged, planning an elopement, and rapidly thinking about how having kids will affect my career, and whether I even WANT a career, the reassurance that the GOOD, calm life is achievable and something to be respected rather than deplored is incredibly valuable.

    Those kids are lucky to have a role model such as yourself for a teacher!


  • Eenie

    “He eventually withdrew his application for the Peace Corps, since I made it clear that wasn’t an option for me.”

    I feel like I’m in this position right now! I’ve planned to do the Peace Corps for at least ten years. The deadline for me to apply is approaching in May, and now I feel like I’m giving up on my dream if I don’t apply. It’s been this nagging question for the past year that my boyfriend refuses to discuss in detail with me because he doesn’t want to affect my decision. If I had never met him I would be 100% applying right now. So does that mean I’m giving up my dream for a guy if I don’t apply? I don’t even know if I’d be happy while I was there without him (and no he won’t come with me).

    Rant over. This was a really great post. It kind of gives me a little hope that things might just work them selves out.

    • Teresa

      Maybe it isn’t that you are giving up your dream for a guy, but that your dreams have changed? Maybe you should still apply and go for 1 year instead of 10? Or, maybe you let things play out a bit more and you can always apply a little later in life? I think you are right–things might just work themselves out!

    • Teresa has great insight. I will also add, having followed my guy across half the U.S.: SO WHAT if your dreams change because of a guy? If he’s that important to you, why WOULDN’T they change?? Only you two know your relationship, but if you place such high priority on being with him, that’s OKAY! It doesn’t make you less strong, smart, or independent. It means you used all your strength, smarts, and independence to make the best choice for your life and you lives together.

    • Jessica

      That was me about 2 years ago. I applied to the Peace Corps, then started dating a guy (who didn’t want to do the Peace Corps). It became a joke between us; for example he asked me to go to a wedding with him that was 6 months away “as long as you’re not in the Peace Corps yet.”

      Well, by the time my placement came (over a year after we’d been dating) it was to one of only 2 countries out of ALL the countries Peace Corps goes to that I’d decided I didn’t want to go to. I took it as a sign. My boyfriend was supportive about the whole thing, but yeah… I feel like I made the right choice because today, we’ve found other dreams together & are both encouraging each other through earning our MBAs right now.

      So I’d say… Find out more info first about where you’d get placed. I remember thinking if I was placed in the Caribbean we could probably make long distance work. Also for me I made a new friend who runs a nonprofit in West Africa & I’ve begun helping her with that, which is fulfilling. I do wish I had done Peace Corps, say right out of college, but I realize the choices I made led me to where I am today, which is a happy place. So good luck!

      • Eenie

        That is a really good point and would definitely affect my decision. I’m involved with Engineers without Borders and keep telling myself that it’d be a good plan b if the peace corps didn’t end up working out (either cause I didn’t get in or decided I didn’t want to).

        I might just go ahead and start my application today! So scary.

        • I think you are much better off applying and then deciding you don’t want to take the placement, or applying and doing a long distance thing for a little while.

          Long distance can be hard, but there are many women here who can tell you that it won’t doom you or your relationship.

      • Lucy

        Which country was it? I have worked (as an expat for a company) in some ‘interesting’ locations where peace corp are… Just curious if it was one of the ones you didn’t want to go to!

        • Jessica

          I love to travel and am generally amenable to trying new things. I was placed to Kyrgyzstan. Just wasn’t feeling it. Is is that one of the countries you’ve worked in? Hope you’ve enjoyed your expat work; what an interesting experience!

    • Apply! If you get accepted, see what your gut says. If your gut says, “Oh no!” turn it down. If your gut says “whhhheeeeee!” go, and if your relationship is meant to make it, it will.

    • charmcityvixen

      I was placed and ready to ship out in around 6 months to teach in Eastern Europe with the Peace Corps… and then I met my husband! He was so not on board with long-distance for 27 months (ummm, I totally get that)… and I knew within 5 dates that he was the man I was going to marry. I made him promise me that when we are older (when his kids have grown up), we can go and join the Peace Corps as an older married couple. He has mad skillz with carpentry, and I still love teaching and social change, so I think we would be a great team! It helped me come to terms with choosing to give up the Peace Corps (temporarily) to see what adventures I could have with my husband first!

      Good luck :)

      • Eenie

        I’m so glad this worked for you! Unfortunately he has no desire to do the peace corps (I’ve begged!) so now may just be the best time to do it for me even if it’s not ideal. I think I am just going to apply and see what happens. I might not even get in!

        • charmcityvixen

          Follow your heart! Live your life with no regrets!!!

          And even if you don’t get in or decide not to go, at least you have tried.

          Good luck, again! I’m sure either staying in the US or doing the Peace Corps will be a grand adventure for you. And it sounds like your SO is a big support to you, so that’s just wonderful!

    • Jashshea

      Short answer: I think not applying is something you may regret. If you are accepted you have another decision to make, but go through the process. Applying isn’t committing to going.

      Longer answer: The summer after my junior year one of my college friends starting dating one of my HS friends. College friend had ALWAYS said she was going to do Peace Corps after school (I think she was looking at a 3 year program). She applied and was accepted, then waffled because of the guy. At 22, I was so annoyed with her for “choosing the guy over the dream” and told her how I felt when she asked me. She didn’t listen to me and made her decision to stay in the US and be with him.

      Fast forward 13 years: They are married, have two kids and a beautiful home.

      During the in-between years she worked at an inner-city HS and obtained not one, but two advanced degrees supporting education and her particular specialty. She and her husband traveled extensively pre-kids and she’s kept that up with aplomb post-kids. I was a b’maid at their wedding and cried like a baby during the ceremony.

      • Debra

        Just thought I’d chime in here. I think you make the best decision for you at the time. Applying to Peace Corps is always an option for American citizens; there is no upper age limit (the oldest currently serving Volunteer is in her 80s). Some people are able to serve right after college, others take a sabbatical mid-career, and still others serve after they retire.

        Then again, for some people Peace Corps service isn’t the right choice or maybe isn’t the right choice right now. If service is important to you, perhaps your calling is to a shorter-term international volunteer opportunity, a domestic volunteer opportunity or even to help out in your family or community. Or perhaps that’s just your calling for right now.

        Each of us brings different talents to the world and I think at any given time we have a different amount of capacity in each of our talents. If you want to serve, you will find a way to do it, perhaps in small ways now, but maybe in bigger ways down the line. The opportunities don’t end because you make a decision to go in a different direction. They just change.

    • Alicia

      What is it about the Peace Corps that attracts you? Would Americorps be a good fit too? There are a bunch of great service opportunities out there, maybe you just need to find the right one that makes you both happy.

      • As an AmeriCorps alum, I thought I’d chime in here. I know you’ve probably heard about the VISTA program that travels through out the country, and that seems like long distance too, but there are plenty of other possibilities. I applied to a year long position in the town where we lived so we could stay together. It was great- I have a friend in Peace Corps, and we have pretty similar experiences. The only difference is the culture, Peace Corps is international- so if you want to learn about a new culture it’s the one for you. AmeriCorps is improving your own community, giving back to the people and organizations that helped make you the person you are, so there isn’t a cultural aspect, but you’re still having a huge impact.

        Ultimately, this one takes a lot of thought. Do what you think is right for you! I decided to stay stateside instead of teach in China so we could stay together, but it isn’t the right decision for everyone. Honestly, I wasn’t sure it was the right decision for me until I made it. Good luck!

        • My husband chose Americorps over Peace Corps when we were dating, largely because of the sad faces I’d unintentionally make whenever I tried to muster up the energy to say “Follow your dreams, buddy……. :(”

          It was profoundly life-changing for him, in ways he didn’t anticipate going in, since it wasn’t as ~exotic as Peace Corps. His upper-middle-class butt was dropped down in Appalachia, and life has never been the same. He goes back to volunteer with his former organization for two weeks every year, sometimes I go with, sometimes I’m too busy with work.

          So, yeah. Just another shout-out for Americorps. It’s not necessarily the “safety school” of volunteering that people seem to think it is.

          • Eenie

            I am definitely doing Americorps if the Peace Corps thing doesn’t work out. I just really want the experience of an international placement and the isolation that comes with that. I spent two months in Lima, Peru by myself, and I just found out so much about myself. I think being somewhere in the US with my cell phone, car, computer etc. would still be a great experience, but not quite the one I’m looking for.

    • Elena

      I see a couple of other people have mentioned this, but I want to reiterate that you can go later in life as well. I have a friend who is 65 now and getting ready to leave for Mongolia at the end of May, and she is so excited and ready for the change. And she’ll do amazing things, too, partly because she’s had all that great life experience to apply to her position. She is a great inspiration to me in many ways, this not the least of them.

      Life is long!

    • You should at least apply. I’ve been trying to get my act together to apply for a really sweet job that would take me out of the country for four (4!) straight months without him being able to visit. I waffle because it’d be a great adventure, but I don’t know if I want to do long distance again. Traveling is much more fun when he’s around. My husband has told me I should go for it, because we can decide if I actually want it if/when they offer the job. Which makes me love him even more for supporting my possible dreams.

      On the other hand, we’re both interested in doing PC but can’t because he’s not an American citizen. Oh, red tape.

    • Jess

      If you decide not to do it, maybe it isn’t that you are giving up something for him, it’s that you are giving up something for the two of you? Or maybe it’s not giving something up at all. Maybe it’s just changing. :)

    • AK

      I have more dreams than I can possibly live, so inevitably I can’t have them all. It helps me to think of these as priorities…is it more important to A or to B? For example, right now, it is more important for me to have stability-home-community-garden than to have adventure-adversity-travel. So I have a stable home base and get in little bits of travel and adventure here and there. Your priorities may be different, and may change over time. That’s okay.

  • Jessica

    Love this post. I feel like the idea of changing your path based on a significant other is definitely frowned upon by many, but I’ve always thought WHY? Life changes constantly and the people we come across are often catalysts for that change — and it can be a very good thing. We evolve, our dreams evolve … it is natural.

    Also, I loved this: “Sipping coffee with your soulmate may not land you on magazine covers, but it is something to be valued.” There is maybe nothing I love more than looking over my coffee mug at my sleepy husband and thinking, damn, this is amazing. I am so lucky I get to do this.

    • Samantha

      I think the reason “changing your path based on a significant other is definitely frowned upon by many” is because there are people that do get sucked into their partner and loose their sense of self. I think it’s important that because we are with a partner we don’t give up on the things that we had been working towards and striving for, BUT that if things change naturally based on growth and maturity then of course things don’t always stay the same. You goals and ambitious should develop over time and make room for new people to become involved while you are still keeping a sense of self. And new goals and dreams can be created together to. I think the key to all of this is balance. A partner should be a compliment – a partner – in your life, your goals, your dreams – a supporter, not a completer. In my opinion. I think where the negativity comes in is for fear that one will completely disregard themselves for another – which does happen sometimes.

      • Jessica

        Totally agree with everything you said! I especially like that a partner should be “a supporter, not a completer.” Basically, I don’t think it’s ideal for anyone to lose who they are in a relationship, of course, but I do think that people can show up, rock your world, and change it forever — for the better. It’s up to both partners to make sure they keep their individuality, though.

  • Boring and proud needs to be our family slogan, ha. But seriously, I’m glad somebody talked about this publicly because … for me, being happy was always the goal, but it’s not always safe to admit that! Lately I feel like if I admit “hey I just want to be happy and do meaningful work – even if I’m not personally shattering the glass ceiling – and write things and have a loving family” I’m letting down womankind, myself included.

    • Rebecca

      I think there are still enough glass ceilings around that you can stomp on one or two of them along the way, even if you’re not climbing the corporate ladder in a rocket ship.

      And happiness and meaningful work sounds like a pretty gender neutral goal to me!

  • Nora

    one metric of how much i love posts on APW is whether or not i feel compelled to send a quote to my partner… so this post, specifically this quote: “So the fact that I found someone that I love, married him, and now get to eat breakfast with him every morning is not just exciting, it is incredible. Sipping coffee with your soulmate may not land you on magazine covers, but it is something to be valued” made the cut. this resonated with me because i think it’s also hard sometimes to realize that our dreams might encompass someone else too. that when i was 20, i thought happiness would be a fulfilling career. and now, it is that. but it’s also a life with my partner. and lots of cups of coffee. and those things ultimately changed the direction of my career. but happiness should be its own justification, whatever that looks like.

  • Sarah

    I love your post and your positive attitude. Growing up and even in college and right after, all I wanted was the awesome career, amazing man and adorable kids. The “having it all” image. Now that I’m getting ready to get married, all I think about is how happy I would be as a stay-at-home mom for a few years and then getting a satisfying job when my kids start school. This is not something I ever even thought I would want – but as our lives change, so do our goals. And I think this is something that can be hard to explain. Thank you for starting that conversation!

    • Rebecca

      Oddly enough, after getting married I feel more like I want to keep working when I have kids and less like I want to stay home for a few years! It’s funny how your views change…

      Well, I guess if we never changed our minds, we’d never acknowledge we have more options than we knew about when we were ten…

  • Granola

    This sounds wonderful, good for you! Realizing that maybe my 17-year-old self didn’t have the firmest grasp on what made her happy has been an ongoing struggle not to feel like I’m betraying the cause.

    But having time to do all of the other things I’ve come to love, like baking a pie or adopting needy plants or hanging out with my husband – that’s really valuable too.

  • I love this post! Some people may look at my life and think “oh look, the poor homesick American, living under her inlaws roof, in a dead end job and her kids are dead, how does she do it?”

    I see it as: “this is my life. I married the love of my life and moved halfway around the world to be with him. We live in a townhouse owned by his parents, with rent at a discount. We can’t afford a place on our own without killing ourselves with debt we can’t repay. We don’t have a car or credit cards either. We save up and work extra hours until we have the cash in hand to buy it. I have a job that I genuinely like and I’ve no desire to climb the corporate ladder or be in management. I’m a professional in my field. I’m a cashier, I’ve been doing it since 2002. I get paid well when I get work. I have a very supportive manager and a close knit crew of crazies. I have conceived, carried, birthed and buried two beautiful babies, and yes they’ve both died very young, but I’m still their Mama. I get to honor their existence every day by telling their stories and educate others about the effects of losing my children. I get to stay home and bake, take care of my home and scrapbook our adventures as a family of four missing two when I don’t have shifts at work. I get to tewch and inspire people via my blog and scrapbooking projects. I get to be an awesome Auntie to my niece while trying for another baby.”

    Life is anything but what I had planned for myself before we married. Our 6th anniversary is in June and already we’ve been through more UPS and downs than most couples experience in decades of marriage!

  • Sam A

    “…every CEO I know of had to pass the first grade”
    Ahem to that.

  • Anoon

    “I am also a person who believes that love, of all kinds, is very important.”

    Yes, time 1,000,000! Like the author of this post, I’ve moved forward with my life with a goal of changing the world. After a decade of bashing my head against the wall in DC, I’ve decided that love is the only true way to change the world. Love is absent in today’s political world, but (in my mind) is exemplified through teaching. I, and dozens of lawyers, are in a career-changing program training social studies teachers.

    I look forward to (someday soon) being your colleague!

  • Stephasaurus

    Thanks so much for posting this. It’s something I really needed to read. Recently I’ve been working on coming to terms with the fact that even though I had big dreams in college and wanted to “make something” of my life, I’m still fine with where I’m at right now: a little directionless, but with some seriously amazing people in my life (and starting a brand new job on Monday). Too often I feel like pepole are quick to look at someone’s life and judge by saying “He/she gave up his/her dreams” but like you said…I think the real dream is just to be happy!

    And for the record? I think teaching is one of the most important jobs out there. As it says on a coffee mug I gave to my best friend (who teaches third, fourth, and fifth grade special education) a couple years ago: “Teaching is the profession that creates all others.”

  • Amy

    YES!!!! I love this post so much. I was supposed to be a Broadway actress, or, at the very least, working in a number of fantastic repertory theatres. Or, when I didn’t want to be an actress anymore, I was going to be a stage manager and kick butt all over the country.

    Instead, (after five of those horrible post-college years, why does no one tell you those are horrible??) I’m an executive assistant, living in my hometown, happily married, planning for our family, kicking major butt at my job. My husband just received his Ph.D (woohoo!) and I’ll go wherever his job takes us. We live in a duplex in a beautiful neighborhood across the street from the local middle school and go to church ten minutes away.

    This is happiness. This is waking up every day feeling like Christmas because my husband is there (shut up we’re newlyweds still). This is what I want and nothing more.

  • I once said to a friend (who still worked at the high powered law firm in the big city I had left) that boring is very different than bored. I might be boring (would much rather spend an evening at home than out on the town) but I am not bored.

    It is funny the way that life unravels. I too have an amazing batch of friends who are doing high powered things (partner at a law firm (above), state senator, editor of a fashion magazine, professors, etc). I too had a prestigious career path that would have lead me to do things that people envied at my reunions, but I left it when I followed my now husband across the country to a city that had nothing in my field. Guess what, I love what I’m doing now so much more than then. It is not the same, its not prestigious, it doesn’t pay as well. But there is literally no stress — I leave at 5 on the dot every day to go home and walk my dogs, work out and cook a healthy meal for us to share. I spend my weekends reading, hiking and working on our house. I don’t think about work again until I am on my way there in the morning. No one yells at me, there is no competition, and no stress. Having experienced both, I would pick this calm not prestigious life over the other every time.

    Teachers are awesome by the way. I meet teachers and am always a bit jealous – I would love to hang out with 6-8 year olds all day. They are so much fun.

    • Are we the same person? I describe my boring, no-stress job the same way – but it allows me so much time to workout/cook good meals/pursue my hobbies/travel/DIY our house/relax with my husband! I would pick THIS calm and happy life over the high-powered careers I considered any day of the year.

    • One More Sara

      I always admire elementary teachers bc I would HATE to hang out with (25-30) 6-8 year olds all day. All the snotty noses! Throw up! Bathroom accidents! Gross! *tips hat to K-3 teachers everywhere*

  • I too am a teacher, and as we all know, the job ain’t boring at all! Neither is…married life. It gets me really mad when people have that “single=fun while married=boring.” People can make whatever life choice they want, but the life choice I made, to get married and “settle down” is MY choice. Married life is just a different path to go down–nothing about it is boring at all. Don’t we all learn something new about ourselves/our partner every day? I know I do!

    Never apologize for being a teacher (though, my Nursery school teacher sister often gets told by society to “get a real job”…nice…)…teachers are shaping the minds of tomorrow (something a lot of parents don’t even feel like doing!).

    Teachers are the rock of our society, whether society chooses to believe it or not!

  • Lisa

    Thank you for this post. As a children’s public librarian, I can relate to joys of a “boring” job, and also the feelings of having to check myself when I look at the perks of the more flashy job of my friends and peers. Many times, when I tell people what I do, the response is, “That’s cute!” like it is a not a real thing with real challenges. I work to not be defensive, and be all, “I work hard! Really! Helping kids foster literacy is important!” Because it is, and I know that it is. I don’t have to prove that to anyone. I loved your thought about the wonders of getting to sip coffee with your soulmate, and if I get to boringly do that for the rest of my life before going to a boring job I love, we are pretty darn lucky.

    When I started dating my now finance after years of friendship, I was struggle to figure out our relationship and what we were. He was not like anyone else I had dated, and I was everything seems so easy. Too easy. Comfortable. I worried we would not be able to make the leap from friendship. A dear friend told me, “Just because it isn’t dramatic doesn’t mean it is bad.” Silly, but that made me snap out of my self-imposed ideas of how things should be and focus on the person in front of me and now my partner for life, boring and happy.

    • Hah! I felt the same way with my now husband. He made it so easy and at first I was a bit suspicious. And now I just love it. Being married to him is just like it was when we were first dating — stress free. When friends tell me all about the drama, I now say “it doesn’t have to be this hard, and if it is, it may not be right.” They give me puzzled looks (one of my good friends just met someone who makes life easy for her and she said, “now I get it!”).

  • Brieanna

    I think this is what feminism really is, it isn’t competing for important jobs with men (though hey good for you if you are) but I think feminism is really just saying, “I want, and deserve to be happy.”

  • Jashshea

    This line stuck out for me: “…every CEO I know of had to pass the first grade”

    Love it!

    I’ve spent the better part of my life listening to my Mom’s work stories. She’s bounced around school systems and grade levels, but has been teaching 1st grade for 10-15 years now. She teaches wee humans to read, tie their shoes, and not hit each other. Those are some pretty serious life lessons, as you say.

    Teachers rock! If anyone ever says to your face that you “settled” for teaching, bop them on the nose and tell them its from me. ;)

  • Samantha

    I love reading all the teacher stories on here. But ladies I have a bit of a problem. Your jobs aren’t boring, they are only by self-definition! Let’s reject the idea that being married is boring or being a teacher is boring or having a calm life is boring. There are many other adjectives out there that will describe our lives. Take the boring descriptor away from others and perhaps some of the judgement as well. Everyone’s lives have their own challenges and calm spots and those with “glamorous” jobs I’m sure will tell you that they are not as glamorous as they seem. Just like reclaiming wife – reclaim the way you portray your life. {Unintentional rhyme . . .}

    • Cleo

      EXACTLY!!!! I have one of those “glamorous” Hollywood jobs. It’s not so glamorous, but it is so much fun. For me. But I’ve also found it has to be something you want to the depths of your soul, and that no other career can fulfill (I’ve tried others and the end result was daydreaming about getting back to the film industry).

      I have a friend who sold a screenplay, then promptly got out of the business. Now she works with autistic kids. I’ve never seen her happier. And when I go to her house, I see pictures her charges have drawn her on her fridge, and she tells me all the amazing things she’s doing — like how one of her barely verbal kids told her he was hungry. With words!! That’s life changing.

      I have another friend who studied acting in college and minored in neuroscience, just for fun. She had decided she was going to be an actress in 2nd grade, but realized in the middle of college, that it wasn’t for her and switched to double major in drama and public health policy. Now she helps make policy decisions for a national doctor’s association.

      A lot of the more grounded people in the business have a motto — we’re just making movies. So many of you guys are changing lives. That’s incredible, awe-inspiring, and totally NOT boring.

  • Elaine

    Love this post! My variation of this was that I was the young person who wanted to save the world. After a few years of terribly paid do-gooder jobs that were just an awful fit for me, I realized I could pursue a career path that would be more professionally fulfilling for me and still spend my spare time volunteering to make a positive difference in the causes I cared most about. I initially felt a lot of guilt about this decision, but got over it once I realized how much happier I was. Life is far too short to waste harping on the “coulda, shoulda, woulda!”

  • charmcityvixen

    I loved this post and could have written it myself!

    I graduated college with the idea that big things are going to happen for me — and I immediately applied and was accepted into the Peace Corps. Then, I met my husband and knew (almost instantly) that we were going to get married, and for that to work I had to postpone my Peace Corps experience (my husband couldn’t leave his job or children for 27 months to go with me, and he didn’t want to do a 27 months long distance relationship with minimal communication, depending on how the village was set up with technology). I agreed to put the Peace Corps on hold — they accept older married couples post-retirement, hollar!!! — and we got engaged.

    Now, I am married. We just bought a house (holy crap, was that an adventure!). I work at a company I love, and I am intent upon climbing the corporate ladder (but for now, I am a business writer, and that works for me). We have his children three weekends a month, so some weekends I am sitting in a playground with kids.

    I guess for some 24 year old peers, my life might seem boring. I know this Saturday we are going to the first party we’ve been invited to in months that we can actually accept. However, I love it!!!! Waking up with my husband (sometimes rather late on our kid-free weekend!), drinking coffee at our local coffee shop and doing day trips to other places makes my heart so happy. I wouldn’t trade my life with him for a life of “adventure” that I dreamt of a few years ago.

  • KM

    I can’t exactly this enough:

    Every day I go into a room with twenty-eight six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds, and I teach them things. And every day we all come out a little smarter. (Except for the days when kids have to leave early because they puke on themselves. It happens.) Society might not place my job on a pedestal, but every CEO I know of had to pass the first grade. I am also a person who believes that love, of all kinds, is very important. So the fact that I found someone that I love, married him, and now get to eat breakfast with him every morning is not just exciting, it is incredible. Sipping coffee with your soulmate may not land you on magazine covers, but it is something to be valued.

  • Lauren

    Oof. Right in the feels.

    I graduated from college a year earlier than my fiance. We went to school relatively close to each other and our hometown is also close by. So I decided to move home for a year while he finished school, find a good job, and save some money (while being with my parents, the two of whom are some of my best friends).

    Every last one of my professors told me what a stupid idea it was. I was berated about how I was giving up my dreams, giving up on journalism (which is a field that if you want to do, you really have to be willing to move wherever, and I get that), letting everyone down. But, fun fact! They don’t know my dreams!

    It turns out that I was able to start freelancing and picked up a job in a field (publishing) I had no interest in going in to but now LOVE. It was also a 50-50 chance whether FH and I would stay here in the area after he graduated, so putting down roots anywhere else wasn’t going to be productive. It turns out we’re moving to Atlanta (any readers want to connect? I need a job again!) so it all worked out perfectly. I got to save money while not agonizing about being away from him for months at a time, and I found a new potential career path. Win-Win-Win. Forget the naysayers! I’m happy, darn it!

    • “They don’t know my dreams!”

      That! Yup. That’s how I feel too.

  • I quit my hard-won career in New York and followed my husband (then boyfriend) halfway across the country to his home state of Minnesota, where I knew no one. Our lives are small and quiet. Sometimes, I miss the bigger, grander things I was doing or always said that I would do.

    But the things I am doing now fill me up. I love my life, and am not overly wistful about the road not taken (just the proper amount of wistful, sometimes).

    Eating breakfast with your love every day is, indeed, incredible.

  • Can I just say “exactly” to this entire post?

    I’m in the camp that says dreams change and that’s totally okay – it’s something that changes and adjusts as our lives change. I’ve got the education background that could have sent me to work in Europe, DC, or who know’s were else in the world – but after my husband and I first got together – I knew that lifestyle wouldn’t make me as happy as our lives together would. I’ve heard someone else refer to these other paths we could have taken as our ghost lives – sometimes we even see others living them.

    By no means have I figured out where my happy place is career wise, but I know it’s not a life where I live for my job or a job where I can’t tell my husband what I did that day (did I peak your interest there on what one of my ghost lives is?). For now, I at least know that I’m living my dream life outside of work – with my husband in a city that feels more like home then anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

  • Martha

    This post is great! And GOOD!

    It’s all about what makes you happy, and that can certainly change over time. People are different and therefore find joy in different things. And there is not a damn thing wrong with that. So long as you and your partner are on the same page, huzzah! If you have a partner – it not, shout out too all the single ladies, Beyonce style. And men too – does APW have any male readers?

    • CJ

      Of course there are guys here. (Sometimes some of us even post, hehe.)

      As far as this thread goes, I picked up programming from a garage-sale book in the summer before sixth grade. When it came time for college, I went into chemical engineering. All through ChemE, I heard, “You’re a computer guy. What are you doing in ChemE?” Now that I work as a programmer for the local public schools, I hear, “You have a chemical engineering degree. What are you doing in programming?”

      One friend in particular would always ask me what on earth I was doing. I could be making *so* much more money at a plant or something, and even in computers, I could make so much more elsewhere. He couldn’t understand that I love my job, and perhaps even more so, I’m *content* with my job. I don’t *want* the stress that would come from the “normal” career paths most of my compatriots followed, and it matters *so much* to me that I clock out in the afternoon and then can go be other-me.

      When I’m not at my “real job”, I’m a scuba instructor. In a good year I might come close to breaking even, but I cannot overestimate how great it feels to teach people to do something they’ve always wanted to do. (Sometimes, I even realize that I’m that adventuresome person people talk about.) Oh, and scuba is basically how mb and I got together — we’d been casual friends for, um, 15? years until we started diving. (She’s now a divemaster/assistant instructor.)

      You want to talk about “boring” things that people have a hard time understanding? I also spend lots of time and effort picking up litter. People get confused that someone would spend money and whole days collecting litter from the bayous and waterways around here. The thing is, even though I know I can only make a relatively minor and temporary impact, it is tremendously rewarding. (I have three canoes that I connect into a “tricycle”-like barge of sorts that I pull with my kayak. On a ‘good’ day I can pull out over 50 *large* trash bags of litter in one load! It’s a blast.)

      I used to feel like I’d missed out by not racing up the ladder in one or another of the “careers” available to me, but it turns out that I found myself over here instead. Had I gone the “right” way, I’d almost certainly still be looking.

  • I love this. My fiance is a teacher, as is my brother, and many of my close friends. I am a writer who used to teach and I have nothing but respect for the profession. There is something to be said for living a passionate and quiet life – the kind of happiness that does not rely on the validation of others. Kudos to you and your husband!

  • Hintzy

    high fives to you! I love your story and this post, I wouldn’t think that kind of life is boring or unimportant, but then my dad was a teacher, so I was and am constantly reminded of the value of teachers.

    I had a moment, last month, at my (not terribly glamorous) local gallery show on the local art loop, where two ladies I went to high school showed up and I wasn’t expecting them and they were asking me what I’m up to and this and that. One of them is doing crazy public murals in Philly and the other is headed to grad school – so they’re doing these “exciting” things – and I’m telling them about how I’ve just bought a house and getting married next year and I’ll be a newly minted aunt soon, and they both seemed so impressed with where I’m at. It was kinda weird, but it also made me feel happy that yes I have some really good things, and they are things to be proud of :)

  • Hannah

    Looking back I have realized that my dream all along has been happiness, and that is what I have found.

    So. Much. Yes.

    This totally resonated with me. I’m about a year out from finishing my PhD, and after putting in all this hard work I’m starting to realize: academics isn’t for me. It’s hard because I worry about people thinking I’ve given up on my dreams, but it’s not that I’m giving up, it’s that I realized those dreams aren’t as perfect as I thought they would be. And at the same time things I didn’t think I would value so much have become important and fulfilling – like my relationship. I always thought I would grow up to become a powerful woman in science, who happened to have a family, but now I see that family is much more important to me. It makes me happier. As Carrie Bradshaw said “[my job is] not who I am, it’s what I do.”

  • Heather L

    This really speaks to me. I’m currently a PhD student in the life sciences. I’ve wanted to be an scientist most of my life and discover all these cool things, but I’ve found recently that the reality of science and academia is exhausting and that it doesn’t make me happy. I’m still contemplating finishing the degree, but don’t plan to do research with it. Instead, I’m hoping to either teach, write, or open a business with the hubby centered around a mutual hobby.

  • I always wanted to be a teacher, but let myself be convinced that I needed to do something bigger. I love politics too, so I actually did move to DC after college to work on Capitol Hill. Where I did not get a job on Capitol Hill, but…with an educational nonprofit. Now I’ve been a teacher for over ten years and know I never would have been happy with a career in politics. One of my closest friends is a lobbyist and loves the lifestyle – she and I are polar opposites in every way. Still, people tell me that I ought to go to law school. I tell them that I can’t imagine what I could do with a law degree that would do more good for the world than teaching kids how to read. (I teach secondary special ed reading. Usually. We just moved to Okinawa and the sequestration-related DoDEA hiring freeze has put a hold on my plans to sub until I can get a teaching job here.) For all of that, I do still struggle sometimes with feeling inadequate, especially around all of my husband’s doctor friends. But even they would tell you that being a doctor is very little glamor and a whole lot of paperwork.

    Thanks for this post! And for teaching elementary school! I can’t imagine how anyone does it (the vomit story really does reinforce my belief that elementary involves far too many bodily fluids) but I’m glad some people do. Congratulations on your wonderfully boring life!

  • Moe

    Around the age of 30 I moved to a new city, took a new job, and essentially started a new life. I had lunch with a new friend at the time explaining to her how I ended up where I was. My original ‘plan’ included me getting married in my 20’s like all my friends did but it never happened for me. I said something like “I’m living my Plan B!”

    Her simple response changed my point of view forever. “What if, this life where you are now is really your Plan A and it’s where you should have been along?” She went on to explain that my perception of my circumstances would change how I respond to life. What if I embraced everything as if this is where I want to be instead of thinking I’m settling for something lesser?

    I didn’t meet my husband until 10 years after that, but I’m glad everything happened the way it has.

  • Ahh. This resonates with me so much. Thank you so, so very much for writing it!

  • Mollie

    “I don’t think tetherball is a good choice for you.” ha ha ha! For some reason that made me smile.

  • Laura

    Sometimes I click Exactly and nothing happens. I think it’s my browser’s fault.

    Anyway, Exactly! to this post in general. To the extent that I support following some combination of your head and heart, and caring much less about what other people (particularly your friends, because if they’re your real friends, they will be happy for you if you are happy) say about you.

    But also, although I really loved this post – it was eloquent, poignant, thoughtful – something about framing it around what it means to have a “boring” versus “exciting” life sends out little red flags for me. Or maybe it’s that the conclusion I would draw would be the inverse of the focus here: It’s not that your “boring” life is actually exciting, it’s that whatever you think of as “exciting” is actually probably way over-romanticized, grass-is-always-greener, etc.

    I mean, I too have a pile of relatively-high-powered friends, other friends with exotic jobs in distant lands, other friends who regularly rub elbows with beautiful people. other friends who literally save small portions of the world every day. But do I think their lives are infinitely more fabulous than mine? Do I get jealous when I envision what their day-to-day must be like? Noooot really. (Other than those with *enforced* two weeks paid vacation… must be nice.) It helps that I’ve found a path I particularly enjoy that feels like a particularly good fit for me, and having found love doesn’t hurt at all, but truly. Glitz and glamour and power? Proooobably not all they’re cracked up to be from the outside.

    And also, it is important to distinguish between *abandoning* some path or dream in lieu of another one and *figuring out* what path or dream is really right for you. It’s not giving up if it just wasn’t right in the first place. It’s letting go. [Cite relevant archival APW post here.]

    • I was thinking about that too with this post/comments and just in general about life. I think there is a difference between giving up on a dream and realizing the realities of adult life and certain career choices and then coming to a conclusion that it is not a good fit. (Or to decide to continue pursuing the path, just with a more realistic understanding.) I think part of what being an adult is, is learning to accept and deal with the non-ideal realities of life and pursue dreams anyways- old or new dreams, whatever are the right dreams for you….

  • “boring and proud.” exactly!

    i’ve never been ambitious, but once i got out in the “real world” i started having to struggle with the idea that other people were ambitious for me. like when everyone i knew was disappointed that i had a crummy minimum-wage job after college while i was happier than i had ever been before. and now that i have a “meaningful career” and all i want to do is quit and be a housewife.

    i’ve fully embraced being boring, but i haven’t figured out how to express the proud part very well.

    • Oof. Yes. Everything you say here resonates with me so deeply.

      It’s hard to be proud of being “boring” when the people around you (people you love! people you admire! people who love and admire you!) are ashamed on your behalf of said boring-ness.

      <3 a 27 year old, college graduate, married bartender

  • Cara

    This was such a wonderful read! I had countless big dreams in college- Ph.D, law school, journalism, writing a book, you name it. I figured out that most of those things weren’t for me, independent of getting engaged, but my professors were highly disappointed in me and blamed my engagement, which made me feel pretty crummy and question my decision.

    I’m now the only employee at a local non-profit, which is tons of fun and it makes me incredibly happy, even thought it’s such a small organization. I’m following my fiance to medical school in the-middle-of-nowhere (luckily I can work from home) and we’re buying a house! I’m terrified- will I make any friends if I work from home? Will I hate the area? Will I ever get the MFA that I want so badly?- but you know what? It’s all okay. Cause even if I could have been the coolest academic in political science or the best defense attorney in Washington DC, I’d much rather be adventuring through life with the man I’m marrying.

  • April

    OMG – this post just hit me like a ton bricks. I want to *exactly* the post one thousand times. And this bit made me catch my breath and then bubble over with tears:

    “Sipping coffee with your soulmate may not land you on magazine covers, but it is something to be valued.

    So really, when I think about it, nothing has changed. And nothing will change. All of my life I have dreamt of being happy, and I am. The greatest part is that my life is (hopefully) far from over, so I get to continue on this path to happiness. The exciting part is figuring out what that happiness will look like along the way.”


    P.S. Teachers – dare I say, grade school teachers especially – are HEROES. Truly. Well done, lady!

  • OMG this is me! I’m leaving a career in pharmaceuticals to get my M.Ed. and be a middle school science teacher, and last year moved from the city into a suburban apartment with my sweetheart. The simple life is sometimes the best life. People don’t give that enough credit.

  • I’m sobbing in my Fruit Loops. The timing of this post could not have been better. Thanks.

  • This is a good story… perfect timing for me as well. I graduated high school hating weddings, babies, and my hometown… now, 10 years later and I am married, trying to get pregnant, moving back to my hometown – doing wedding crafting on the side just trying to scrape through… but we are so happy… and boring… and I like that.

  • i LOVE this post. it’s perfect.
    i couldn’t have said it better myself.
    what i planned my life to be looks nothing like what my life is now, but i couldn’t have planned for anything this good, this loving, this completed. i wouldn’t change where i am for the world, and that is the most powerful feeling.

  • Sarah

    As a former teacher who might really like to get back into it if only there were teaching jobs, I salute you. It is really hard and important work. I have a cousin who worked in tech and had some very big important jobs who used to say “boring is good.” When we were kids we didn’t get it at all but now that I am older, I get it completely. “Boring is good.” The drama of my 20s sure didn’t make me nearly as happy as going to the grocery store or doing the laundry with my husband in a loving and calm relationship. I think that the whole idea that passion = drama is a really dangerous one that can lead to unhappiness and even acceptance of abusive behavior.

  • I LOVE THIS POST! I feel like you make some bold declarations as a kid or teenager about what you want to do with your life and no one ever lets you forget them…so if you decide that winning an Oscar is no longer your goal, you get these disappointed reactions. And if you decide that around the same time you meet a guy…oy. The reality is, the dreams we have when we are young are awesome but they might not be realistic. Or we might find that our real joy has nothing to do with work (crazy thing to admit!!) and something completely different. Or perhaps our dream job hasn’t even been invented yet (mine hadn’t when I was a kid on career day). I feel like we box people into their dreams and get pissy when they naturally change, and then so often blame things like relationships or kids for that change. It can be so hard to tune that out as you pursue the “boring” life you find is totally perfect for you.

  • You know what resonates with me, Katherine?
    How we conceptualize happiness through the course of our entire lives. Happiness and life have an inverted relationship. Happiness just is when you are a child. It’s all you are and all you ever want to be (generally speaking). I think we are just BORN to enjoy eating breakfast with our loved ones. That’s why everything is just so cool when you are a kid, no matter what you’re doing.
    When we are kids we are giant balls of emotions. Happy, sad, content. boom. done.

    But when we’re 5 and 10 and 15 people start to ask us what we want to BE and then our perceptions of what constitutes happy goes topsy-turvy while our feelings get smushed down into oblivion.
    And as long as we go through these high-powered, glamorous careers being rich and numb, obviously we are happy according to the parameters of happiness identified by society. Obviously.

  • Hey Katherine, another Katherine here.

    I’ve changed my course and my dreams between 17 and 37 more times than I can count. When I get married next year, my husband I and I will be changing my course yet again, as we move halfway across the country to his hometown (Boston).

    One of my possible course changes is teaching. I was a full-time sub for 5 years and loved it, then taught sex ed for 2 years and loved it. The only thing that keeps me from diving straight into that is that I don’t currently have permanent teaching credentials (the sub permit was temporary and only let me sub). Or I can keep on doing what I am doing: “boring” administrative support work for college science departments. Or I can do something new and different. (Entrepreneur? Photographer? Some other “boring” job? Who knows?) The point, for me, is that I have a life that I find enjoyable and balanced, with some challenge and some rest.

    I like your attitude and I loved your post.

  • I’ve always preferred my life boring :)

    It’s a strange thing, isn’t it, when you see someone living the life you imagined for yourself? Personally I thought I would marry young, have lots of babies, be a housewife, and probably live on a farm.

    Now I’m 31 and just getting married. I have a job and no babies. I live in the suburbs with no yard.

    Every time I see a woman living that other life, I feel a very strange pang. My shadow self passes in front of me.

  • Emilie

    A lot of the comments here are talking about rejecting the pressure to live glamorously, but I’ve never felt that pressure from other people–just myself. Growing up, I experienced far more encouragement to embrace traditionally female work like teaching (could be my southern context, but really not sure).

    My biggest fear about getting married young (I’m 22) is being somehow tricked into thinking reproductive labor will make me happy. Like somehow becoming a wife will automatically change me into somebody who aspires to live in the suburbs and have 2.5 kids. I dooooo want to marry my partner. But I have so few models of marriage that I think I’d be satisfied with.

    How do you tell the difference between making yourself happy, and making everybody else comfortable (which in turn makes you happy)? I don’t think being “boring” is a bad or un-feminist thing to want, but I definitely have a desire to become #1 in whatever career so that if I do decide to settle down, I’ll know it’ll be on my own terms. Obviously these feelings are super problematic for lots of reasons, but I feel them none-the-less.

    Am I making sense? Word-vomit, I tell ya.

    Does anybody else have these sort of anxieties? How’d you work through them? Older and wiser women, speak out!

    • kyley

      I have realised its very important for me to be satisfied by the work I do, and so part of that desire to live “glamorously” is about is actually about living a life that feels alive, and completely my own (ie not following a script written by someone else).

      On the one hand I’m walking away from my life-long career dreams for a number of reasons. In response, I’m seeking that alive kind of life by listenin to and pursuing my passions outside of work as well as through work. This means less tv and more writing, among other things. I haven’t figured it out yet and I really think about this stuff all the time, but at the end of the day I think being present in your life is the key.

  • Just throwing it out there, there are a lot of ways to make awesome content outside of Hollywood too! Who knows? Maybe you’ll be part of a documentary on the politics of school funding. Not that a project like that is a key to anything or needed for a full and satisfying life, but just saying you never have to take it off the table :)

    The best advice I’ve ever gotten was right after I graduated and started freelancing. My friend/cool aunt type was lecturing me because every single job bite I got I had the attitude of, “THIS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING! THIS WILL DETERMINE MY CAREER FROM NOW ON!”

    She goes, “Kid, every job changes everything. Stop taking stuff off the table and thinking your current job title defines the rest of your life!” So you know, this too shall pass (for good and for bad), we never stop changing, boring stuff becomes exciting and exciting stuff becomes boring.

    Aaaaah, the circle of life, or amoeba of life or less organized shape than a circle.

  • Amanda

    This whole post and comment thread was exactly what I needed today! I turned 23 yesterday and my best friend asked me “So, do you feel older?”. My response was: “No I feel very young. I am very much feeling the ethos of a twenty something. I don’t know what I want to do with my life.”
    I’ve been married for almost 2 years (That’s right, married three months after turning 21) and I was unemployed for the first full year of marriage. Now I’m working as a cashier and I love the job but dislike the schedule. So I’ve been writing a brain dump of things I might want to do. Currently it runs “evolutionary biologist, author, waitress, barista, flight attendant, climatologist, environmental advocate, other non-profit work, sex ed teacher”. Reading people’s comments about how their glamorous jobs are not so glamorous and reading the article were so reassuring today!
    And yes, my favorite thing right now is that I get to go get hazelnut macchiatos and share them with my husband while he works from home and I browse pinterest on my birthday. And then to get taco truck with my best girlfriend. Or to watch the big bang theory or browse through before hubby and I go to sleep. That’s my life right now. I love it.

  • Louise

    Ha! I just had to appreciate your quotes. I am an elementary (1st and 2and as well!) teacher and the things that come out of my mouth astound me sometimes…”how did that feel when your friend reached out and touched your eye?” “No, you can’t take your pants off even though you are wearing a leotard.” “I feel like its important to ask friends before sprinkling glitter-ahem- fair dust on them.”

    Also wanted to say I totally get your whole post! I went to design school, figured I’d get a junior designer job and work my way up and be a high powered feminist business woman. Turns out nothing was less appealing to me than actually applying to design firms. I loved the creativity of it, hated the selling stuff aspect. So, I searched and wondered, and eventually got an amazing job as a resident teacher (basically an intern) at a private school I love. I am now a teacher and so, so happy everyday. They learn to read right before my very eyes. They grow up while I watch. Its magical. And slow, and exhausting. And yes, there are more bodily fluids than I’d be dealing with in design, but there’s a whole lot more love and unabashed joy. And I’m still a feminist, even though I’m working in a traditionally female-dominated field.

  • Rachel

    LOVE THIS! Though I’d wanted to be a teacher for as long as I could remember, I dreamed of working for the UN or international nonprofit. After a couple of unhappy years in grad school, I finally admitted that deep down in my bones, teaching was what I wanted to do. This is my third year teaching first grade, and I find my job so rewarding.

  • Cat

    This post made me think of my grand life plans when I was 20. I was going to go to medical school that fall, become a trauma surgeon, then work for Doctors Without Borders in some poor, war-torn country to rescue people. And become a novelist on the side. There wasn’t a snowflake’s chance in hell that I was going to do the specialty my parents thought I ought to do (internal medicine), and I doubted that I was going to ever get married.

    Fast forward eight years, I’ve now completed my internal medicine residency, am a quarter of the way through my fellowship, and will be getting married to a wonderful man I met three months after I drafted the life plan above. I wouldn’t call my life “boring,” because working in an ICU is hardly that, but it’s certainly very different from what I envisioned. But like what so many of the other commentors have said, pursuing what makes you happy is the most important. Will I be the world-renowned researcher that my director wants me to be? Hardly. But that’s her dream and not mine.

    • My husband also went into med school planning to become a trauma surgeon, largely because that would be the most useful speciality in a crisis when he was working with Doctors Without Borders. (I spent part of our first date trying to figure out whether the DWB thing was a line engineered to make me think he was sweet. Nope.) Then he discovered that he really likes patient interaction and solving medical mysteries. And doesn’t care for surgery. Yup, he’s midway into a residency in medicine. And really likes ICU. I spend a lot of social time with doctors from different specialities, thanks to my husband, and I find that I tend to like medicine docs the best :)

  • HurleyGirl

    I love this article! I graduated from a top tier California college with a degree in molecular neuroscience and a minor in women’s studies just 2 months before I met my husband… We didn’t meet in Med School (where I thought I would end up), we didn’t meet in graduate classes (I wanted to explore eating disorders in female athletes), and we didn’t meet in a lab doing cutting edge research… instead, we met in the woods… fighting forest fires. I fell into a summer job with the United States Forest Service, and after spending 16 years in the classroom, I relished the opportunity to spend every waking (and sometimes sleeping) hour outdoors. It is now 6 years down the road and I am no longer fighting fires, but am also not a doctor, graduate student or researcher… and I am so glad. We live in a small town, I work at a job that I will be willing to leave once we start a family, I go to yoga on Friday mornings and take our dog running along the canal almost every day. We cook dinner together most nights, after watching the news, and then we head to bed and read side-by-side until falling alseep (well before 11). I am boring. And I love it. :)

  • JT

    perhaps my favorite post of all time. LOVED THIS. I wish I had something more insightful to add to the conversation than just a big fat EXACTLY :)

  • Beautiful. I can relate on so many levels.

    When I met my now husband, a self-proclaimed home-body, it scared me a little bit because I was such a social butterfly. But I actually found that I’m much more grounded and happy to stay home with him more often than going out. We spend hours not doing much of anything but have a blast doing it! I’ve even changed careers and work from a home studio now!

  • NTB

    Heck yes! I cried reading this. It has been hard for me to remember that I am on my own path, especially in response to so many of the ‘look at the amazing, cool, fancy things I’m doing with my life’ posts on Facebook. Like you, I am in an educational field (librarianship) which most people still don’t understand (you need a Master’s degree to check in books?!) but it makes me happy. My husband and our semi-boring life is very fulfilling for me. Little pleasures such as enjoying frozen yogurt together or going on a walk seem so wonderful. Is it boring by most standards? Sure. Am I totally, for the most part, content and pretty happy with my life choices on a daily basis? Yeah. With the occasional insecure meltdown, of course, but overall I feel good about my life.

    I suppose the thing I have learned through it all–being married, having friends, etc.–is that every choice made by anyone comes with benefits and trade-offs. My choices are 50-50 and so are everybody else’s. It has helped me keep a positive, grateful outlook on life.

  • APWReader


  • leah

    As a fellow “boring” teacher, I really enjoyed reading this article. Your perspective was refreshing and I think mirrors a lot of our generations’. I knew pretty early one I am non-fame-seeking homebody and I love what I do, banality and all.

  • This post makes me want to stand up and cheer. Every time I log into Facebook I see that my high school and college classmates are doing really impressive things all over the world, and sometimes I feel discouraged that I haven’t moved to a big city or published a novel or traveled to a third-world country to cure a disease. But I am so happy to be living in my hometown, teaching sweet teenagers, close to my family, and married to my best friend. I am doing well, just not in a flashy way.

  • It’s funny, how what we think we want and what we actually want are often so ridiculously, laughably different. It’s funny, too, how sometimes what we thought we wanted, and didn’t want anymore, even then circles around again so that what we thought we wanted and then didn’t want anymore becomes, again, what we want.

    We’re fickle, fickle beings. :)

    Anyway, all this is to say I enjoyed your post, and I could relate.

    And also, “I’m sorry you are upset about your sticker chart.” Love that. A nice piece of writing.

  • Nicole

    I moved to Los Angeles, I work in television, and still, the most exciting part of my week is leftover pastries in the break room.

  • Kaity

    This is pretty much my life. I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way <3