June 24, 2013

Why This Year Was The Hardest of My Life

I've been debating whether or not to write this post for a long time.

But the title kind of says it all. This past year was incredibly difficult. I don't mean to sound whiny (though my tendencies lately may point that way), but I've been feeling so down on myself as a woman.

A year ago, I had no idea what my life would entail when it came to the arduous and long journey that is medical school. Starting out, you expect it to be difficult, but the thoughts of someday having a doctor husband and a comfortable lifestyle wins out and it becomes this exciting road and we were told over and over, "medical school is an adventure, it'll be the best time of your life." 

Okay can I say something about that statement? Medical school is definitely an adventure. But this year was not the best time of our lives. It was the hardest. When Christian and I got married, I was on board 100 percent with him going to medical school. The thought was exciting and I was so proud of Christian for pursuing his dreams and working so hard to make them a reality. But being young, I hadn't developed enough mentally or emotionally to make a mature and decisive path for myself. I got caught up in the one goal we had (career-wise) as a couple: get Christian to medical school. 

The longer we were married and the older I got (though I realize 22 is still quite young and I am still very immature), the more I questioned this path we're on and the more I began to envision the goals I had for myself. 

All of a sudden, there were things I wanted to do but instead, I was living in my sister's basement finishing my bachelor's degree in 3 1/2 years so Christian could be where he wanted to be. Though I love Christian and I want to support him in any way I can, this was not my idea of the life I had pictured for myself. 

When we were all settled back in Rochester after Christmas, I began looking for a job to help support us through medical school. And this is important to note: I wasn't looking for a job to help fulfill me as a young, professional woman, I was looking for a job because it was my duty as a wife to support my husband while he furthered his career and academic studies.

I was offered a job at a great company at the end of March, and even though it was a big girl, professional job with a reputable company, I did not feel right about it. After praying about it and contemplating my options, I decided to turn it down and keep looking for other jobs. At the time, Christian was drowning in school work, extensive church responsibilities, and other duties like his job as his class secretary and surgery interest groups. He was barely staying afloat and so I decided to take a part-time job while I kept looking for a job that I felt good about. However, after being pressured and pressured, I took the job that I knew was wrong for me.

My first day of work I remember walking into a bathroom stall at 4 p.m, and sobbed for a half hour because I couldn't believe the mess I had gotten into. It was my first day and I knew the job was totally wrong for me. For me, it wasn't about the money, it was about being fulfilled as a human being and contributing to society. I felt defeated.

I was at a job that I didn't feel invested in whatsoever, but too tired and busy to make an effort at home or in my relationships with Christian, my family, and friends.

I started to explore my options and figure out what I really wanted to be doing with my life at this moment and in the future. For a long time I had been toying with the idea of culinary school, but the expense didn't seem worth it and there are no culinary institutes or art institutes in our area that offer a full program. Our local community college, however, offers a culinary arts certificate program that is one year long. The tuition is extremely inexpensive and even though it's just a community college program, I could still learn skills that interest me, even if they don't further my career. 

Christian was really supportive of the idea and I decided to find out more and I even signed up for classes (hellllooooo "preparation of breads and cookie doughs!"). However, once again I was at a crossroads. People around me, including my family, could not believe that I would give up a perfectly suitable job to go to some community college to do something that wouldn't help me support Christian. How dare I do something so selfish? Right? 

This whole situation has broken me. As a woman I've felt that I'm simply supposed to follow suit behind my husband, no questions asked. It's completely acceptable and admirable for Christian to spend 12 years (school, residency, AF payback) training for his career, but when I try to take 1 year at age 22 to get more education in something I'm extremely passionate about, I'm selfish and unwilling to support my husband? I realize that marriage is about sacrifice and compromise, but I think both of those things should be shared equally by both partners in a relationship.

I don't mean to sound resentful, because Christian has tried really hard recently to help me follow my dreams and change this unfulfilled state that I'm in, but this year has been so hard. Sometimes I resent being a woman, and I hate saying that. I've always valued my femininity but WHY is there so much pressure on women to support, nurture, and submit? Is there no place in (Mormon) society for women to excel, succeed, and thrive in our passions and talents?

I know the answer to that question is yes, there is a place for women with big dreams in society. Long story short, I decided to leave the company that I'm at. Though I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to work there, I know it was just not the right fit for me. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do now. I've applied to some other jobs more in my field of expertise (communications, pr, and event management), and I'm also still signed up for the culinary arts program. We'll see what this fall brings.

You're probably concerned and think I'm some scorned feminist, but I promise I'm just someone who lost sight of their individuality and personal goals. I think it's expected that as a young, temple-married woman, my blog is supposed to be about the eternal bliss of marriage and how blessed I am to have a husband. But I would be lying if I said how easy this past year was and how incredible the first year of medical school was, and that's just not true. I feel like I should be honest, and sharing the good and bad bits of marriage is part of that.

And I am extremely blessed to have Christian. In the end, even though my personal struggles have really affected our marriage this year, we are still happy and happy to be married. I could not have gotten through this year without Christian and his efforts to try to support me as I figure out my mess that is my life at this moment. 

If I sound resentful of him, it's probably more my jealousy of him. I envied him for so long. Knowing his career path since he was young and having nothing stopping him from doing it. I'm trying to copy his example now, I'm just a few years behind.

I apologize for this (probably very whiny) rant (with no pictures even!) and am seriously impressed if you made it all the way through this.


Laura said...

Hayley, thanks for posting this! I'm not even married yet but I share some of your sentiments- i'm applying to a master's program this fall and yes, with my future husband doing a 5 year phd program, it does seem like the logical choice would be to just get a job and support him. but i think what you've said expresses the exact right idea- you need to do what works for you as a family, as well as you as an individual. they don't need to be mutually exclusive. you do need to fulfill yourself as well! and i can't think of a better way to improve and fulfill yourself than education. i don't know if you've ever read the book the feminine mystique, but it is very much related to this. it's examining how women ( at the time, 1950's) were still unhappy even after having all they dreamed of; the perfect house, husband, and children. and the author feels their unhappiness was basically due to them not having their own identity and passions. i'm no feminist either but i really feel that all women (LDS women specifically) could benefit from reading some parts of it! but anyway, so go for it! you deserve to be happy, pursue your dreams, and enjoy every good thing that life has to offer. good luck!

Emma said...

I'm sorry you've had a rough year, and this is going to sound like me criticizing you, but I really don't mean to be mean, or kick you when you have been so open and honest in this post.

I think it's really sad that you (and your commenter) have used "feminist" as a bad word. It really isn't. Feminism isn't about burning bras or hating men or thinking that women are superior to men, in fact men can be feminists too. All it is is wanting men and women to have the same rights and privileges. That doesn't mean that men will be forced to give up their jobs for women or that women will have to work and hate men. All it means is that women and men who do the same job get the same pay. It means that you believe that women should have the right to pursue a career or stay at home if they so choose. It sounds like feminism is exactly what you need.

I hope things get easier for you and you find your place in the world.

Andrea Lystrup said...

I went through these exact feelings during Max's first year of medical school. I distinctly remember spending one night where we talked about our goals which included things like getting a good residency and other stuff. After we wrote down our goals I just started crying and said what is there for me to work towards? Once I found something that I could work towards, I was lifted out of this depression I didn't realize I was in. The amazing thing about finding something that I could work towards was that even though I was so much busier, I ended up being better at doing the things that supported my husband. The house was cleaner, my meals were better, I had more energy to put time into our relationship. Don't let other people try to tell you what you should be doing. If they really understood how you feel they would be supporting you however they could. As long as you and Chin are on the same page then nothing else matters. Sometimes the best way to support your husband is to better take care if yourself and your needs. If you need someone to talk to about this I can totally relate.

The Pingrees said...

Hi Emma! For some reason blogger won't let me reply directly to your comment, so I hope you'll see this at some point. You are totally right. Feminism is definitely not a bad thing, and re-reading my post, it's silly of me to use "I'm not a feminist" as a disclaimer almost. I think there is a certain stigma around the term "feminism," and I guess I just didn't want to seem like I was one extreme or the other, and it was my attempt to seem "balanced." I really appreciate your perspective and completely agree with you, thanks for sharing!

olsoeliz said...

I agree with Emma. We HAVE GOT to stop thinking of 'feminism' as a bad word simply because some close-minded or innocently ignorant people have the wrong definition tattooed on their brain. Don't apologize for it! (I say this, because I was guilty of it, too) If you think women should not be denied opportunities based on their gender, you are a feminist. If you think it is wrong for 11 year old Afghani girls to be sold by their families to 'wed' men three times their age, you're a feminist. Welcome to the club!

Salem said...

LOVED. THIS. POST. One thing I really struggle with is how little I feel we are "allowed" to talk about these kinds of things. Especially marriage. I understand most things between a husband and wife should be very personal. But why aren't us 20 year olds who are getting married really getting the heads up on what we're getting in to? I absolutely love Burke, and for the most part I love being married, because I believe in a bigger plan. But it is SO hard!
I completely know what you mean about basically giving up all your dreams to fulfill your husbands' (every time I drive past a fire house/ambulance I think of this). And I have made sure to never talk anyone into going to medical school. It is not easy and is a really long road.
Anyway, thanks for being honest. We need to hang out more! And thank goodness you have Lady. How could you have a bad day with her around??? ;)

Kylie said...


I admire your determination and desire to go after your dreams and what you want out of life. These years are difficult for almost everyone yet no one wants to admit their struggles with finding themselves and discovering their passions. I've gone from looking at MPH programs to applying to paralegal jobs in NYC and reconsidering law school to pursuing a degree in nursing (and hopefully a masters or Ph.D eventually!) The fact that you were able to express your feelings and share your goals with the blogging community shows you're ready to take this next step. Do it for you and do what makes you happy. Best of luck!


Laura said...

Hey sister! I'm so glad you are going to do something meaningful to you. It is essential that you feel happy and fulfilled, both as a part of meeting your own goals and as part of meeting your family goals. You are a team with equal needs and interests! It is even more important for his second year, because I hate to bear bad news, but he'll have even less time to be with you. You need yo have something to keep you busy, happy and fulfilled.

It is hard, but I keep telling myself that it is temporary. Stay focused on the little positive things and treasure them. Look for sweet moments. And call me when you need a good chat or cry.

Karen said...

Dearest Hayley, please take advice from an old married lady. I have cried for years about the fact that I was never able to fulfill my dreams. I still don't even know what those dreams are, and it has been extremely damaging to our marriage. So, please, do what you need to do -- you'll find a way. You will end up feeling guilty either way, trust me. I live with guilt every day, it is my only motivator and it is horrible to live that way. I will be with you every step of the way. And I hope that in the fall, I can go to classes with you. I'm not sure how, considering the fact that I have to go out to Utah for a few days, and I have the cruise as well, but I just may have to give those things up. I love you, sweetie, and you know I love Christian and your whole family so much. I want to help you get through this if I can.

Rebekah Hallerman said...

I don't know you that well but I wanted to commend you for posting this. It isn't easy to openly share these struggles with strangers but it gave me comfort knowing I am not alone. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I know I am not the only one to benefit from this post. I appreciate your honesty, good luck!

Tara said...

i've reread your post a few times and each time i am struck by how well-spoken, articulate, and amazing you are! obviously i am in a situation far from yours, but i can feel the emotion in your writing, and you shouldn't have to put a disclaimer on it. these are conversations we SHOULD be having in the church (and outside of it), and we shouldn't be afraid to speak our minds or fear repercussions. i think your decision is admirable and i would do the same thing in a heartbeat if i had the chance.

you're an amazing WOMAN and you have just as much of a choice to pursue your dreams as anyone else. now is your chance!

i love my mom's comment too, and i agree with her. i've seen her struggle and know that it has impacted her to this day. please let us live vicariously through you!

if you want some reassurance and comfort in your decisions, i suggest reading "The Book of Mormon Girl" by Joanna Brooks (i'll even send you my copy!). you definitely won't feel alone after reading that :)

i love you!!

Kristie said...

Hi Hayley,

I know we ended our acquaintance on bad terms, but I still follow your blog. The reason I was so... hmm... resentful towards you was because I was so disappointed (I don't know if that's the right word?) that you had a stereotypical Mormon-almost-mommy blog. I believe that women are SO MUCH more than staying home and crafting. (There's nothing wrong with crafting, but if you have dreams gurl, LIVE THEM.)

This is much of the problem that I had with Mormon culture. It was suggested to me by the leaders in the church that as soon as Peter and I got married, that we should have children and he would be the one to work. Children have NEVER been in my life plan and I cried many many times after meeting with bishops and stake presidents because being a stay at home mom just didn't sit well in my heart. I was lucky that my family and husband supported my decision to not have children for MANY more years (if at all) and to do what I wanted to do.

I absolutely support you to do what you want to do and live as you want to live. I am so happy that you can see independently outside of your marriage but still have the emotional maturity to support your husband.

Good luck and all my best.

Mrs W said...
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megan gneiting said...

I want you to know I can completely relate to this post and it was really comforting for me to read this the other day! Just knowing that I am not the only one who struggles with those feelings. Our recent move and life changes have been really hard for me to cope with as well. And to be honest, it is a daily battle. Thanks for sharing, and know that you definitely aren't alone <3

brooke: said...

i'm not married yet but i love this post. this guy i'm dating will most likely one day be my husband, and although I will be graduating and looking for a job in the spring, he will still have 2 years of undergrad, and then PA school. Yep, thats right. I'll be the money maker for the first while of our marriage. I'm not going to lie i've never felt so much pressure in my whole life. I'm scared to death that i won't get a good job, or a job i'm happy with, or that it won't be in a place where he wants to go to school. i'm so afraid that i won't make enough money to support us, or that i will end up in a job that makes money but at the same time makes me unhappy. I'm sure in the next year i'll be looking back at this post! thank you! you're amazing!