by Andrea Bauer
Like a lot of people who read stuff, I also read Infinite Jest . . . Or wait, no . . . I read that lengthy article in the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Aside from a multitude of other points, it got me thinking about what it means to "have it all" when it comes to work and life. Do I have a work-life balance?
I'm a 35-year-old single woman and I don't have children. I don't own a house. I don't have any money. Clearly, I don't "have it all." But what I do have is a wonderful life.
I got here via the passage of time and a train of choices, some good and some not so good. I would actually like to have children. I don't have any for several reasons, one being that my "type" just so happens to be floppy-haired rock boys who don't have their shit together and still sleep on a twin mattress on the floor. Also, there's a man famine.
I had a chance at having a family once. I married young, at 22. By today's standards, I'd be considered a straight-up child bride. My then husband had goals of being a traditional breadwinner, Mad Men-style. His vision of personal success included me being a housewife and never having to work. I totally could have been a lady who lunched! I could have gotten so many pedicures! While this was a kind and lovely gesture on his part, I was raised on the feminist ideal that I, too, could be a metaphorical rock star, not just a rock star's girlfriend. By the time I was 25, I subscribed to this ideology with all of my heart, so much in fact that the mere mention of "babies" and "suburbs" had me bowing down to the gods of no-fault divorce and riding directly off into Chicago's seedy underground to further my career as a photographer.
Now that I am of an age where I want a family (and am almost past the "recommended childbearing age") I occasionally look back on the marriage years and think that maybe I could have had it all. But then I remind myself that it's just not true. At the time, I wanted action and adventure, a more complex life, an outside-the-box version of the American dream. Had I chosen the confines of my marriage over remaining true to myself, I would probably be sitting here today in a white-picket prison wondering what life was like on the other side.
And while it's nowhere near glamorous on this side of the fence, I still feel privileged. I may be 35 and single and I may or may not have recently had a conversation about freezing my eggs. I have a lot of friends who also don't have children and they're willing to drink cheap beer with me at the Rainbo. I am lucky enough to love my job, even though it can be hard, even though I do my share of complaining, and even though choosing a job in journalism often means choosing the fate of financial struggle and long hours. It's true, I have more groceries and toiletries at work than I do at home. But when I come to work in the morning, I'm excited to see my coworkers who double as my friends. I laugh really hard at least once a day. I get to go out on assignments and meet all kinds of people who let me into their homes and their lives. I get to incorporate art into my daily life, and most importantly, I get to photograph good food and then eat it.
Sure, I don't "have it all," but then again I never expected to. I do know that I have plenty. I don't exactly have a work-life balance, and while I've been known to work hard and play hard, I certainly don't "work hard, play hard." My work and my play have become so intertwined that the line between them gets a little hazy. So I guess that means I live for a living.
And, well, fuck. Look at the time. It's Friday so I'm gonna go hang out with all you lovely music dorks at Pitchfork. I am required to go. For work. But I was planning on going to Pitchfork anyway.