In the Freshly Posted spread today, the lines “What Did You Give Up To Get What You Got?” jumped out at me. The Truth and Cake article was not exactly about what I thought it was going to be – I was expecting a question about the roads you gave up to take the one that you went down, while the blog’s theme was more about accepting what is good in your life and celebrating it instead of trying to check all the boxes.
But, never the less, I had an immediate answer.
I was always determined, and shrewd, and careful. I had a trajectory, even as a kid, even in high school, beneath the black shirts and hair color experiments I was careful. I felt this duty to my trajectory. I would not falter, I would not get caught on the snags… no arrests, no serial monogamy, no teen pregnancies for me because I was going to fulfill my potential. I thought I was doing it for me, for my dad, for my family, for my white trash friends.. for everyone who never would make it, I would. For reasons that don’t quite make sense now, I thought that this was what I owed to the world, my perfect trajectory would be a tribute to them all.
When I was 20 or 21, I came home from college in the middle of the week because my Grandma was dying. While my cousins and siblings took turn standing vigil for a week, I drove back to Carbondale in the middle of the night. I wasn’t there when she finally left because I had school, and after all.. I was doing this for them, for her, for her legacy.. right? She always held education pretty high.
The last time I saw her, I watched my cousin’s little girls climb up to talk to her. Their mother was only a few months older than me, and most of the other cousins near my age had kids as well. I had been so determined to avoid accidental pregnancy, to avoid being talked into intentional pregnancy even! I feared having a kid with the fear of death because it would be the death of what I was trying to do.
But as I watched them, I learned how tangibly you forsake one road when you choose another. I choose my course so certain that I was right, so sure that everyone would say so in the end. But when I chose that road, I turned my back on another that I couldn’t ever have back. I never thought of the choice as a lose before then, I thought of it much like writing down the right answer on a test. I’d made a choice, and because of it, Grandma Eldine would never know my kids. When I ran ahead on the road I took, I turned my back to that road and it was too late to have what was left down it.
I don’t want to return what I got. But I do know exactly what I gave up for it.
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I am crying now in the office at work, wearing my butterflies as I think of the day my girls crawled up in grandmas lap for the last time. Although you gave all that up, you are doing everything you dreamed of.
You know, every time I hear a discussion on when the right time is to have kids, I think of you. When you were first pregnant, everyone thought it was such a bad thing to have happen. But you didn’t just give up and stay stuck somewhere, you tried really hard to do good with your girls and make a good life. And now, you’ve accomplished a lot, you’re still young, and your kids are old enough to do fun things. Soon they’ll be of no babysitter required age! If I got pregnant tomorrow, I’d be almost 40 by the time I could leave the kid home alone.
I also chose the road of “no kids at the age of 20 or sooner”, got good education and decided to travel before I settle down. But to be quite honest, I never thought about my choice as a “road from which you cannot turn back”; I don´t feel that I am missing something important. After all, is it not better for the kids to have mature parents with stable jobs? And sure, there is still plenty time.
Thanks for the article! 🙂
Every choice we make takes us to a different point on the journey. If we lived our life again and chose the alternate we would look at the one we did choose and yearn for it and all the things we want to better in our lives. Choices have to be made for ourselves ultimately, choosing for others can have more negative impact on us than them. Really we will never know what the other path would have presented to us.
And what would be wrong with that if that is the choice you made. It would just mean that you have now decided that is what you are ready for in your life. The thing that I like about this life, is that I get to make choices. The road that someone else took at a particular time in their life was the right road for me at that time. You do not have to miss it just because you did not do it then. I find that sometimes with age comes wisdom. You would raise children differently now than you would had you had them 10 years ago.
What you often consider a loss, may very well turn out to be the best thing that could have happened, but you won’t realize it at the time. Years from now when you reflect on it, you will probably very thankful that life turned out exactly as it did . . . especially when you consider all of the alternatives! Nice blog . . . enjoy the moment. 🙂
To me its not so much that realizing you gave up another possibility brings a sense of regret. There’s an ability to see the bigger picture when you know that in order to pick one thing you have to not pick something else. Being conscious of “the other road” that you cannot have makes the choices you make more powerful, but its also sort of a comfort to let go of the idea of most choices being absolute in their right or wrongness. There was something of value down either road.
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