“Having it all”.
I never paid much attention to that phrase. I’d heard it thrown around in or women’s magazines, but for most of my young adult life it meant very little to me.
Truth be told, I think it might be time I stopped referring to myself as a “young adult”. I’m pretty sure I’m just an adult now. I am a home owner and a married woman. I have a credit card living in my freezer and last week I willingly made a dental appointment of my own accord. Long gone are the champagne fuelled nights. My socialising now involves my best friend and I devouring an entire cake between two of us as we lay on the couch and watch rom-coms in our track pants; complete with sensible bed time, and I’m more than okay with that.
Being a proper adult has come with some really nice benefits; a steady income, a better relationship with my parents, a solid net of supportive friends and witnessing life on a Saturday morning before 10 am, just to name a few. What I’m not loving is the new sense of pressure and urgency that seems to have crept up out of nowhere once my life started to become a little more settled.
Whether or not it is a symptom of the generation to which I belong, I’ve always pictured that I would do with my life would be different (me and every other middle class white girl from the suburbs). I pursued a career in the arts because it was my passion. For some reason, I was under the impression that I was entitled to make a living from what I loved. I wasn’t. I didn’t, and in the process of trying, I managed to kill a part of the enchantment that world once held for me.
My focus shifted. What I did with my life no longer had to be different, but had to be important. I began to panic it was too late for that. I spent the first 5 years of my independence incapacitated by depression. I’d spent the next 5 furiously chasing a career that was going nowhere and burning me out in ways I couldn’t have predicted. Here I was, a few years off my 30’s, essentially “starting again” with a bunch of half-finished law/criminology degrees, desperately wanting the next thing I applied myself to matter. Children, career, financial security, philanthropy and health all cycled around my mind as a priority.
To make matters more complicated, I happened upon the love of my life in the midst of this existential crisis. I’d always had unwavering faith in love, and here it was, whether I was ready or not. My lifelong dream of starting a family was becoming more and more real with each late night pillow talk.
The phrase “having it all” started to come up again and again in my thoughts. I’d wonder if it was possible to “have it all”? I went into a rather shitty place that assumed self sacrifice was simply natural and expected at a certain point in the female life cycle. I’d have to give up my aspirations towards meaningful career if we wanted to have children soon OR we’d have to put our family dreams on the shelf so I could pursue the kind of work my heart was in.
After a lot of soul searching I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be satisfied with either of those choices; one would breed resentment, and the other regret. I came to detest this notion of “having it all” as it is traditionally presented; an anomaly that is out of reach for the modern woman. When you boil it down to its core, the notion of having it all simply means feeling empowered to take what you want, when you want it. It means not missing out on what makes you happy. In my opinion, every man woman and child in the free world is entitled to that.
Having it all involves relinquishing a little control, and letting your fate unfold; it does not mean making a conscious decision to deny yourself something that is important to you.
So here I am right now!
I’m working full time in a field that mildly interests me.
I’m nearing the completion of my most recent studies which will qualify me as a counsellor/case worker.
I’m launching a significant start-up business with my business partner.
I’m changing up the house with my husband so it is baby friendly.
I’m planning travel and charitable exercises in between where I can.
I’m earning and squirrelling and investing because who knows where the next few years will land me, and attempting to write a book in the process.
… and it feels AWESOME. So much better than feeling torn between arbitrary choices that we’re never meant for me in the first place. You don’t have to be a ball busting business babe in a blazer, or a vomit covered mummy at her wits end in the playground; you can be both. You can be neither. This is 2016. Perhaps that not a revelation for some, but I’m not embarrassed to admit that it has been for me.
Thats not to say that my decision to “have it all” (by my own definition) hasn’t been a steep learning curve. That whole relinquishing control thing? That is not easy for me at all. Not having life neatly laid out in front of me is still a daunting concept in the sleepless wee hours. Rigid 5 year plans have gone out the window in favour of more flexible versions, and the future is largely unwritten; but I’ve managed to pack it so full of options that make me happy, that ‘letting it be’ no longer feels like a compromise on my part.
May you reject the notion of having it all. may you always feel empowered to pursue everything in this life that brings you joy and pride; and don’t feel a moment of guilt for it. A recognition of your choice and limitless possibility is freeing. Having it all really is not.