Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The two choices you get in life

Even though I rail against an educational system that depicts life as a series of multiple choice problems with very limited actual choices, in reality, there are always only two choices in life at any given moment - continue on as I am or choose something different. Either way - whether I choose the security of where I am or the uncertainty of where I might be - there are risks, I'm just ignoring them when I make one choice and acknowledging them when I make the other.

This seems to be a running theme for me lately, and for good reason. I'm about to change my whole life as well as my child's - getting married, moving to a new place, enrolling in a new school, finding a new job. While my status quo has included all the struggles that any single, working mother faces, the struggles have been predictable. Though I've missed the variety of New Orleans, the culture and the opportunities, I've grown accustomed to the quiet nights of a small town. I've had moments of loneliness, but I've gotten used to being alone.

Despite inherent monkey wrenches in the machine, I've carved out a safe, cozy little life, and now I'm leaving it behind in favor of an exciting unknown. There's a certain amount of trepidation in sacrificing the comfort of a dull familiarity, an often worrisome familiarity, even in favor of a promising unknown.

There was a moment, months ago, when I had to weigh those two choices - to stay or to go, to risk or to retreat - and make a decision. It was nerve-racking trying to imagine every possible scenario that might result from either choice, and of course, it's impossible. There was no doubt in my mind that I loved my fiance Jack and that we'd be happy, but it meant changing everything my kid and I know in one swift motion. Everything. A very patient friend, after months of listening to me worry over possible futures, finally said, "You don't get to know what will happen. You just have to decide."

Jack has said the same thing about my writing. I've always written just for myself because I enjoy it. I've written a novel a year since Fain was a baby, but they were always just an escape for me, a free vacation. Recently, as I've considered publishing, I've been gripped by fear. Writing for myself is safe; writing for publication is a risk. Jack consoled me in a moment of neurotic crisis by telling me that if I tried and failed, nothing would change anyway, so I may as well get on with it. (Poor man, he's taken the great risk of marrying a neurotic lunatic.)

If I don't choose the risk of the unknown - whether it's marrying, moving, or writing - then I may as well quit teaching. If I won't take risks myself, even if it's scary as hell, I've forfeited the right to ask my kids to take risks.

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