I feel like I'm doing that in my personal life as well. I made a decision to go to graduate school. I made the decision last year to quit my job so that I could focus more on my dissertation. I made these decisions knowing that the job search could be disappointing. My husband and I talked about it and decided that we could live with the possible consequences of this decision. I have been making good progress on my dissertation, and feel confident that I will finish it this summer and be ready to defend in early fall. I have heard enough through the grapevine to know that if I had stayed at my old job, I would never have been as far along as I am right now. The decision was the right one. But now I'm really worried.
Why do I feel like such a loser? I started working when I was 16 and have only had one short, 6 month period where I wasn't either working or going to school full-time. That was also the time in my life when I was the most miserable. (It was also, not coincidentally, when I gained a lot of the weight I put on after college.) It makes me so scared and sad to think about the possibility that when my assistantship ends this summer, I could be adrift again.
I know there is also an element of buyer's remorse, too. My husband was telling me this weekend that, "One of the hardest things to do is to let people be happy in their way and not yours." For me, the converse is also true: It is hard for me to let myself be happy in my way instead of thinking I should be happy in someone else's way. I visited some friends recently who have the typical American Dream setup: Two good incomes, big house in the suburbs, two expensive cars, nice furniture. I don't want most of that stuff for myself -- I actually love my 9-year-old car and don't like the suburbs or making big payments on stuff. But part of me feels like I am a loser for not having that stuff, even though I probably had the option to do all that if it was what I wanted. Going for a Ph.D. closed that door for me, at least for a while. I have to realize that I can be happy in my own way and not worry so much about whether I'm getting behind in whatever game I seem to think we're playing.