Supposed to

Trust me. You don’t have to play video games to get this. But would it surprise you to hear that I am enjoying playing a space hero hottie named Wynn? It might, I realize, but hear me out.

When my husband and I first got engaged, and in the star-dusted year or so preceding, I loved tromping through dungeons and wielding my sword, late into the night with my nerdy game lover. And now, many years since then, I am beginning to see why I did.

No, I wasn’t just trying to get a man to like me or propose back then. I recognize that it is so cliche to love something up until the vows are exchanged, and then drop all pretenses, including the eyeliner, the love of chili dogs, and the affinity for college football (or virtual dungeons).

What I am remembering now is how much I dug the escape from reality and the time spent in rigid anticipation or childish excitement over what might be around the bend. In last night’s easy laughter, I heard our former selves, those two grown kids faking the whole grown-up thing, believing with all their hearts that life was pretty simple and love was enough.

So why have I spent the last several years mostly faking the youthful enjoyment of almost any video game that I truly had once? I guess that is a question we ask about everything, isn’t it? But the important part is: I have found something again, something inside that isn’t looking desperately out at the world to solve or fix. And “something” relates to my last blog entry “Spaces between.”

I have been working toward full-time professor status ever since I started in the Writing Center at my college, three and a half years ago. Within a year, I climbed to an adjunct position and am now waiting once again to see if my application for the latest full-time faculty position will be taken seriously. (I was told to apply by two higher-ups in my dept, but the outcome is still unknown.)

For those of you who may not know me, I won’t bore you with more details. To get back to that “something” I referred to above, I have found myself teaching only one class this semester, after teaching two to three classes for the past three semesters. I grimaced; I gasped; and I grieved over this fact, just a few weeks ago. What would I do? How would I fill the extra hours? What did it mean for me as a “working mom” if I only worked such part-time hours? Could I still qualify for that title?

Only now, six weeks into the semester, I am feeling…like the person I was before I was desperately trying to leave full-time mommy status. The me I was when I had the presence of mind not to snap at my boy for running through the kitchen with that toy sword for the twentieth time in two days. The me I was before I even had a child, I dare say, when my husband and I were newly married.

And what’s crazy is that it is not easy feeling so free and relaxed. It doesn’t come naturally to me; I always feel I have to pay for it or that I haven’t earned it somehow. I always hear those voices in my head or see the disapproving looks of my distant father or critical stepfather. What would they say if I had a minute of idle time while my five-year-old son was at school? What would they think if I said I am not even sure if full-time work would be healthy for me? How would that look? Would I be considered good enough then? As good enough as I am when teaching three classes and having a new course thrown at me each semester?

It’s all impressive to say you work a ton and that you take care of a small child and that you are even still a decent wife (who may or may not still bitch about dirty dishes). But all of that can’t be true at the same time and often isn’t.

What’s true for me right now is that without the influence of what I am supposed to do hanging in the air, I remade my fictional game character, Wynn. I hadn’t wanted to seem silly when Eric was in the room, so I let him help me form her features and background. We made this customized version of someone. She was just a game character, I realize, but when Eric went to bed, I stayed up for another hour, making her the way I wanted, seeing if I would choose differently without any “supposed tos” in my head.

It was an interesting test of how many supposed tos I impose upon myself when others are around, even my dearest, closest other. It doesn’t matter if we hear those “shoulds” from others or just from ourselves. Supposed tos and shoulds are the very words we must delete from the hard drive. The ones we must ignore and laugh off.

The possibilities that exist in their absence just might lead to a new land, maybe virtual, maybe real. But definitely worth finding out.

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