I just finished reading, “What Alice Forgot,” by Liane Moriarty, where the main character hits her head at the gym and wakes up to find that ten years of her memory have disappeared. Her last recollection is being pregnant at 29, and when she wakes, she finds out that she has 3 children and is in the midst of a divorce.
As the story unfolded, I observed 39-year-old Alice questioning the last version of herself that she could recall, her 29-year-old self, and it got me thinking: What would 22-year-old me ask 32-year-old me? How has being a parent changed my personal goals?
When I was 22, I was a senior in college. I was finishing my thesis in Spanish and doing final presentations on crisis management in corporations. My head was full of dreams and possibilities. I didn’t have kids or a job or any responsibility past May 9th, the day of my graduation.
I lived in Spain my junior year for a semester, taking all of my classes in Spanish and working for a Spanish company. Living in Spain was a pivotal part of my life, a time that changed me forever, and I remember being both devastated and relieved when my time there came to an end. I spent my last year of college wrapping up a double major in Spanish and Business Administration, and I was convinced I would use the skills from both in my dream job: I wanted to open a Spanish restaurant here in Vermont or an American restaurant in Spain. I already knew who my business partner would be, and we already had some of our future dishes named.
In addition to owning my restaurant, I had many more long-term personal goals, nineteen more to be exact. In an open letter to my dad last year, I mentioned an assignment I had done for one of my business professors back in college: a list of short-term and long-term goals. While the short-term stuff, like doing well on my Spring 2006 final exams, has long since passed, I keep coming back to my list of long-term goals. It sits in a pile on my desk in our computer room, and when it comes to the surface of my pile, I read it every time.
I imagine my younger, 22-year-old self, fresh out of college, diving into the real world. What would I ask my 32-year old self about the personal goals I made? These questions right here:
How’s business going at your restaurant?
Ha! It’s not going at all! Although I had great aspirations for this, I had no money when I graduated from college. I left my long-term, part-time position at a local farm during my last semester, in preparation of my new chapter in life, and I didn’t have much in my savings account after senior week and graduation. I spent a lot of my summer trying to find a job – any job. After 55 applications, I found a job at a local high school, and it turned out that I liked teaching. I decided to stick with it, and then life happened: marriage, a house, numerous financial challenges, a move, and a baby. My job became a career, but most of the time, I’m still living paycheck-to-paycheck, and my dream of opening a restaurant (along with many other things) has taken a backseat to being a parent. At this point, in my 30s, I’m pretty okay with that.
And more to that effect, you’re supporting your family of four comfortably on one income, right?
Woah, back up a little bit there. Family of four? I’m not sure when you (well, I) decided that two children were the right number, but it was certainly before we had a baby. Being a parent to one child is hard work. It’s harder than I thought it would be and harder than anything else I’ve done in my life, but also the most wonderful experience. However, we’re not swimming in cash, and we couldn’t afford to pay for daycare for two little ones, so we’ll stay with one for now. Besides, I’m honestly not sure I could love and care for two as much as I have cared for our little guy. I’m not sure I’d be a good enough parent for two. Oh, and the one income thing? Let’s not kid ourselves (pun intended) – I’m a teacher. I love what I do, for the most part, but it’s not financially lucrative enough for my husband to be a stay-at-home dad.
Are you loving being back in your hometown? How are the horses? And the garden?
Ok, now here’s something I’ve gotten (mostly) right from my list of goals. Our first house was further north, in the town where I used to teach, but in 2016, we sold it and bought a great house in Milton, the town where my husband and I both grew up. We went house-hunting and moved twice while I was pregnant, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but I love where we ended up. This will probably seem silly to many people, but one of the reasons I said “yes” to this house was because I could see myself making cookies in the kitchen with our future child, and I felt like their future friends would be jealous of where they lived. A bit shallow, I know, but in high school, some of my classmates were in awe of my parent’s house (especially the kitchen), and in some way, I’d like my son to experience the same feeling of pride in where he lives. Now, in terms of what we have on our property, there is no stable. We don’t have the money nor the space for horses on our property, and quite frankly, I had forgotten about this goal completely. I do, however, have a vegetable garden, and I’m in the process of revamping it with new raised beds and fruit trees. I just gave our son a set of kids’ garden tools, and I can’t wait to spend our summer days outside together.
How was Italy? And where else have you been?
We actually never went to Italy. I did go back to Spain after college with my old roommate, but we didn’t even take a trip for our honeymoon. We chose to buy a house instead. And since having our son, our priorities have changed completely. He comes first before anything else, and right now, that means we don’t go many places. We’ve taken some day trips, but those have been based mostly around my small business. Speaking of which, even though I didn’t open that restaurant, I have been using what I learned in business school in my small business with my mom. This is something I hadn’t even imagined when I made my list of personal goals, but I’ve put a lot of work into the sewing business we have, and I think this makes up for lots of the things I haven’t done on my list.
Are you happy and healthy?
I’ve left this question until last because it’s, quite honestly, the hardest to answer. One of my personal goals was to never abuse alcohol and to not take drugs. I don’t drink much alcohol to begin with, although I do enjoy a nice glass of wine here and there. Drugs do not have a place in my life. I have had some challenges with my asthma since having our son, but I can breathe again (literally) and thanks to the right doctors, I can be more active. I’m not, however, anywhere as active as I’d like to be, and many days, I feel like I have failed myself. Am I happy? I’m not sure. Bottom line, though, the challenges I’ve faced through being a parent are 100% worth it. Our son has changed our lives for the better.
In the last ten years, so much in my life has changed. I’ve gone from being a college student, living at home and working part-time, to being a homeowner with a career, a marriage, and a toddler. I’m proud of many of the things my husband and I have accomplished together, and I’ve come to terms with most of the things that have fallen by the wayside while being a parent.