The Life I Never Wanted

According to Plan A, I should be an American citizen by now. I should have finished my schooling and passed the bar. My husband and I should be living in Dahlonega, in the house that we own. Scratch that, time for Plan B.

According to Plan B, I should be finishing up with my degree by now. I’ve been a stay at home mother and part time student, but now that I’m graduating, it’s time for me to join the workforce while my husband– Err, okay, let’s move on to Plan C.

Plan C is foolproof, though. I’ll work full-time and study online. By the time Lillian starts first grade, I will be ready for law school. That’s a long time away. By then, I will have found a solution to the “how do I work enough hours to pay bills while going through law school?” problem– Ah. Alright. Time for a new plan.

Five years ago, when I was waiting on a visa, I had a plan in place for the rest of my life. Nowhere in that plan did it mention:
a) Being single
b) Being a single parent
c) Being broke (see b)
d) Still not having a Bachelor’s degree, let alone a J.D., by age 25
e) Law school looking impossible, and – even scarier – like it’s no longer what I want.

In fact, had somebody told me that was in store for me if I came to the US, I would have bailed. Broken off the engagement. Withdrawn my visa application.

Me, if you’d offered me this life back then.

I am so damn glad I didn’t.

Yeah, I’ll be honest – more honest than I have ever been on this blog, really – sometimes, this life is HARD.

What’s hard is when the alarm goes off at 6am and you were up until 1am. What’s hard is when you’ve got a tiny person who can’t understand that bedtime means “go to bed now” time, not “misbehave and go to bed eventually” time, because the minute her head hits the pillow you need to become Student, then Writer, then Maid, in that order. What’s hard is convincing yourself that you just don’t need 8 hours of sleep because you know you will never get it. What’s hard is watching that lie change: 8 hours became 7, somewhere along the way; 7 became 6; and now 5 hours is not just ‘enough’, it’s ‘a lot’.

What’s hard is cramming all your study time into weekends, when she’s away. Saying “no” to going out with friends. Perfecting your ‘history student pallor’ in the library when it’s sunny outside and you’d rather be working on a summer glow. All because you would rather sacrifice your sleep, your social life, your fun, even your health than say “no, sweetie, I can’t play right now; I have homework” to your tiny person. What’s hard is sometimes having to say that anyway. Hating yourself because she’s watching TV while you’re poring over a textbook.

Scheduling naps days in advance. Gaining weight. Losing weight. Losing sleep. Hair falling out. Running to relieve stress. Losing valuable homework time, becoming more stressed. Having to stop running. Becoming stressed. Wake up work eat dinner play with child read to child put child to bed clean up after dinner study take dog out write prep lunch for tomorrow study more shower go to bed fall asleep mid-prayer, repeat. Day after day.

Feeling like you cannot be a mother, a student, a runner, and a writer all at the same time and do them well. Gritting your teeth and telling yourself that it will be worth it in the end.

Then you realise that you don’t know when that ‘end’ is. Is it when you’re done with school? When she’s grown? Is it a few years away, or decades? Out of the blue, you start wondering if it is worth it.

Thinking, sometimes, “I never asked for this.” Who in their right mind would ask for this?

But the balloons at this little pity party start to deflate pretty quick when I remember that there are sixty million girls in this world who are out of school, while I’m pursuing higher education despite obstacles that could have stopped me. When I’m too busy to run but find that it isn’t the end of my world, I remember that there are an estimated 8 million people with eating disorders in the US alone – people who can’t be blase about their bodies – and that I used to be one of them. When I’m feeling sorry for myself because I’m going at this alone, I think of the example it sets for my daughter. How to be independent. How to balance the things that you want to do with the things that you have to. How to move from Plan A to Plan B, C, D, all the way through Z if you have to.

No, none of my plans worked out. I’m not a newly-qualified lawyer, a homeowner, a marathon runner, a wife, or anything I thought I would be five years into my big American adventure. But I’m a stronger, more determined, more thankful person for it.

This isn’t the life I wanted.

It’s better.

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