Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Volunteer Voyage, Part I

Like so many of us, my twenties were largely spent just trying to survive the day to day grind of being an adult after leaving the ivory tower oasis of undergraduate studies. I graduated from college, went to graduate school, started my career, got married, had a baby, went back for more graduate school, bought my first house, and had my second baby - all before the age of 29. I was busy, sleep deprived and stressed, with bills to pay, colicky and premature babies to comfort and papers to correct (I spent the first five years of my career in education teaching high school English). In short, I didn't have the time to keep up with my highlights, nevermind contemplate volunteering . I was self-absorbed and self-obssessed, too exhausted with creating and making my own agenda to worry about anyone else's.

And then, as I approached 30 and became pregnant with my third child, a funny thing happened. Call it an early midlife crisis, existential awakening or just good old fashioned pregnancy hormones, but I started wondering and quietly asking myself "Is this it?" That might seem like a profoundly ungrateful and greedy question, given that I was blessed with a wonderful marriage, gorgeous and (now) healthy children, a solid career and loving friends and family. But it wasn't that I wanted a bigger house or fatter paycheck or hipper car (we were a dual minivan family by this point) - although certainly that would have been nice! To be honest, I wasn't sure what I wanted - I couldn't put my finger on it. The best way that I can describe it is that I wasn't living my life to its fullest potential; I had achieved all the benchmarks of a successful life, and even chosen a career in part based on my values of helping others and making the world a better place.

But I felt unfulfilled and vaguely useless, which was bizarre given that I spent most of my waking (and what should have been sleeping!) hours taking care of others - whether my own children at home or other people's children at school. Still, I wanted more meaning, more connection, more spiritual gratification in my life. I wasn't doing enough, wasn't making enough of an impact. I've never had a desire for fame or fortune, but I do want to matter, want to leave a positive imprint during my short time on this planet. I believe most of us want that - to feel like we are contributing to a cause or meaning or movement larger than ourselves.

In the spring of 2004, in my third trimester of pregnancy with my third child, I had no idea where to go with this feeling. It was a vague dissatisfaction and restlessness, with no real outlet or solution. In the hindsight that is always 20/20, I realize now that it was perfect timing that I was about to "meet" Jenny Scott and her daughter Allie.

to be continued...


Penny said...

I am on the side of my seat waiting for more.

christy said...

Great post. I think most of us look back and realize we felt the same way before we met Allie, Jenny, and Andrew. Being part of Heroes for Children's voyage has given me so much joy. From concept to a thriving non-profit - I'm so proud of everything Jenny and Larissa have accomplished!

And I can't wait to read your next installment Tracey. Like I said, I'm sure many feel the same way, but no one can put it into words like you :)

Robin said...

Hurry up and finish the story. you are such a great writer. I know this blog is a perfect way for you to have an impact on a cause that is so very important to you. Can't wait to hear the next "chapter."

Tracy said...

Tracey, I remember that feeling also. Timmy was about 4 months old when I found Jenny, Andrew, Allie and all of you. Little did we know our lives would cross and be all the better for it.