As a kid, I grew up thinking my life would turn out a certain way. At 34, I thought I would be married with three kids, just like my mom and dad. I thought I would have a Jewish husband and we would have couple friends; I’d pick up their kids at soccer practice and they would pick up mine. I’d be teaching at a Jewish day school to help pay for my kids’ tuition there, and my husband would be doing something rewarding, something we would be proud of, but we would live comfortably financially.
And so the day he proposed I viewed it as part of the plan, even though I knew the relationship wouldn’t work out. But there he was, on one knee, with the good looks of Prince Charming and the diamond ring I had described to his mom when she asked me my preferences. I was 26-years-old. Kid one at 29, Kid two at 31 and Kid three at 33. Perfect.
But the relationship didn’t work out. The damage that it inflicted, as well as the baggage I’ve carried with me since, has resulted in my life not turning out the way I envisioned, and definitely not the way my mother envisioned.
As I scour the photographs of my friends on Facebook living the life I always thought that I would live, whom if I run into at the grocery store choose the salad bar over having a conversation with me, I wonder if I’m a failure. When I teach at religious school and notice the parents there are my age, I look at the kids and wonder what mine would have looked like.
It has been argued to me, by my most honest of friends, that I am the lucky one. Husbands get cantankerous, the sex gets tedious, and kids are really, really hard. I have fallen in and out of love five times since my breakup with my ex-fiancé. I’ve felt 10 stomachs worth of butterflies before first kisses and several liters of tears after inevitable breakups. I should be thankful that I still feel love, that I still have my freedom, and the affliction of marriage and children will come one day.
But for my mother, and for me, that answer is unsatisfying. My most recent love said to me, “Your mother has lived her life, you need to live yours.”
However, it’s hard to celebrate a life that does not have a positive precedent or paradigm. Besides the crappy fairy tales, I studied Torah as a kid. There are no single women in the Hebrew Bible who are celebrated (Miriam, maybe? But she doesn’t get much air time). There’s Adam and Eve, Abe and Sara (coincidentally my parents’ names), Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob with Rachel, Leah and the concubines. And the first commandment in the Torah is to procreate. The only thing I’m procreating is a clock that is going tick tock, tick tock.
However, the societal expectation is that I will be happy with what I have—a great condo, a cute car, a wonderful job, good friends, supportive family—because there are people in the world who are much worse off and no one is going to want to marry me if I have a farbisane punim (sour face).
So I live my life, do my thing, and try not to think about marriage too much (and try to get my mother’s mind off of it as well). My punim is not farbisana, and in general, I’m a pleasant person to be around, because why wouldn’t I be?
But I won’t lie and tell you that I’m living the life that I wanted. Yet, maybe what we want isn’t always what we need. Perhaps I don’t need the life I want or my mother wants for me, or the one all my friends seem to have.