Not too long ago, I wrote an overdue e-mail to a friend in Dawson. I told her about Charlotte’s birth, and about our new home here in Ontario, and then I wrote this:
I find myself fantasizing about Dawson pre-kids…I miss that freedom. I miss sitting by the river smoking pot and then wandering down Front St and bumping into a friend and going for tea and then hey let’s go for a hike and then beers in the Tavern and stumbling home at dawn.
We lead very different lives, she and I. She is childless by choice, and has given her life to traveling all over the world from the time seasonal work in Dawson shuts down in October until it starts up again in May. She has a life full of that freedom that I wrote about there. She’s a bit like a wandering albatross, while some days I feel like a budgee with clipped wings, unable even to fly around the house.
But she wrote me back about how she misses those days of Dawson freedom, too. She admitted that they were younger days, not something she was up for any longer. And she wrote about other longings: the things she didn’t have in her life, or the things she did have that held her back.
It made me realize that no matter what our situation, so many of us at times wish for something completely different. It’s a simple truth, but it holds. There are days when what we’ve got looks tarnished, over-worn. It’s just too damn hard, and the days gone by or the days we’ve never lived shine and glow and beckon us. And those other realities might be nice to live, for a day or a week or even a whole year or two. But eventually, they’ll tarnish, too. And we might long for what we gave up.
This has been a recurring theme in my life, and I’ve written about it before: always wishing for what I don’t have, always thinking that the next move, the next identity, the next “thing” will make me happy. What I’ve been missing all these years is that these things will never grant me the deep sense of acceptance that I’m seeking. Increasingly I am becoming aware that life just is, that I am, and that the things around me change, they ebb and flow but that I am the constant. It’s an inner peace that I’m seeking, rather than the perfect set of external conditions.
Having small children, being a homemaker, is lonely. So, too, is being single and childless and traveling the world. Freedom looks different for each of us, in each changing moment. More and more I believe that for me, the freedom of my 20’s–joints on the river bank and beers in the Tavern–isn’t the freedom I seek. The freedom of my 30’s is a freedom from “the next thing”; it means being okay with whatever life sends my way, knowing that it will pass and change again.