When I was three-years old my family moved away from our small house in the noisy suburbs to a bigger home outside of town with more space and less people. I was sad to leave my tiny bedroom and the familiar face of our neighborhood mailman. My small, intimate space was comfortable and cozy, and I wasn't sure I wanted that to change.
Upon moving to our new home I discovered the most beautiful oak tree in the front yard and so much land to explore. I started school for the first time, I made friends with the two boys who lived next door, and after a few years, my parents bought me and my brothers a puppy. I found myself suddenly drawn to the unfamiliar - to new and exciting people and places. I've been embracing life's changes with earnest appeal ever since.
I was born a bold, daring child. I'm reserved and shy at times, but I have always been eager to experience the world. My restless heart is in constant search of adventure and exploration. At just eight years old I begged my mother to allow me to go to sleep away camp in Maine for three and a half weeks; the summer after I turned sixteen I traveled to France for six weeks to study the language and learn the culture; at seventeen I journeyed to Tanzania for a month to teach at an elementary school and volunteer at an orphanage; I celebrated my twenty-first birthday in my favorite place on earth - Dublin, Ireland - where I lived for over a year. These journeys were mere mouthfuls, temporarily satisfying my hunger to encounter different people in strange places, to discover a life distinct from the one I had always known.
Truthfully... I miss that spontaneous, untethered life. My ability to explore and discover whatever marvels this world has to offer is limited now that I am a mother. I no longer have the freedom to just pick up and move somewhere I have never been. I can't live the impulsive life I envisioned for my twenty-something self without abandoning my obligations as a mother and wife-to-be.
Do not get me wrong - I love being a mother. I love my son and fiancé fiercely and with my whole heart. Motherhood is my calling, my vocation, but a small piece of me still longs for a life without a child.
Who knows what I would be doing now if I didn't have a child? If I could guess, I would say I accepted that job offer in Denver. I'd most likely be single, working a 9-5 job, and going out drinking on the weekends. On Saturday mornings I would sleep in as long as I wanted. I'd go back to that little beach in France, make friends with the locals, and spend five hours just eating dinner and drinking red wine. Maybe I would teach horseback riding in the evenings, or become a bartender as a side job to fund my expensive weekend travels. Who knows if I would even be living in America...?
Articulating these longings feels like a betrayal to the little boy I love more than life itself. I've been dancing around it in my own mind for some time now, unwilling to admit to my own audaciousness. I have been given so much in my life; I have seen many places, and experienced much more than most women my age, and yet I still dare to desire more (and worse - it is at the expense of my own child). I would never dream of leaving my family. That would ruin me. Simply contemplating a childless lifestyle... that ruins me just the same.
I mourn the loss of my carefree childless twenties; a time I might have spent traveling in search of myself. Simultaneously, I rejoice in this life I was given. When I look into my little boy's blue eyes, in those quiet moments we share, I know in my heart that I have already found myself. The richness I have been searching for - the substance and fullness of my whole self - is alive in those curious eyes.
I'm not sure where I would be today had I not become pregnant my senior year of college... if I had accepted that job in Denver. I certainly wouldn't be as thin or as healthy. Drinking has a sneaky way of destroying the body. I can't say with any certainty that I would actually be doing much traveling, and I absolutely wouldn't be writing as much or as passionately as I am now.
If I hadn't had a child at twenty-two my life might be unfettered, but I assure you, I would be without. I wouldn't know the heartrending joy or devastating love of a mother.
I am dying to go abroad with my fiancé, to have a taste of my old self... and yet every day of my current life, while mundane and normal in it's own regard, is also filled with so much change and newness and uncertainty. There lies the paradox.
Becoming a mother early in life was a huge change and I embraced that change with earnest appeal, just as I always have. I may not have the same independence I once did, and I certainly don't have the same income, but I can't imagine a more exciting life for myself. I get a thrill out of every new skill my son masters, every new experience he encounters - the same feeling I used to get exploring the streets of Dublin.
Motherhood is, after all, the greatest adventure of them all.