My husband and I don’t have children, for many different reasons. The two main ones being:
1. We simply never felt strongly compelled to have kids. We’re quite content just being a dynamic duo.
2. In our 40s we are still struggling to properly parent ourselves.
If you were fortunate enough to be blessed with caring parents and a good education, your life was pretty much laid out for you until you were in your mid-twenties. Your parents made sure your basic needs were met and then some. Most kids enjoy some sort of team sport, dance, or other exercise practice. Many also enjoy classes in the arts—guitar or piano lessons, drawing or painting classes, choir, etc. And the bulk of the population also has some sort of religious affiliation or spiritual practice that gives them a sense of peace and community. This balanced approach to life in conjunction with your years of schooling, made you the well-rounded, independent individual that you are today. But what comes after graduation, landing a job, getting married and buying a house? Having kids.
If you don’t take the preordained next step of having 2.5 children most people are shocked, and almost all have their opinions as to why. I have been told numerous times mainly (but not solely) by my mother that I am selfish for not giving her grandchildren. She also thinks that I don’t want to “share” my husband’s attention with a child. (Seriously, where does she get this crap?) I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that “my life” meant I could live it “my way” and for “me”. I guess I didn’t read the fine print on my birth certificate that said as part of my agreement for being born I would give my mom at least 1 grandchild. If I had known, I never would have signed with my footprints. Geesh.
And what do you do once you realize that you no longer want (or are no longer able) to be in your chosen career, but are unable to retire? Do you go back to school? Become an entrepreneur? A bum?
There is a great scene in the movie, Pulp Fiction, where Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) tells Vincent (played by John Travolta) his plans to change the course of the rest of his life:
Jules: Basically I’m just going to walk the earth.
Vincent: What do you mean “walk the earth”!
Jules: You know… like Kane in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures.
Vincent: How long do you intend to walk the earth?
Jules: Till God puts me where He wants me to be.
Vincent: And what if He don’t do that?
Jules: If it takes forever then I’ll walk forever.
Vincent: So you decided to be a bum? […] Just like all those pieces of shit out there who beg for change, you sleep in garbage bins, eat what I throw away… They got a name for that Jules, it’s called a bum. And without a job, a residence, that’s what you gonna be. You gonna be a fucking bum.
As I was flipping channels and stopped to watch this scene for the 100th time, I thought, “Ooh cool, walking the earth like Kane in Kung Fu. I could do that!” Then I remembered that I don’t like exercise. So much for that idea.
Coming to a crossroads in life and taking the path less travelled is really a scary and unpopular choice, especially at my age. It would be far easier to just do what is expected—work in the same job/career my whole life, raise a family, retire, die, and hopefully leave an inheritance for the kids. But what if I want something a little different—a little less predictable, but possibly more joyful, adventurous and prosperous? Unfortunately, there’s no set guidelines for what that might look like or how to get there. I just have to make it up as I go along, cross my fingers and hope for the best.
So, until I figure out what to do with the next 40 years of my life (if I’m lucky enough to live that long), I’m just going to take some time to focus on parenting myself better in the present. It’s time to get back to basics and to make a list. (My answer to all of life’s big questions is to “make a list”) So here goes:
To Do Every Day:
1. Bathe/ Brush/ Floss
2. Take vitamins
4. Clean something
7. Make someone laugh/smile/feel good
8. Be grateful
9. Play with the dog
10. Sleep (8-10) hours and Dream of Wonderful Possibilities for the Future
To Do Every Week:
1. Learn Something
2. Create Something
3. Socialize (With REAL people. Social media doesn’t count.)
To Do Every Month:
1. Save—for retirement, the next big adventure, or the unexpected
2. Try something new and fun. Visit new cities, restaurants, museums, cooking classes, fairs—anything! Time to start scratching things off the bucket list, because the next 40 years aren’t guaranteed. If I’m lucky enough to have another 40 years, then I want to live them to the fullest and with no regrets.
The clock starts now!