Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I don't know what I'll be doing this time next year

I can be fairly sure I'll still be working the same job, continuing to expand my role in the research, living in the same flat with the same husband and the same cats (and the same too-long commute). But there's no big events being counted down to in my life. No wedding, no big trip, NO MOVING. Hooray for no moving.

Matt's got a big exciting countdown going on, he's counting down to leaving his job on December 31st and starting life as a full time student in January. I suppose this is a countdown for me too, but not really, it's going to be a huge change for Matt, and he can't wait to be staying up late studying for himself rather than staying up late cramming Microsoft text books and running labs that don't work in preparation for teaching the next day. Really, that's Matt's landmark, when he transitions from work to university my job will be to keep an eye on the money and make sure we don't go broke, which is my job right now anyway, so it'll be less of a big change for my daily life.

The point is, for the past several years I've been all about the big countdowns. Being a student was a life full of them: the end of this class, the start of the next semester, chopping up the years into bite-sized terms and holidays punctuated with final exams. Counting down to graduating, to moving to the US, to moving apartments, to moving again (to my very own studio), to moving in with Matt, to moving with Matt, to closing escrow on our condo (and moving), to the handfasting, to our trip to the UK, to the wedding. Actually the counting down to the wedding overarched a couple of the moves. See all those moves in there? I didn't even list every one since I graduated...

A woman at work had a baby about a month after Matt and I got married, then a couple of weeks ago a friend told me she's pregnant and I realized that on some level I'm envious of the baby-fest. Probably because now I'm in a stable relationship, and I know who the father would be of my kids, so I can actually realistically picture it happening. I've always known that I want to be a parent, but it was always a very off-in-the-future hypothetical kind of thing. Now we're married there's actually a timeline, albeit a very vague timeline: Matt's going back to university, then I go to grad school, then we seriously look at the whole kids thing, 'cause we'll be in our early 30s by then. That's a loooong timeline, five or more years. That's also about the time we've agreed to consider relocating to the UK for a couple of years. I'm not counting down to it, it's too vague and far away. I'm certainly not thinking "just 5 more years and then I can get knocked up AND move countries!" It will be exciting to be at the point where we decide it's time to throw away the birth control and see what happens, but I don't want it NOW. Yet I definitely have been feeling a twinge of envy for my few acquaintances who are "there" already and have kids.

I've been wondering why I should feel this twinge, I certainly don't think now would be a good time, I want to spend time with my husband "just us" for a while longer, we are about to severely limit our income for the next three years, and there's no room in our place for a kid, so a kid would mean moving to a bigger place, which we can't afford since our income is going down for now...but still...that want is there now more than I've ever felt it. Weird. I started to worry that I was falling into the trap of longing for the next stage and forgetting to enjoy what I have now. I wondered if I was talking myself into wanting something that just plain doesn't make sense right now, just so I could feel deprived. I tried to talk myself out of that little envious twinge. It didn't work.

Then, last week, I was talking action plans with my boss, what we want to happen in the next 6 months, and the next year. She picked up her calendar to illustrate which month a grant application would be due, realized her calendar only covers 2005 and said "oh, guess I need to get a new calendar". Then it hit me. It hit me that next year is a blank slate. It hit me that I don't have anything lined up for 2006 beyond living my life and meeting my goals at work. No landmarks beyond anniversaries and birthday parties. In that moment I felt so free. Free to channel my energy into improving my life every day, to focusing on now in specific and the future in general, rather than one single future event. The experience of being the newlywed wife of a student engineer and mommy to no-one but a pair of relatively well behaved felines.

Suddenly I don't envy the expectant mom and the new mom nearly so much. Having a child has got to be one of the biggest countdowns there is, and after that it's landmark after life changing landmark, all the way through to going from parent to grandparent. No thanks. I think I want to get used to living without making new landmarks for a while.