Graham has recently been reading a book about financial planning and goal-setting. This book has an exercise that we did together, where you make a list of things you're proud you've accomplished and things you'd like to accomplish going forward, and then mark the ones that seem unrealistic or impossible. Then you go through and think a bit about the second list, about what makes the impossible things feel impossible and about which of the goals truly align with the things that have made you feel accomplished in the past and what your values are.
So we both made lists, and compared them. One of the things in both of our lists that we found really enlightening was the way we feel about home ownership. It probably doesn't surprise you, my dedicated readers, that we ended up on the side of the community we've discovered and built, knowing that it means we probably won't own a home here. It wasn't always this way: for the first several years we lived in Canada, I assumed the home would come first and the community second. As time went on and we found a neighborhood that felt like it fit us, we had to do some hard thinking about the reality of living in Toronto. We could, theoretically, save up for a down payment for a few years and then afford a mortgage for a house in the outskirts of the newly-developed commuter region. Graham could spend three hours a day on a commuter train, as one of his coworkers does, leaving at 4am to get to work early enough to put in a full day in time to make it home for dinner with his kids. We'd have a backyard and wouldn't have to see or hear our neighbors' household lives unless we wanted to. And that's the dream, isn't it?
It's been surprisingly challenging to declare with any kind of finality that it isn't. Although for most of our generation the choice is hypothetical at best, for us, there's a possibility we could make it happen, so everyone assumed we would want to. For a long time, we assumed we would want to. But when we looked back at the things in our lives that had truly mattered to us, and the things we want more for our futures, it just doesn't line up. We are, at least given current circumstances, choosing people over property. They don't know it, of course, but always I think there's something deeply meaningful in being someone's choice, someone's priority. In my fanciful heart, I hope that somehow they feel it a little bit, this having been chosen.
This is where I get into the weeds a little bit: I don't talk about my family in detail much, because it's a story shared among many people who haven't given me that permission, but suffice to say that for the past several years, I haven't had a relationship with my mother. I've had to grapple with the fact that, as it turns out, not having a relationship with your mother makes a big difference in the way a lot of major life events feel, and sometimes it's a minefield of social expectations.
Having a baby, and having that baby be a daughter, has definitely been a very, very emotionally complicated time on that front. Transitioning into motherhood involves a lot of reflecting on my own relationship with my mother, and the various ways she mothered, and the overwhelming fact that, at this point, I have to take at face value the way she often talked about mothering as a second best version of her life. Whether she had us joyfully in the first place I can't say, because she never told me, but the things she did tell me were that much of her life was a product of not having options.
But I have had options. I've had many, many options. My life could, as I said last week, have gone in many directions. I didn't have to have Ro; we could have happily remained childless, if that's what we'd wanted, and for the first six years we were married, that was the choice we made. Then, when things changed, we chose to have a child, chose when, chose her. She has never been a compromise, never something that happened because I had no other option. This, to me, is what a world of true reproductive choice feels like. I was able to say no when I wasn't ready, and when I was, I was able to say yes. Yes, now; yes, you. I want this child to always, always know that we wanted her, that giving her life was a choice we made joyfully. I want the choices we make for her future, and ours, to be the same. I want a world where every child is able to always feel so chosen.
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