Change is afoot. Life has a funny way of putting us on the path and suddenly turning off in another direction. I know this more than I ever have before.
You see, I’m getting married. Next year. I had for a long time thought of it outside the realm of possibility for me. If you are my mother, you’d interpret that to be a negative comment. It isn’t. I was simply happy with the life I had built - it contains family and friends, a job I’m good at, plenty of books and music.
But then of course all that changed in a matter of months and now I’m thinking about seating charts and cake flavours.
The transition to committing to another person has some growing pains associated with it. I had dedicated all my life and energy into building a career and a life that I, alone, occupied. There was plenty of space for others, but it was temporary. And when you’ve signed on for solitude, there are other things that you discount by default. Like holidays with inlaws, joint grocery lists and children.
I have, and am still grappling with how these developments mean not only a shift in my time and energy, but a shift in intent. My babies so far have been my writing and my music. But real life babies mean upending my whole life to make room for messes and nurturing. For sleepless nights and car seats and sticky fingers and days at the park.
I’ve thought about it for so long and I simply could not start to wrap my head around who I would be as this person. She doesn’t exist in the way she needs to. Not yet anyway. My intent is beginning to shift but the old, solid reliable part of me is trying desperately to hang on.
But your career! You can’t have children - they’ll ruin your carpet and eat your orchids!
I love my brain but it is loud when it doesn’t want to change.
I recently watched a TEDx talk by Clay Christensen called “How will you measure you life?” In it, he talks about the investments that we make in our lives. We look for short term, hierarchical gains that put us at the top of organizational charts. These are, in the grand scheme of things, easier investments. Results are more immediate. You either get the promotion or you don’t. Where we sometimes are remiss in putting in our efforts is into the parts of our lives where the gains aren’t apparent for many years. The daily grind of raising children is not joyful. Kids are sticky and whiny and they act up. It’s only, in Christensen’s words, 20 years later that you can look and say, we raised good kids.
These are the investments - the ones that don’t give us immediate gains - that we have to be brave enough to invest in. Frankly, we don’t know what we’re signing up for. It’s a blind exercise, but one that might be infinitely more fulfilling than a promotion.
I am slowly realizing that these are investments that I simply haven’t made - by choice or chance - until now. When I talk about the intent of it all, I am referring to a very particular fact: That all of my life, the skills I have gained, the work I have done, the mental hurdles I’ve overcome are all in preparation for a bigger life. It’ll be a messier, busier life, but it will be much larger than I have imagined for myself.
Right now, my one bedroom apartment is occupied by me, an unwieldy bookshelf and plants that keep being gifted to me. I think of it as a bit of a metaphor for my heart and my mind. It has been my sanctuary - a place of almost spiritual context in my mind. All along, there has only been room for me. But now, I’m staring at an extra pair of shoes, a favourite coffee mug that isn’t my coffee mug, a baseball cap on top of my bookshelf. In the same way, I am allowing others to occupy space in my mind and my life and considering the possibility that one day there may be more room to be made. And of course, life is richer because of it. Things aren’t as orderly, but there is also laughter and another person wandering through the rooms.
It’s a scary prospect. But as we learn in psychology, anxiety and excitement are different sides of the same coin. Perhaps it’s time for this big, messy, brave life now.