It's not a choice between right and wrong; boy wouldn't that make life simple. Right and wrong decisions imply a concrete and clear sense of justice and injustice. And let's face it, we all have a well developed sense of justice when it comes to our lives. No, the swirling grayish mass that lingers between the poles of Family and Hopes & Dreams has no parameters, no regulations, an alarming lack of decency and a predictability as reliable as a teenager's promise to take out the trash.
I've got them, Hopes and Dreams. I've had them for awhile, according to my sister, ever since I sat watching Carol Burnett and turned to her and said "I want to do that." I knew it in my bones, it's what made me finally feel like "this is who I am." So I pursued that Hope and followed that Dream in all my practicality. Along the way my Hopes and Dreams grew. I still wanted to be Carol Burnett, but now I also wanted to be Emma Thompson and Catherine O'Hara and Mick Napier(look him up-genius). I loved the studying, worked the work and survived the disappointments. And despite the weird, weird, narcissistic impossibility of the weirdness of this business I chose, it still makes me happy and curious and lights me up.
The problem was, and is, I also had this other Hope and Dream. I wanted to have a family. I knew it in my bones. And despite the weird, weird, motion sickness-like impossibility of the weirdness of this parenting track I chose, it still makes me happy and confused and proud and lights me up.
Oil, say hello to water.
Now, there have been countless articles gracing the covers of Atlantic Monthly and Time and More and Seventeen about "Having it all: Is it possible?" Studies have been conducted, experts consulted, executives profiled and the conclusions linger in that grayish swirling mass of nobody fucking knows. But that doesn't sell magazines. So they barrage us with platitudes of "Yes: here's how." Or "Yes, but not all at once." Or "We're getting close."
So here's my answer, based on seventeen years of living it. I want to say No, because it feels that way most of the time and has the air of controversy; but that would be wrong. My answer: Yes, but it looks completely different than you imagined, and maybe I should have been more specific about what "it all" is. There's a whole lot more to 'all' than the shiny packaging reveals. And once you've opened that package and cut through those seemingly indestructible plastic ties and spread out all the parts on the dining room table, it becomes very apparent that you will never have this put together by Christmas morning.
I love my kids. And since I promised to always tell you the truth here it goes...having them has not made my Hopes and Dreams difficult to attain, the choices I insist on making has. The reality is that every time I make a choice, something gets ignored or lost or left behind. I've said no to things in favor of my kids. I've also said yes to things at considerable expense to my family. I've resented others' successes who do not have kids, and I am jealous of those who do and seem to have it figured out way better than I. And I marvel at people who nod understandingly but silently judge unreservedly my choice to help my kid with his homework instead of going to that thing which will lead to that next thing which will be the key to my success and happiness...maybe. I should add that the helping with the homework rarely ends well and is usually met with disdain and blame from whichever kid I chose over enduring fame and fortune.
Swirling gray mass putting in some overtime.
Well, I'm not Carol Burnett. Or Emma, Catherine or Mick. I have had to say goodbye to some Hopes, shrink many Dreams, and welcome ones I never anticipated. Through stubbornness and passion I have managed to make my living in the field I have chosen and I've gotten to work on some really cool projects. It still looks nothing like I imagined and the joy-to-work ratio is not always a well balanced diet.
Sometimes I am disappointed and want to chuck these stupid Hopes and Dreams because they make life really fucking hard and are they worth it and aren't I just being selfish? And here's the real kicker: my ultimate Hope and Dream is that my kids discover and follow their own. So, I will not give up yet because I do not want them to give up ever.
And now I'm going to go have some cake.