The Grown-Up Version of Life

Spring has finally sprung. When you can don your shorts and shake the dust of your Schwinn, you know winter has left the building.

So what’s going on with the world? I read two articles in Time magazine (1, 2)this week about women deciding when to have children. Do you put your career first, or your family? I read the articles with detached amusement. I thought they’d have something decent to say, something applicable to my own life. A year out of college, fitting in comfortably to work, thoughts about family starting to drift in. But instead the articles turned a deaf ear.

The first assumption the article made was that only women have to deal with the choice of when to have children. The entire article dealt with women putting their lives on hold to have a family. The article never mentioned that men are also involved in this choice. I always thought that’s what a family was. Just because the wife gets pregnant doesn’t mean she’s the only one with a choice. And just because the man’s a man doesn’t mean he can’t put his life on hold for a family.

And that’s another thing. Putting your life on hold for a family? Putting your career on hold for a family? What is this, some kind of race to see who can get to the financially well endowed line first? If you come in with kids you get a bonus, but not quite as much if you make CEO by the time you’re 40. Is this the grown up version of Life, by Milton Bradley?

My life is a cohesive unit. Nothing waits for anything else, and there is no mark of happiness I’m trying to reach. There is no financial ladder I feel compelled to climb, there is no chart of success that I look to. There is no career timeline that I will lay my life down to follow. I will do work that I enjoy, make the money I need to live, and raise a family to love with my whole heart. If that means I don’t get to be managing editor, that’s fine by me. A title doesn’t make me who I am. If that means I have to go back to stocking the freezer aisle, that’s fine by me. I will enjoy it. A man’s position in society does not determine his worth.

Maybe it shouldn’t amaze me that Time magazine missed women’s lib. In my house we both wash the dishes. In my house we’ll both change diapers. And in my house either one of us will gladly stay home from work to take care of our children. That’s not putting anything on hold. That’s prioritizing. And if I decide to go back to work when my kids go to school, I don’t have to play catch up. Catch up to what? If I go back to work it will be because I like the job and I need to make money to provide for my family. I won’t climb your corporate ladder for the sake of climbing your ladder. Maybe it shouldn’t amaze me that Time magazine thinks life is really the game of Life.

I won’t play your game.

In Time magazine they tell you to look ahead to where you want to be when you’re 45 and plan your life back accordingly. 45? Excuse me, I’m 22. There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead. It’s a smart thing to do. But there’s a problem when you live your life like the world owes you something. 45 isn’t promised to you. 23 isn’t even promised to you. Live your life for today, and let tomorrow worry about itself. Somehow we think we can plan ourselves into eternity. But then you can’t get pregnant, or your first born gets run down by a drunken driver. Then where are you at when you’re 45?

That’s how people get divorced. They focus so hard on life at 45 that they forget today. They spend all day at work and the marriage disintegrates. All the while they’re looking forward to living it up in middle age. Middle age assumes you’ve been promised 70. You weren’t promised anything.

Count your cards because they’re coming up short. You think it’s all in the bank, but in reality you’re a big disgrace. This world is not my home, and I shouldn’t get too comfortable.

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