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Before and After

Sometimes I ask myself if I miss the days before having a kid. Or more accurately, do I wish I was childless now.

It happened again last night on the drive home for our show.

I got pregnant a couple of months before our debut, so I don’t even know what it would be like to stick around and drink more and see where the night took me.

Which is what I used to do. Stick around. Drink more. See where the night took me.

I felt like a wet rag packing up my things for the drive home to a nameless suburb, lamenting my early wake up call and reciting my absurd commute time and schedule to a new friend.

I can be acutely aware of being without freedom. I feel the resentment rise and then I tell myself as calmly and plainly as possible that “this is no longer about me” and it becomes easier to accept.

Because it really isn’t about me at all.

The practicalities have overtaken everything. The ones that probably should have pre-kid. The voice that would tell me it was OK to show up to work tired and hungover is silent, replaced by a louder one that chides me into calling it a night at the earliest time possible.

Upon further examination, I realize that my kid is less a barrier to my fun than the distance I am from many of the things I love and care about. Though I suppose, the kid is the reason I’m so far away to begin with.

When I decided to have him, I also knew it most likely would not be in the city. Not out of choice, but out of necessity.

We probably could have made it work. Perhaps it would have been fine. But I’m mostly assured after having an unexpected C-Section and  a newborn that living with three people to help was better than one. And while I know I could have asked friends in the city to help and they would have, it’s not the same as your parents making unexpected trips to Target to buy you a table for your breast pump to make things easier.

In a world where I’m paid enough to live in the city with my kid (a number that feels astronomical at this point in time), I could see people after my kid went to sleep or invite them over to my easily accessible apartment.

(My utopia would be living in a commune like setting near all of the people I loved. Every new, cool person would build their own house in the next plot of land. There would be plenty of privacy, but also a community building where people just came and went. There would always be potlucks. There would always be a few people sipping wine or having a nightcap and chatting. There would always be kids running around and exploring. We would help each other with as much as we could, especially the important stuff like child rearing and elder care. And of course, orgies. [Haha…] Wait, am I describing a cult? A polygamous cult? Possibly. Oh well?)

Thinking about it more, I remind myself of those nights in my 20’s and early 30’s. The nights I pushed myself to go out. The ones when I stayed out too late. The ones I hardly remember.

But It’s not hard to forget the absolute loneliness and emptiness I felt coming home to no one.

It’s also not hard to forget that most of those nights were not all that worthy of being remembered or fondly looked back upon.

Not necessarily because of the activity or the company, but rather the undercurrent of desperation to make something of things, to want it to be more.

If I could have stayed last night for one more drink or on to another bar would that have been better than getting in my car, driving an hour to my house, talking with my partner about how the night went and going to bed?

It would seem so because in the moment, that’s what I wanted to do.

In the bigger picture, though, I know that in the old days, every time I was out, I was looking out of the corner of my eye, aware of the strangers around me and hoping maybe they would become something more to me. Even when I was with friends whom I loved dearly, I knew they would never be mine, all mine.

I know now that the rush I feel in meeting a new person and wondering if they will become my friend is that same initial reaction I used to have. Only now I know the limitations.

I know the limitations because even when I was single and untethered, the effort and time it takes to really be in someone’s life is a difficult task. Sometimes it felt like I was spreading myself too thin. I kept meeting people and wanting to swoop them all up and carry them with me. And of course they would slip out and become small blips on my social media radar.

All of that time I kept wanting to be wanted. That’s the twinge inside of me whenever I’m around someone new or old. “Want me.”

But what I really need is to be needed.

Sometimes that’s scary. Sometimes I resent it. Sometimes I want to run away. But I know in the end, I’d be running away to find it again.

There is a baseline now, a foundation, a layer, that’s been built. It’s the longest piece of a triangle. Every thing above it is a little shorter, takes up a little less space, demands a little less attention.

It grounds me. It humbles me. It reassures me.

It is part of me.

And I wouldn’t give it up to go back in time just to see where the night might take me.

 

Home Is Where

I always assumed I’d be clamoring to get back into the city after being out in the burbs for a few months.

But lately, I don’t know where I want to be.

The ideal combination of things seems impossible to have all in one place.

While Chicago seems logical in terms of distance to people I know and love, familiarity and lots of things to do and see, it’s also expensive and once the baby is old enough for school, not known for it’s education system (because of bureaucracy, not lack of good teachers.)

I can’t help but envision being in a building with noisy neighbors or an outside laundry room or $250 heating bills. Or crime. Or no parking. Or not close to a grocery store. Or no pets allowed (we’d love to get a dog.)

Or rent that is more than half of my income.

Not to mention, there’s no nature. And this isn’t something I cared all that much about until I met someone who had a true appreciation for the outdoors and had a kid who could probably use fresh air.

I love Chicago, don’t get me wrong. But single, childless me was a much better fit for it.

I absolutely do NOT want to end up in a suburb, no matter where we go. I’d rather live in a small city, on a farm, in a camper or build a tiny house in the woods. Nothing against the convenience and relative safety of where we are now. But it’s hard not to feel like a bland, faceless person in a sea of commercial chains that stretch down the road only to repeat themselves in the next town.

I’d also love to live on a body of water or super close to the ocean.

But then it’s back to figuring out if we know anyone in these kinds of places and whether or not they’re a good place to raise a kid.

Not to mention, I need cultural diversity, as does my son, who I don’t want to be the only minority around. Though in order for him to be amongst other Asian Americans, we’d probably have to move to California.

I know we’re going to figure out this out. There’s also no urgency.

Sometimes it just feels overwhelming to settle on a place. Probably because I’m not the only one being affected by the decision.

-Carly