Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of self-discovery is a personal examine in which she realizes what her higher purpose is. I thought this concept was a refreshing take on parenting as it is often illustrated that both men and women seem to realize their life’s purpose when they must take care of another human being. But what happens if that does not happen? What happens if you can’t live your life dedicated to another human being, and you are left to dedicate it to yourself?
I loved this concept in the book as I’m coming to many realizations about my life. As a college student I am constantly looking ahead to what I will be doing when I graduate. It’s unreal how unpredictable the next few years are going to be, and I can see Gilbert’s struggle in wondering what to do. Even more so, while thinking about my future, I have also come to the realization that I don’t think I want kids. Walking through the airport while traveling back to Maine from Baltimore there was a mother with two children in front of me at security. It took her forever to get all of their crap through the machine and of course the metal detector went off as she’s holding her sleeping baby and she had to skillfully wriggle the loose change out of her pockets. When it was my turn I quickly put my laptop on the conveyor belt and walked through with no problem. Looking at the children with stained sweat suits and jam hands waddling away from their exhausted mother, I turned to my friend Annie and said simply, “I would never go through all of that to travel with children, which is why, in a nutshell, I don’t want kids.” Similarly to Gilbert, the thought of travel and freedom brings me the pure joy that many girls think of when talking about their boyfriend, motherhood, and a stable marriage. When I tell my friends “I wont have kids” they feel bad as if I’m looking negatively at myself and claiming I’m not good enough for a child or marriage. They try to cheer me up saying; “K, you’ll have children and you’ll be a great mother.” I then have to deal with the awkward correction of telling them “No, I meant, I don’t want kids.”
Also like Gilbert, I think I am open about these feelings and love to bring humor to them. As she came to the actualization about the life she wants (as well as the life she doesn’t want) she also uses the humor model of making herself the target. Similarly to this I joke with my friends about how I’d be a horrible mother anyway since I’d just make fun of them all the time, be a complete diva, and probably push them down the stairs. I think both Liz Gilbert and I make ourselves the target in order to cope with the decisions we’ve made and as a way to accept our differences, however, I also think that it’s a way of still respecting motherhood. If you make fun of yourself, you are therefore not making fun of all of the people who are mothers (including your own) and who want to be mothers.
The point of searching for a higher purpose is to feel as if you have an excitement about life. For some, this excitement comes with the challenge of having children, for others, they must find a different way. However, I think what is most important is to have the determination to achieve. I think my struggle of not knowing what I want is also reflected in the students I serve. A lot of them seem bored with the lesson plans and are just watching the minutes pass by, counting down until they can leave. Interestingly enough, the program I’ve been doing my service with is called higher achievement and, although some of these kids don’t realize it now, their ability to go through a full day of classes, do their homework and then work on an extra lesson with a mentor is allowing them to get the most of their learning experience. Even if they don’t remember all of the Spanish words I’m teaching them hopefully they’ll come out with a strong work ethic that will get them through the rest of school and the rest of life. All of this is funny as I'm learning life lessons from my students in the midst of ranting about not wanting children, however, I just hope I'm teaching them some decent life skills so when they are in my position (with many choices to make and things to achieve) they'll have the confidence and drive to do it.