Don’t Ask If You Don’t Want To Know

There is a subject women in the US will get spoken to about infinite times in her life: children.

That’s perfectly acceptable, as (biological) women are the humans equipped to grow other humans for nine-ten months. But, the thing is, not all of us want children. On top of that, asking if or when one will be having children is like asking how much money one makes in a year. All are incredibly personal. Emily Post would suggest you avoid asking strangers if and when they are having kids.

Simply, one should never impose their preconceived notions of what makes a person complete. One should never impose their idea that a standard issue 2.1 children, 1 dog, two car family is what makes life fulfilling.

Yesterday, I just finished a sociology class titled “Marriage, Family, and Intimate Relationships.” It wasn’t what I expected and was definitely history heavy; however, I did learn a lot and was able to become more interested in learning about non-standard American values regarding family.

After three months, I remembered why I considered being childfree for such a long time. Sure, I get the occasional pang of maternal desire. But, the desire to learn, travel, and own land seem like much more interesting things. Coming up on 34, my biological timeframe to have kids is dwindling at a rapid rate. Ideally, I’d need to have kids in the next three years if I want to be an active mother. If I adopt, that gives me a couple more years. Essentially, I have a 3-5 year window to save a good chunk of $250k-$500k. And, to make things easier on me, a partner would have to be introduced into the mix. I’d rather not be a single mother and would enjoy having an extra set of hands and an extra source of income to alleviate the emotional and financial costs of having kids.

What it all boils down to though is that a woman doesn’t need children to be complete. I am an entire and whole being without children, and will remain so until the day I die. Not using my ovaries and uterus for their main purpose does not make me any less of a person.

Imagine if infertility didn’t exist. Imagine if every single woman wanted to be mothers. If women lived up to the expectation that our ultimate purpose is to bare children, the world would be a disgustingly overpopulated (even more so than it already is) and resources would cease to exist rapidly.

So, don’t assume all women want to have kids. Don’t randomly ask strangers when they are going to start having kids. You never know the situation you are walking to. You might be talking to someone who isn’t physically able to have kids of their own. Some people simply don’t want children, and have other amazing aspirations that are valuable contributions to society. [*Ahem* Starting a non-profit that directly helps hundreds of thousands of children who come from broken homes or are orphaned is far more admirable than popping one or two kids out while not doing much else. Just sayin’.]

Some of my favorite notable people happen to be childfree women. I like them for reasons other than their choice not to be mothers. Their childlessness has nothing to do with why I appreciate them.

  1. Gloria Steinem. I mean, look at what she’s done for feminism and human equality. She is an amazing example of the fact that a woman can be childfree and remain compassionate and caring.
  2. Stevie Nicks. DUH! If you can’t get down with Stevie, then you’re silly. She’s an amazing lyricist and singer and, again, a wonderful example of a woman being maternal without having kids.
  3. Helen Mirren. She’s played Elizabeth II twice, and has an amazing artistic range in the roles she plays. She’s got an amazing sense of humor, and I bet she is a hoot to hang out with.
  4. Betty White. If you don’t like  or can’t appreciate Betty White, I might not trust your creative judgement. She is a perfect example of a woman who chose her career, and made an excellent choice. Everything she does is pure gold. Plus, she has incredible compassion for animals. She’s sharp, highly motivated, has had an incredibly successful life, and gives a damn about animals.
  5. Margaret Cho. Sure, she’s not everyone’s cuppa. But, here is a woman who has had a successful career, is witty, and in the side she has shown to the public, has proved to be highly compassionate and in favor of equality and human rights. She has chosen to be childfree and maintains a complete life.
  6. Oprah. I might not be Oprah’s biggest fan, but I am a fan of any successful woman. Especially if said woman’s success is entirely hers. She’s never married and never had children and is one of the richest people in the United States. I stand behind any woman who chooses to do what she can to be autonomous and satisfied in life.

There is a conversation that regularly happens in my life:

Stranger: “Do you have kids?”
Me: “No.”
Stranger: “Soon, right? You’re going to be an amazing mother.”
Me: “Thank you, but I probably won’t have kids.”
Stranger: baffled, “Well, um, you might change your mind, right?”
Me: “No, I probably won’t.”

After that, some people will look stunned, trip over incoherent sentences and walk away. Other people will continue on the “kids, kids, KIDS” rhetoric. A few will tell me I’m selfish. On very rare occasions, some people will say “I respect that” and move on.

If I haven’t made my point clear enough: women do not need to have children to live a complete life. We are all as complete as we choose to be. We don’t need social norms (that are 30+ years behind) or gendered rhetoric to make us complete. So, please, just be polite. If you assume all women want to have kids, keep that thought to yourself. Simply, that idea is antiquated and unnecessary.

Incomplete

Undetermined Life

The last couple of weeks have seen me getting off my tush and moving. On Sunday and yesterday, I actually made myself run. Once was in the rain that California so desperately needs, and the other was on a treadmill. I love running in the rain; always have. There is something magically cleansing about running in the rain.

But, running is not the point of this post.

Today, on my walk around our neighborhood, I found my mind wandering on what I’ve done with my life so far, and where I want it to go. Ten years ago, I wanted to be married with three kids, a dog, two cats, and a five bedroom house in Woodside or Portola Valley by this time.

Clearly that hasn’t happened.

Coming up on 34, I still want to get married. Three kids, though? Sure, three kids would be nice, but that means I’d have to get married yesterday and be well on the way to having $750k saved up. I want kids. Two is still doable, and I am happy to adopt. In fact, I’d rather adopt. But the five bedroom in Woodside or Portola Valley? Nope. A five bedroom house, period? Nope. I’ve learned as I age that, while luxurious and impressive, large houses on huge properties aren’t essential in live. Space is space and a house is a house. Home came be anywhere and space isn’t the only important factor.

Walking past newly renovated houses, sprinkled with a few houses that haven’t changed in sixty years, I really started to consider what kind of living space I could see myself in. For the time being, I am happy with a decent studio or loft space, or even a small one bedroom apartment. For now, it’s just me. And, I don’t need heaps of space in order to create my own home. If and when I fall in love and decide to co-habitate, I’ll need my own bedroom. That’s non-negotiable. Even if it’s an office that I can convert into a sleeping area, I’ll be happy. I’m one of those people that sleeps better alone.

All of these adorable and fresh houses are charming, and I’d love to live in one like them. That is definitely possible if I leave California. I used to think I could never leave the Bay Area. Now, I want to run far away from the Bay Area (even California) as fast as possible.

Oregon is calling my name. Washington state might even be able to lure me back. There is also a strong pull to the East Coast. I’d love, very much, to get away from the overly-PC liberal bubble of the West Coast. Sure, if I move back East, I might find myself in the minority and in a community that holds more moderate or conservative views than I. The thing is, I’m fairly good at keeping my two cents to myself. Unless I feel that a life (mine included) is in immediate danger, I tend to keep my two cents to myself.

In my research, Minnesota seems to always be the favorite for women’s overall wellbeing (health, economic, social, and safety).* Do I want to live in Minnesota though? No! Snowy winters are not good for my mental health. The cost of living is, but my mental health is important. Hawaii ranks in the top 20-25% quite often, but the affordability and cost of living isn’t quite the same. I keep getting pulled towards Boston, though. Sure, the winters are cold. But, New York is pretty accessible from Boston. There is a specific mindset in Boston that I have been told I’d do well with. [I get along very well with hardworking, blue collar people. I also can be direct, in a kind, Irish way.] Who knows? That might just be where I end up. Summer weekend trip to Boston this year? Yes please!

Ultimately, the dream is to live in Europe. But, that’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future. I think it’ll help if I find a partner first, and make sure they are on board with that. If we both can be our own bosses, that’ll benefit the dream in a major way.

Anyway, it’s time for me to get on with my life. It’s time I find a place to live, a job to sustain me, and someone to share my time and love with. It’s March already. No time for to waste!!

*https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-women/10728/

Loose Lips

Dear Universe,

I’m privy to information that can’t be retold. Please don’t expect me to share.

A secret is a secret and a good person will keep their word.

If the truth ever becomes known, I bear no responsibility.

Yours truly,

Independently Loving

Evasive Action

Wait. Stop.

Here you are, you beautiful, bright eyed babes. I applaud you for dreaming big and wanting the world to be your oyster. And, I’m not lying when I say that the world is everyone’s oyster. Most of you will go on to be successful in your careers. You’ll fall in love and create a beautiful family in a wonderful house. Your lives will be rich with all of the important intangible things.

But, let’s be real for a moment. Not everyone is that grain of sand that will produce a smooth, creamy pearl. In fact, many of us aren’t. Ouch. That’s intense…

With that said, I urge you to be the best pearl making grain of sand possible. Try your hardest. You’ll have days that knock you off your feet. There will be moments that make you feel like you’ve conquered Everest. Sadness is inevitable. Happiness is common. Joy is something we all deserve. Laughter is essential.

Let me tell you a story.

When I was young, I was overcome with a depression seemed to have no exit route. My entire high school career could have been much different had I gotten the help I needed. I would have succeeded in my classes, instead of barely scraping by. I would have gotten into more than one college I had applied to. And, I probably would have been far better equipped to handle going off to college.

I was a confused teenager. My only focus was wondering why I was angry and sad, and wanting to be the opposite. This isn’t new. It certainly isn’t unique. Millions of people in the US have experienced similar emotions. Listen to this, approximately 12.5% of adolescents in the US are clinically depressed. That number doesn’t sound big, but that’s one in eight adolescents.* These people have gone weeks, months, even years feeling lost, confused, sad, and hopeless. My situation wasn’t unusual, but like plenty of people experiencing depression, I remained silent out of fear that I would be judged or wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Twenty years and plenty of mistakes and wrong choices later, I have finally figured out what I want to do with my life. Also, I know what I need and deserve. Like every human existing, I deserve to be nurtured, not only by myself, but by my community. Remember, a nurtured person is a caring person.

I am going to be that 38 year old taking undergraduate classes with people like you. I’m proud that I plan on finishing my Bachelor’s degree (some point before I turn 40). My journey has been rocky. It hasn’t been pleasant and it definitely hasn’t been remarkable. The last decade of my life has been an interesting experience, and one that I’d love to take back and redo. But, I am where I am now and I don’t regret anything. As long as I am alive, I strive to keep learning about myself, my community, and the world that I live in. I’m aware of the fact that I won’t be the next Gloria Steinem or Eve Ensler or Hillary Clinton. I’m one of billions on this planet. I might not be a trailblazer or innovator or leader of the free world. But, I can make an impact in my community. More so, feeling good at the end of the day means that I am being the best person I can be.

Some of you might find yourself in the same boat as me. For those of you who are feeling blue, lost, or confused, please know you are not alone. The world is yours. Live in it. Experience it. Know that the hurt can be temporary if you allow yourself to find the help you deserve. Remember that therapy is an amazing tool. Also, finding a group of your peers allows you to build a safety net. Call your friend(s). Tell someone you’re hurting. A true friend will listen and help.

Plenty of you have a plan set out for your lives. I commend you for that.

When I was 18, I had a plan. I wanted to be a stage actress, churning out quirky roles in Off-Broadway indie pieces. That hasn’t happened… Yet. I also wanted to be a writer. I still do, and I am a writer. At 34, my plans have changed. I want to help people. I want to make one person genuinely smile every single day. I plan on giving back to whichever community I am, and that includes all of humanity.

Some of you with plans will stick to those plans, and that is a beautiful thing to do. You are the future of medicine, arts, law, athleticism, and all around world domination. I’m proud of you and wish you great success. And, some of you with other plans, please don’t get discouraged if life throws curveballs your way. Bumps in the road are inevitable. We cannot avoid them, nor should we ignore them the moment the appear. Also, plans change. It is incredibly natural to not have things set in stone. The world we live in and our lives would be very boring if plans didn’t change or get upended.

Take this time in your life and enjoy being young. This is an awful cliche, but you really do have the rest of your lives to live. Relish every moment. Laugh. Love the ones you’re with. Hug someone. Say “thank you” five times a day, even if it’s to yourself for waking up that morning. Wait a minute and think before doing something dangerous. Go slow, unless, of course, you are competing in a sporting event that places a lot of importance on speed. Don’t make a hasty decision, especially if your gut is telling you not to. Listen to your gut; we have instincts for a reason.

We all can be successful in our own right. Remember, money isn’t the only factor in success. A lonely, unhappy billionaire is less successful than a joyful sanitation worker who has a huge circle of loved ones.

Do what you want in your life, as you only have one. Let your actions create positive reactions. Be kind. Smile. Go forth and be the best pearl producing grain of sand you can be.

*Depression Statistics – DBSAlliance

Alma Mater

Am I Not Valid? Part 1

In the last couple months, I have been told twice that there is something about me that is not valid.

The first occurrence happened back in November. I was told by a guy that I was dating that because I have never been married and haven’t had three children, I have absolutely no idea about relationships. He told me that what I was feeling wasn’t valid, as I have no basis of what emotions in relationships are. Sure, at 33, I haven’t been married. I haven’t had children. I’ve chosen that path, because that’s what I get to do as a human. I get to navigate my way through life.

At 33, I’ve had plenty of relationships. Hello, my first relationship happened before I came out of my mother. I spent nine and a bit months inside her, developing a biochemical relationship. Growing up, I was a social person. I talked to most people and wanted to be friends with everyone. Throughout the history of my life, I’ve had relationships. It would be impossible not to have relationships, unless I was abandoned in a forest as a child and never experienced other human beings for 33 years.

I’ve been in romantic relationships. Sure, they failed. That is a common occurrence for many people out there in the world. But, I’ve been in romantic relationships. I’ve dealt with the emotions that relationships cultivate. I’ve had to learn how to deal with them. Because of being in relationships that have failed, I consistently learn what I like, need, and desire. I learn how to approach situations. My only problem is that I seem to pick people that aren’t emotionally available, or have a lot of their own emotional discovery to do.

The problem I had in that situation is that this guy has a PhD in psychology. He is a licensed therapist in two states. This is a person who one would assume is a bit more patient and open minded to the emotions of others. Nope. Not this one.

Over the course of two months, I slowly let out information about myself and past relationships. This was after a year of us being aware of each other’s presence on social media. Once the dynamic changed, I was more cautious of what information I revealed to him. Finally, on the fateful night (almost three months after dating), before I was accused of having no valid emotions, I opened up. I told him why I’d rather have an actual conversation over the phone instead of short, choppy messages through Snapchat. I told him why I feel it’s important for people to communicate consistently. I told him my experiences with my own fertility and feelings on having children. I told him how I was treated in past relationships. It was after this he claimed that my feelings aren’t valid, that I have no knowledge of relationships because I’m not a mother, nor have I ever been married.

My response was, “you are absolutely correct. I’ve never been married and I’m not a mother. I just told you that I could have a two and a half year old, but I don’t, because I heavily considered the options. However, you got married really young, cranked out three kids, and divorced after ten years. You also have consistently told me that you don’t know how to date or how to be in a healthy relationship, because you never did either. So, how can you easily tell me that how I feel isn’t valid and that I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to relationships?”

I can’t remember what he said, nor do I have any record of it, because, of course, it was all said over Snapchat. It seemed impossible for him to use his phone as it’s actual purpose.

[In the 2.5-ish months of us dating, he only ever called me once and that’s because I told him that Snapchat and Facebook messenger were no way to really connect with another human.]

I do remember him telling me he was annoyed and that he’d talk to me tomorrow. I remember telling him “I’m sorry you’re annoyed” and having no intention talking to him ever again.

A week or so later, I sent him a letter. I was so put off by what he told me, that I had to release the angst inside me. The short letter essentially explained why he hurt me and that he should consider how he approaches new romantic relationships if he wants them to be successful.

How did he respond? He didn’t call me. He didn’t text me.
He wrote me a damn message on Facebook.

He claimed that he really likes me. He claimed that he was really sad to see things transpire the way they did. He, again, tore down my emotions.

In a nutshell, I responded “I’m sorry you feel the way that you feel, and you are absolutely allowed to feel whatever you want. You are human, after all. If you do like me as much as you claim, in six months, you can use your phone as it is meant to be used: you can actually call me and have a real conversation with me. If we are both single and feel that we could come to some sort of an agreement, we can try dating each other again. But, understand that, while I know that I have a lot of work to do on myself, you also have to learn how to date like an adult. If you want to be in a successful relationship, take care of yourself and learn how to love yourself. I’m doing exactly the same in my own life. Be well.”

So, I ask all of you: are our emotions valid?

I truly believe they are. That’s the joy of being a human. We are all unique. We are snowflakes. How we emotionally react to situations vary on who we are in that exact moment.

We all must be mindful and caring. We must choose our words with the best intentions.

Go with love.