The Fork In My Road
February 26, 2009
I never nap during the day, but last night was so dreadful I fell asleep eating my lunch. Oh, the glamorous life of the stay-at-home mother!
But then the phone rang and jolted me awake. I'm one of those people who rarely answer the phone, but I practically sprained an ankle dashing across the living room. Both my kids were sleeping and THEY WERE GOING TO STAY THAT WAY.
A very nice woman was on the other end, asking me if my husband and I were still interested in teaching English in China. It took me a few minutes to fully comprehend what she was saying. Teach? English? CHINA? And then I realized she wasn't calling to speak to me, she was calling to speak to the me of six years ago.
"I have two babies under two," I told her. And that was the end of that conversation.
Six years ago my future husband and I were mapping out our newlywed years. We were fresh out of college, working jobs we weren't exactly devoted to, and planning our wedding. As soon as we signed the marriage certificate it was our intention to start the application process to teach English overseas. This had been my goal all along -- finish my degree and spend my 20s gallivanting across Europe. The fact that I'd fallen in love with a devastatingly handsome Chinese-American man in my sophomore year dorm had tweaked the specifics a little. Now I'd be heading off as a married woman, and going to Asia instead of Europe. It wasn't quite the independent adventure I envisioned as a college freshman (Phillip actually had to talk me into getting married, pointing out that moving across the world and starting a new life might be easier if we were doing it together, and I supposed he had a point), but I wasn't going to let getting MARRIED keep me from my pursuing my DREAMS!
We applied, interviewed and were accepted. We'd be leaving the following summer. And I promptly had myself a nervous breakdown.
See, something strange happened after Phillip and I moved into our cheap two-bedroom apartment, with no dishwasher and worn-out carpet and a laundry room that required going outdoors and unlocking the door to a moldy basement. I was oddly, unexpectedly, mysteriously, totally content.
I didn't want to move! I didn't want to go anywhere! Somewhere along the way my dreams had turned into something disturbingly domestic. I wanted to decorate my apartment and have friends for dinner and put up holiday decorations and watch TV with my new husband. My grand travel-the-world plans lost their luster next to this newly married, settling-down thing. I loved it so much I didn't think there was any way my situation could possibly be improved -- unless we had kids.
KIDS. My husband was so not on board with this idea. That was okay. I could wait.
In the meantime, I kicked my pride to the curb and backed out of the teaching gig. It was hard to turn it down. What were we giving up? I still don't know. To be honest, I don't think about it much anymore. I'm busy with a baby who won't stay asleep and a toddler whose preferred means of communication is the mind-numbing whine. I have to get dinner ready and fold the clothes and pick up the toys. The fact that this is my life is still surprising, still ironic, but I don't regret it. I did, after all, end up with these little guys.