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.