When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.
-Richard Bach, from The Bridge Across Forever
Don’t get me wrong, I have been a “girly-girl” for my entire life. I love and have always loved high heels, purses, makeup, dressing up, and pink. So if girls were “supposed” to like those things, I guess I fell in line on those points. But I was never happy, cheerful, or fun-loving. I never dreamed of weddings or babies or white picket fences. When I was five, I told my mom I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to have a baby. By the time I got to junior high, I was too busy imagining myself slaying dragons and submitting novellas to teen fiction magazines (one of which was actually published, by the way) to worry myself about boyfriends or parties.
In high school, to say I wasn’t cool would be an understatement. I was dark and brooding. I read. A lot. I thought. A lot. But I didn’t have a real outlet for any of it, which made me a very confused teenager, especially since I had many friends who weren’t dark, brooding thinkers. Most of my girlfriends were happy, cheerful, and fun-loving. We talked about boys and kissing and weddings and babies, and I talked about those things, too, because I wanted to do what the girls did. I wanted to be normal. High school was the first time in my life I felt I had any real friends, and I didn’t want to let on that I wasn’t as “normal” as I appeared to be.
And then came undergrad. Undergrad, though I hated it at first, ended up being an oasis. This was where I finally met more people like me, who still dreamed about slaying dragons and submitting manuscripts to publishers. It’s not that my friends from high school didn’t respect what I wanted to do – they did, and still do. But they didn’t want the same things. My friends from college, they wanted the same things, and it was a glorious feeling to finally feel like you were, in fact, normal all along. It was in college, among these friends, that I discovered the simple pleasures of driving just to drive, listening to music, writing. It was among these friends that my life, and what I wanted from it, became the most important thing. And, after undergrad, I wanted to teach. So I did. I moved to a rural area, away from friends and family, and taught for two years. I lived alone and kept in touch with people from undergrad, which made it easy to continue to drive just to drive, listen to music, write. I was alone; I could do whatever I wanted and not feel like I wasn’t normal. And I was teaching full-time. With my own classroom. And that was cool.
Meanwhile, about half of my friends were getting married, having babies, putting their dreams on hold to “start their lives.” The other half was still traveling around the world, studying, dreaming. And I was somewhere stuck in the middle. I had a solid job, but couldn’t hold down a relationship; I was no longer studying or traveling, but I was still dreaming. I didn’t feel on track with anything at all, which isolated me even more than I already was, living alone in an apartment where no one I knew lived. So I moved home. I got a new teaching job. I started grad school. I connected with old friends and talked about weddings and babies, but this time I was actually a little bit interested. And in a whirlwind of coffee, wine, late night writing sessions, sparkly diamonds, and white satin, I got married. I was finally back on track. And I heard all of the things people say about being a “good wife” and what duties that includes. And as much as I gave lip service to fighting the patriarchy, I still thought, What if they’re right? What if I am too independent and I ruin my marriage? So, in the interest of happiness, I stopped dreaming about PhD programs and book deals and started dreaming about 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom homes in the suburbs. I started talking about babies, and I meant it. I stopped driving just to drive, listening to music, writing just for me.
Somewhere along the line, my life became less important than ours.
We flew to San Diego, and I was terrified of the plane crashing, where I had never been terrified before. Somewhere along the line, it wasn’t just about me anymore, but about us. And if we wanted that 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home in the suburbs, well then we were going to do whatever it took to get it. After all, that’s what most of my friends were doing, even the ones who kept traveling and dreaming after undergrad. It was about time I stayed on track.
We looked at houses, we started saving more. It was exciting, but I wasn’t Happy. Sure, I was happy, but I wasn’t Happy. Not like I was in undergrad, not like I was when Tim and I first met. Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t what I wanted. But how did I tell Tim that, when this was what he wanted? I didn’t want to disappoint him or my family and friends. After all, getting married, buying the house, having babies… it’s what people do, right? So shouldn’t I do it, too?
I started cooking because I liked to. That helped. I started reading more because I wanted to. That helped. I started freelance writing. That has been… interesting. But nothing made me feel the way I felt during undergrad than having drinks with friends in the city, driving an hour home at 10:00 at night after hearing a writer give a talk event though I had to get up for work at 5:00 the next morning, meeting new people who, delightfully, still dream.
As I was driving home from the city last night, after one of the most inspiring and thoughtful dinners I’ve ever had, really listening to some music along the way, it hit me. I don’t want the home in the suburbs. I don’t want babies – not yet at least. I have a lot of traveling and dreaming left.
So, I told Tim. Everything. All of this and more. I told him all of my dreams and thoughts and plans and everything I wanted. And he sat there, nodding. And I said, “This is hard, because I know you want the house in the suburbs. You’ve wanted to own property since before I even met you.” And do you know what he said?
“No one ever gets to the end of their life and says, ‘Gosh, I wish I had bought that house one year earlier.’ They say, ‘I wish I had traveled more. I wish I had lived in the city. I wish I had written that book.’ Let’s not get to the end of our lives and, despite being happy, wish we had done more. When I married you, I didn’t choose a mother for my children or a credit score for a home loan. I chose you. And your dreams. Just like you chose me and mine.”
And then I was reminded: I didn’t marry Tim to get on track. I married Tim because he was Tim. Because I believe in the power of love and partnership, and that, when you find the right person, that person helps make your dreams reality, and you want to help them do the same. And when you are helping each other realize your dreams, your direction is up.