Sunday, 20 January 2008

The caveats to a perfect life

Egghead had a point in his comment to my last post...of course we always want what we don't have. I've been bored to tears on each of my trips to America since moving to the UK, counting the hours until I flew back (I am blissfully back as I type!)...but often times, when I explain this to British friends here who don't often get to cross the pond, they are baffled. Because to them, the UK is boring and America is exciting...the exciting and coveted thing isn't necessarily the thing itself, it's that the coveted thing is unfamiliar.

But I do think that for me, my want for such a traditional life, a life so different than the one I live now, is more than just wanting what I can't have. The reason I can say with such certainty and confidence that I want that traditional life is that life experience has told me so, so it isn't just wanting the unknown "better than what I have now." If and when I ever do achieve my dream, I will live it having experienced a modern life for many years. While there are a number of things that contribute to that feeling, three of them stick out in my mind.

First, and this could (and may be!) a post in and of itself, the ever-wise ( :) ) Egghead's comment that my career may very well be shaping my future traditional life is true to some extent. My first TiH relationship definitely helped solidify my confidence that I really do want to give up my career to be a traditional wife. As I've mentioned before, the energy I put forth when temporarily in that traditional role was easy and fun and I've never felt that motivated to achieve perfection in anything else in my life. But also, when my partner came home from work, happy to see me but obviously quite tired from his day, I wanted nothing more than to do anything and everything in my power to make his evening relaxing, regardless of whatever exhaustion I myself felt, because I knew from experience that I would rather have the type of exhaustion caused by my domestic day than the type caused by a career. Because having experienced the career exhaustion myself, I had direct empathy for him and my submissive nature wanted to alleviate as much of it as I could for him, to please him. My career has prepared me to someday actually understand my husband's plight, rather than just imagining how tired he probably is, I'll know from my own past experiences why he is and I'll have a better idea of how to help him.

But I'm not sure I agree that I'm putting myself in an environment to better meet prince charming. I often think just the opposite. Being in the business world means being in a world of a constant striving for power. Everyone around me is looking for the next £ and they're looking at ways to climb to get it. Most women I come across do everything in their power to shed their femininity, to be considered equal and the same as their male colleagues. Conversely, I do things to try to show that I am not at all a typical businesswoman, while still maintaining my intelligence and expertise (lol, I hope!). I not only wear skirts as a hard rule, I often sneak in comments about being girly and even often go so far as to structure my business-related debates with male colleagues so as not to dominate them. But I still think that by my very career choice and daily environment, I am actually repelling any men who might want a traditional partner...they would be too afraid to approach me, for fear that they are committing the ultimate 21st century sin by suggesting that I, an accomplished businesswoman, defer to them. After all, a woman in my position wants to be treated as a modern woman, doesn't she?

I definitely need and want a man more intelligent and successful than I am and so in that sense, my career lends itself very well to finding that man, I'm blessed to work with frighteningly intelligent people, but I fear that my own position and career means that a traditional man I meet through work would never approach me.

Second, several years ago, I moved to a different major city in the US, moving myself away from the major US city I had grown up in and away from everyone I knew. I made the move for what I thought was the perfect job...but I hated the job and the new city nearly from the day I arrived. I barely met anyone and I began plotting and planning a way to move back to my hometown almost immediately. On my visits back to my hometown, I would look at the people who lived there with total envy, because they lived in my dreamland. When I finally succeeded in the move back 18 months later, I vowed that I would never leave my beloved hometown again...there was no better place on earth, I thought. So I bought a home and settled myself, thinking that I and the-to-be-found prince charming would build our lives there. I focused most of my energy on finding him and on building that life.

But being a typical American, I had barely traveled abroad...all I really knew were the different regions and cultures within the US, I didn't really know what existed outside its borders. So, when I began to seriously consider moving to the UK, having visited it and realising how lovely it was, I thought long and hard about how much I had hated my first move...how much I had wanted to move back to my hometown. Moving 400 miles domestically was easy to reverse. Moving 4000 miles to another country would not be. So while I was confident and excited about my move here, I was also worried that I would hate it when I arrived. That I would again change my mind and face misery. But I decided to risk it and in the process of planning and carrying out the move, I lost my focus on finding prince charming for awhile. There just wasn't time and I didn't want a US-based prince charming anymore, so I was purposely not dating.

5 months later, I am more in love with my decision to move than I ever thought I would be...I hope to make this my permanent home and I can't believe I was ever worried about adjusting. I've faced a number of difficulties here and yet I still love it, so I am that much more confident that I will continue to love it here, that this move wasn't just a whim. But, since I do criticise myself sometimes for being indecisive, I started to worry, shortly after moving here, about how I had lost my focus on finding prince charming. Maybe in my new surroundings, I thought, I had lost interest in ever finding him. I was, after all, having quite a blast all by myself. Perhaps the change in surroundings had changed my mind about the kind of relationship I wanted...and if that was true, if my want for a traditional relationship was that fickle, then what if I had wasted years of possible conventional dating, waiting for a traditional man? What if I had missed my chance for a family because I was focused on what was maybe just a passing phase of wanting a traditional relationship?

But the dual happiness and sadness I've felt since shortly after arriving in the UK makes me realise that while my vow and want to stay in my hometown was a whim, my want to be a traditional wife and mother is not...I really do want this, so much so that I would rather be single forever than settle for less. Because even with this move, even with my love of my new home and my realisation that my single status was the very thing that let me come to the country I love, I still want the same type of relationship that I've wanted for my entire adult life. I don't have any regrets in moving here, but love of a place isn't enough to make me truly happy. I want a traditional man and though I'm enjoying my life, I find myself wishing I had him already.

Last on the list of life experiences is that through the nearly six month long journey to get my visa, I must have been asked a million times why I wanted to move to the UK. And when I explained that my reasons were that I absolutely loved the country and that my career and life circumstances meant that I could, one million minus one of the people who had asked the question were excited for me, impressed with what they perceived as bravery and they all wished me the best. But the one person who was quite critical and negative (at first) about my decision was the person I most expected to be happy for me. We have been best friends since childhood and she has much of the life that I want...one I was jealous of for many years. There isn't the TiH/DD aspect, but she has the happy family life and is home watching her children grow up, married to a great guy. She seems deliriously happy and in my mind, she had never had to face wanting something she couldn't have. I, for years, wondered why she was so lucky and I was so unlucky.

Though she and I don't often get to talk to each other for months these days, when we do, we can easily talk for hours as though we're still kids. So I was hurt and angry at her lack of support at first...how could she not be happy that I was going on this big adventure? How dare she be angry with me for trying to pursue happiness when she had so easily obtained it?

But months later, when we had a girls night out goodbye dinner, just days before I was set to make my big move, I came to realise why she was so upset with me. Though she loves her family and is happy with her life, I had the life she sometimes wants...I was getting to just up and go on an adventure and I didn't have to consult anyone first. Nothing was in my way. And I gained a little perspective...perhaps I'm the lucky one. I've had the chance to see both sides of life and to choose the one I want...to taste the grass on both sides of the fence.

If and when I do find my prince charming, I will have no regrets...because the reason I know with such certainty and confidence that I want a traditional life is that I've lived a modern one, I've had the adventures and opportunities that affords, and I've briefly experienced a traditional one and I want the traditional one, hands down.

I just hope that the very environment that has let me experience modern life isn't the very thing keeping me from the traditional one.

1 comment:

aquariux said...

Do you allow me to comment? You focus that much on the prince charming and you may well not see him when he passes by. Enjoy your life as it is now; enjoy your coffee in the morning, leaves reddening in autumn, children laughing, enjoy your friends, enjoy your newly-discovered femininity, enjoy your sexuality and then the prince charming will find you!

Vivre ce jour, cet instant, le premier et le dernier,
L’amour, les enfants, le soleil, les arbres et la pluie,
Travailler comme le potier, marcher comme le pèlerin,
La goutte qui tombe, l’odeur du café,
Le long du chemin,
Ici et maintenant.