The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

September 28, 2005


Originally posted to Diary-X on September 28, 2005

Lately I’ve been struck by the thought that at age 29, the choices I make actually matter in the grand scheme of my life. The biggest choices I made when I was, say, 19 had to do with what classes to take next semester and whether to hook up with someone at a party. I mean, of course there was the potential to make life-altering decisions back then—choosing a major, choosing to not to make a dumb mistake with that “someone.” But instead of majoring in history, I could’ve chosen English or philosophy and taken the exact same career path that I’ve followed. (And luckily, none of my drunken hookups ever went too far.)

Now when I make a decision, it’s like throwing a stone in a smooth, flat lake and watching the ripples grow, curving outward, affecting a future that I can’t really see. I (and John) have chosen to let four years of marriage go by without ever seriously considering having a baby. Only now, as I live the last months of my twenties, have we had a few of these tentative conversations: “Well, maybe we should start thinking about it next summer…”

I am realizing that this choice to wait will impact my life in many ways. How old will I be when I become a mother? How will that affect how many more children I have? How old will we be when we’re “empty nesters” again? Then there’s my job. At 16 I chose to work part-time in a video store; it could’ve been a supermarket or a dress shop and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Obviously it’s not like that now; the job decisions I make will affect where and how I get my next job, how my salary grows, how far I advance up the “ladder,” etc.

I’m not saying I have any regrets, oh no. It’s just sort of surprising to realize that I’m an adult living a real life, with a husband and a career and a mortgage and birth control pills and the capability to make Big Decisions—and no one to catch me or fix it if I make the wrong ones. It reminds me of when I graduated from college and moved into an apartment with Rachael. There was no campus community anymore, no sorority or class schedule or school rules. We were just two women paying rent and working. I remember driving to the grocery store back then and realizing that I could eat mac and cheese or Frosted Flakes for dinner every night; there was no dining hall, no meal plan, no parents insisting on a well-balanced plate. (Even in college, my parents had been somewhat in charge of my life; they once threatened to cut me off financially if I went to New Orleans for spring break.) The freedom I felt upon graduating was intoxicating.

I suppose growing up and living life means losing your safety net, in a way. Maybe we’re all wearing blindfolds, feeling and listening our way forward, doing the best we can to make the right decisions so we don’t walk off the side of a cliff. None of us can really know what’s around the next corner.

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