By: Wendy Castellanos-Wolf
As a woman in my thirties, I am not supposed to admit that I am a commitment-phobe. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that as soon as I say commitment, the natural connotation is that I am afraid of committing in a relationship, but that is not it. My tendency is to be a serial monogamist. I have had two long term relationships in my life, one of which has resulted in marriage, so no, I am not afraid of that kind of commitment. My type of commitment phobia stems from a deep-rooted sense of transience. I did not grow up with a healthy sense of place or belonging and this has resulted in my inability to feel any sense of permanence. In other words, I do not expect to be anywhere for too long and as a defense mechanism against having to feel any grief from sudden departure, I have learned to be non-committal.
I am excellent at compartmentalizing my life and not fully committing to anything that I participate in. I am not proud of this. In fact, I didn’t even realize that I had never committed to anything in my life until my thirties. All of the sudden I have begun to examine the choices I have made and I am challenged by the big what ifs, the apparent successes of my peers and the paths I’ve pursued and waivered from. In my thirties my commitment phobia is challenged because the type of life I imagine for myself and my future family requires that I… (What’s a good phrase, settle down, give in, conform?) No. What I imagine for my future requires me to set a goal and follow through.
While I am not a supporter of the belief that work should define a person wholly, I have found myself admiring those peers that have been able to pick a career path, work hard and make sacrifices in order to advance in their chosen field. These people embody what they do and are on their way towards becoming masters of their craft. It is inspiring but also eye opening. Their success is a giant spotlight on my inadequacy for I am a verified commitment-phobe that never actually chose a career path. That last sentence has been one of the most difficult truths to swallow and the one aspect of my life that I am now trying to eradicate.
I have been very fortunate. I’ve had a career in the arts that I naturally, without much determination, fell into. Dance was what I did as a kid, it was what I did in High School and then what I majored in at College. Funny part is that I never set out to be a dancer, let alone a Flamenco dancer. But in my non-committal manner, going with the ever changing flow of my undetermined destiny, that is what I have done professionally, sometimes full time and sometimes part time. My life in Dance has been fun and rewarding, but how much more could I have accomplished had I actually committed to being a dancer and a dancer only? It’s technically not too late to commit but now the question is do I want to?
I have lived between the day job, (whatever that may be at the moment), my dancing and now my writing. So far I’ve committed to none and have gained the type of professional identity and fulfillment from none. My day job is in a relatively new field in Education and when I tell people what it is, I have to accompany it with a long explanation so that it is understood that I have a “grown up” job. The dancing is similar in that depending on whom I am speaking to, they either get it, or they think dance is my unpaid hobby. With writing, well, I still feel uncomfortable wearing that label. I do not like having to explain what I do for a living. I do not like that in our culture we are defined by what we do for money. I do not like that I am 33 and I am just starting to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
I do not have regrets that will keep me up at night or that I will carry with me to my grave. I believe that everyone has their own path in life and this varied and lesson-filled path has been mine. I yearn for a stability though that I have never truly known and a sense of purpose that stems from committing to something. Anything.
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