When it happens, I want to scream. Instead, I smile and nod and respond as polite society expects. By it, I mean whenever I say something that is very important to me, a really big deal, and the person I’m talking with shrugs it off. It can also mean when someone else places their assumptions about the world on me. I hate when that happens. But what am I to do?
I’ve never been what most would consider conventional. I’m not a fan of clothing that boldly proclaims the latest trademark or logo. Even as a teenager, I never much cared for shopping at all, and the latest trend has always been the least of my concerns.
Go back even further…grade school. In 6th grade, as part of our P.E. curriculum, we had the opportunity to either go cross country skiing or downhill skiing. My mother told me years later that she’d been impressed with my decision, not because of the decision itself but because of how I made my decision.
She saw the permission form and asked me, “What are you going to do?”
I told her, “I think I’ll go cross country skiing.”
She asked, “Who else is signing up for that?”
I shrugged and said, “I don’t know.” And honestly, I didn’t much care. I knew I’d have fun skiing with whoever made the same choice.
Unbeknownst to me, my mother checked around. Apparently, other kids in my class were on the phone for hours that night, trying to decide who was doing what so they could make the right choice.
Flash forward. My boyfriend and I had been together for years, ever since the end of high school. We both went on to college, so marriage wasn’t a priority for either of us in those early days. Then I graduated and began my first job. I knew my boyfriend didn’t believe in the convention of marriage, but I liked the idea of publicly sharing our commitment to each other for all the world to see. He was resistant to the idea, so I backed off, happy enough to just be with him, and I was as surprised as everyone who really knew us when he did eventually pop the big question. And then it started. Family members and friends…it felt like almost everyone who saw my ring wanted to know the same thing, “When are you going to start a family?” Just thinking about that question makes me want to scream. Why can’t just two people together be “a family”?
I wanted to shout out, “That’s not why everyone gets married!”
I’m unconventional, remember? So we waited 10 years to have our first child and enjoyed being a family of two. I love my daughter so much; we both do. But we don’t know that we will have any more children. Still…not more than a few weeks ago, one of my friends talked to me as if we will someday soon have another baby. I wanted to shake her and say, “There’s a big difference between when and if.” But I didn’t. Instead, I kept from rolling my eyes, smiled and let the conversation naturally move on.
It continues to happen in another, more serious aspect of my life. Just over a year ago, we moved away from our hometown, from family and friends, from a location where we were comfortable. We left behind our house that we now rent out. I left behind a job that was becoming ever more stressful but also co-workers I enjoyed knowing on a professional level as well as a personal friendship level, students I cared for, and parents who stood behind the school and teachers. Leaving was not an easy decision. That all must be made perfectly clear for my next point to be completely understood…
Sometimes I tell people, “In order to make a stand, we made a choice to move away from Wisconsin. Besides, I don’t want my daughter going to school anywhere in that state for the foreseeable future.”
There aren’t words to adequately describe how it feels to hear the response, “Yes, we don’t like what’s going on in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, (pick a location) either. It must be nice to have the option to move.”
Really? Really! Moving was not a simple option! It was a choice, and it was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, yet I believe it was the right decision for us, and I’m happy to report that moving has led to an amazing job with wonderful coworkers and students, and some fabulous new friendships. Thank you to everyone who has been there for us.
I’ll end with a plea. Please do not vote for Governor Scott Walker if he runs for president. If you don’t know why I would say that, please refer to Congratulations, Scott Walker… You win! For now, I’ll hold my fears in check, and will rely on the compassion I believe most U.S. citizens have for each other.