I am standing in the corner of the bar at a farewell party in a local gun and hunting club, Diet Coke in my hand, surrounded by staff from the Y who have clearly been here drinking--and not just Diet Coke--for a while. I don't like guns, I don't really drink, and I hate parties that require me to mingle with a drink in my hand. I look around, and there aren't many other members here, anyway, just staffers. They're dressed for a party, and I'm dressed to go grocery shopping, in my yoga woman T shirt and brown cargo capris. I'm having a moment. Maybe you've had these moments, too. These "how the hell did I get here" moments.
It's been over a year now since I've been gainfully employed. I've certainly been busy, because taking care of an infant who becomes a toddler is a full time job. But I haven't seen a regular paycheck in 14 months.
And it's a strange place for me, as strange as the gun and hunting club. I've written before about how I never intended to be a SAHM. Yes, I made the decision that set this chapter of my life in motion. But there were many chapters that came before it, and many of them were written by other people, or by the universe itself. If I hadn't lost pregnancies, if I hadn't been diagnosed with secondary infertility, and since we weren't planning to have more than two children, maybe my daughter (or not-my-daughter) would have been born earlier, instead of being born at the same time as I got a new boss at work. If I hadn't been on maternity leave during said new boss's early tenure in his position, he may not have been able to get away with some of the things he did while I wasn't there. Maybe I would have had more support. Maybe I would have felt differently about the relationship. Maybe I could have fought back better. Maybe I wouldn't have resigned. Maybe I wouldn't have found myself still unemployed when my daughter reached the age of 18 months. I wouldn't have taken the Y up on the three month free membership that I won in a raffle, to give myself an excuse to get out of the house on a regular basis and exercise while someone watched my daughter. I wouldn't have met my instructors. And so I wouldn't be saying goodbye to this particular one, who is moving to another state; I don't know where I would be, but I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that I wouldn't be standing in the bar at the gun club with a Diet Coke in my hand.
On the other hand, I might not have met you.
When I was a child, I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I loved the fact that you could request a do-over, start from a place where you were happier, or more confident, or had a sword, and find a better ending, or even a better, or more interesting, middle. I used to back up through them, as if they were mazes: if you didn't like where the story was going, you backtrack and make it right by simply choosing the opposite direction. Back then, I think I believed that you could make more choices, that life didn't happen to you, that you made life happen.
Now I think there's some combination of destiny and choice at work, and it's a mixed blessing.
Because I love my beautiful, feisty, happy, smart, amazing daughter. I feel lucky to have her. And when you add a child to your life, you have to expect that your life is going to turn upside down.
It's just that some days I wonder about the parallel universes. The ones that didn't lead to the gun club. The ones in which I had a sword.