It’s funny how you can state who you’re not interested in, yet you find it difficult to state who are you are interested in. It’s your fear of commitment - you’ve committed before, you know how rewarding it is to stick with something for a while, but you also know how repetitive and institutional it can be. But you’re too young, you’re not ready for that, you want to explore the world, stay open to new opportunities, and see what it’s like at other places. Your 20s are just too early. Children are for later in life, after your silly flings, one night stands, and drunken escapades. Then you’ll be older and decide to settle down, probably with the last boy you met.
At the least, you’ll fall in love, more than once. Drifting from one boy to another, letting your tumultuous feelings lead your direction. You say to yourself: “I have time, he’s just not right for me” each time you decide not to call back. It’s all for the sake of experience, you say, as you look back from the middle to the beginning.
But you’re still in the beginning, aren’t you? Now you’re older, and you realize that as your 30th birthday approaches; some of your friends have kids, and they’re going to elementary school now. Left and right are engagements, marriages, honeymoons - if they haven’t fallen in love, they just haven’t realized they have, you say. And you, you’re not quite alone - you still talk quite frequently to your last ex-boyfriend, and you’re warming up to him again.
It’s not that you’re desperate, but you just don’t quite have the energy you once had; you’re working hard in the middle of your career, but with all your friends settling down and your job in one place - you’ve already started slowing down. So you work at that ol’ relationship you once had - he’s older, mature, not rolling in dough as you were once hoping, but doing well. You peek at the dating pool - you’re too old for older guys, too old for younger guys - it’s a bit of a predicament. But you loved him.
You think about that the amazing times you had with him, and wonder what it was that broke the two of you apart. No, you shouldn’t have asked him to not hang out with his buddies. Yes, you should’ve listened to him more often. And you realize, well, he wasn’t a bad guy, you were just the right couple at the right place at the wrong time.
So you look at your options - you’re not settling, you say to yourself, but really, you don’t have much choice - you’re putting on more makeup as your suits get more expensive and your job gets more stressful. You can make it. You just need to work a little harder for him, you hope. Give him more massages, cook him dinner a few more times a month, and it’ll be better, he’ll be back.
And come back he does. He was sure, you weren’t. You see his wide smile and fall in love again. That was why you loved him. How could you ever leave a man with a fatherly love for children and an adorable sense of humor? You hope to relive the wild times you had by visiting Victoria’s Secret, surprising him with a little strut in your step - it’s the old days again, and you’re in love.
There’s not much to it, really, there’s no exquisite engagement ring, no grand wedding with hundreds of guests flown to his castle, no month-long honeymoon in some faraway, secluded tropical island. Just small little affairs, the best he can manage - besides, there’s love, what more do you need? You’re both occupied with your jobs, and striving hard to reach the next level of management - maybe you’ll reach the top one day.
But it’s just a dream, one you realize will never happen when your first child is born. Long weekend trips to campsites with just the two of you are a thing of the past, replaced by time spent comforting late night cries. Now you’re balancing parenting with your job, and both seem to be asking for your attention all the time, and you’re not getting much out of either. Your husband is stressed too, and the strain on the relationship causes little fights, about little things: who’s changing the diapers, him coming home late, you and your business trips. You long for the days were it just seemed like he fit perfectly with you, when he almost finished your sentences and telling the best jokes, but no, there’s no time for that.
Little Jonny isn’t quite ready to go to school yet when another one comes, this time a girl. You’re a little tired, but just as happy as before, and not quite so scared. You’ve got a little schedule going: daddy cooks three days a week, you change the diapers, no problems. And once he’s off to school, you’ll have a little more time with Daddy, and maybe you can even stay late at work again to finish up those projects - maybe your boss will notice and you’ll be in his eyes again.
Yet school isn’t quite as good at babysitting as you hoped - now you’re helping him with math you forgot years ago, probably before that night you drank a few shots too many - but no worries, you can learn it again. Susie needs to be watched over carefully too, she’s a fragile little princess; maybe she’ll marry a prince one day. But that day is far away, and right now, you have to make it through the next week, when your husband is away for business. At least you have the apartment to yourself - maybe you could redecorate.
If you had a bit more money - maybe if you finally got that raise you deserved - then maybe you could have a house, with a lawn, some flowers, maybe even a garden! Then your kids could run around and you wouldn’t have to worry about them being too close to the busy intersection or getting lost in the maze of sidewalks and buildings. Maybe if your husband just worked a little harder and tried to impress his boss a bit - if he just ironed his shirts before he wore them instead of leaving them all wrinkly, if he just combed his hair a bit more nicely, then you wouldn’t be in this crumbly, cramped apartment.
But there’s not much you can do, and soon enough, middle school is around the corner, Susie’s disruptive in class, and you’re still in the same apartment. Same job, different kids. But you’re not a teacher. It’s a little tougher - it was hard letting Jonny walk to school, but it had to be done - you just left too early to take him to school, and Dad’s schedule is just all over the place. You realize that, well, college really isn’t that far away anymore, and according to your friends, it’s also quite a bit more to go now. They talk about how they had to put off vacations and trips, even save a little bit more just to put their kids through college, and you begin to wonder - you haven’t planned a vacation in a while.
Yet there’s no time, really. Jonny’s signed up for a million clubs, even a sport too, and Susie is having play dates almost every other day. Sadly, home is quite empty quite often now, as everyone is busy. It’s not anybody’s fault, really, but no one seems to be seeing each other much. Time isn’t moving fast - your career is at a standstill - but the little two are growing fast! You concede that, well, you want the best for them both, and you’re going to send them wherever they want to go.
But it’s hard, it really is a lot of money - your husband is tired and would rather they pay half, and you relent - you want a vacation too. So they have to pay their living expenses, and good thing you decided early, because now Jonny has time to find a job while Susie is trying to be popular. It looks like a bright future, maybe he’ll get a scholarship or two and end up at a private school instead of the state university. He’s very busy between school, work, sports, and clubs, so you cook a little more often just for him, even though he’s not home quite as often anymore.
As it turns out, Susie isn’t as popular as she thought she was, and she has already come home crying more than once already - it can get lonely without an older brother, you realize. You can’t even get her the dress she wants for prom because Jonny’s school is costing a little more than you thought, and every penny counts. It’s a rough patch, your husband is in a low point in his career, hopefully not a mid-life crisis - he’s not quite useless yet. It’s quiet when Susie isn’t home - your husband is becoming a bit of a workaholic too now - and you consider picking up a hobby or two, like knitting or scrapbooking. It’s cheap, and maybe it’ll be as fun as a vacation, or maybe you can even make money from it too! Too bad work at your job is drying up too, so late nights at work are no more.
Even though it really was never that big to begin with, the apartment just feels empty, even though it’s the same one you’ve with your husband all these years. It was just, smaller back then, even though you have more family pictures lining the walls and desks now, there just isn’t the energy there once was. The friends you used to chat with so often are now about to retire, and you just don’t go out as much anymore. Looking at old photos too long to admit, you relive old memories, of energy, of desire, of dreams. Those were the days you long for.
Your husband? He’s a good father, a hard worker, tired, but spirited. A good man, being with him is nothing to be ashamed of. Yet you’re still curious about what life could’ve been – you look up old friends and boyfriends, and you see that some of them are in higher places, some of them are in lower places, and some of them are in no place to be. Could you really regret anything? Well, it’s far too late, for one, but it was a good run, fun was had and despite the tough times, you made it through. You’ve got a loving husband and two kids, one doing well and the other just making it, but they’re happy, and you’re happy.