“Maybe, in a year or two, you can get married. You can buy a house in Los Angeles when he makes more money. Perhaps three, or four years down the road you can plan for your first child. It’s a perfect plan, Mary.”
Advice from my aunt. A realist.
Although the demographic is starting to change, thirty tends to be the age when we start to think about having a family; or at the very least, if and when we want one. When I was 22, I always figured that when I hit my late 20s I would start to feel the tug of motherhood and cave in and have a child (or, at least, be married by 30).
Yet here I am, 29 and on the verge of 30, and I have no children. I’m not even married. More than that, I have no desire to start a family. I have no desire to settle down.
As I drive to and from work, I often think that instead of make my life more complicated, I should just settle down in this little plot of Southern California I despise so much. I have a half-decent job I could work for the rest of my life, with good benefits and co-workers that resemble family. The work is dull, but it’s low-stress and easy. My boyfriend could become a doctor at the hospital he’s currently doing his residency at, and we would continue to live in the house that he bought. Get married. Have kids. Maybe send our kids to UCLA or Stanford. The California dream.
Yet I want none of that. Not one bit of it.
When I was growing up, I dreamed of doing something epic. I wanted to work with the big dogs. I wanted to feel really goddamn good about my work. I wanted to be proud of myself. I wanted to feel alive.
When I was hired at the advertising agency in Shanghai, I was on cloud nine. I remember the first day I walked into the office, riding the elevator up to the 35th floor and walking into a glass high-rise with the city of Shanghai below my feet. I spoke fluent Chinese and Japanese. I looked out the glass window in my office to find a view facing Huai Hai Road, the epicenter of Shanghai. I was working with CEOs from around the world. I was learning something new everyday. My boss was a badass. I was on top of the world.
Then I moved back to America. For family, for love, for my future.
And everything went downhill.
I couldn’t find a job. When I did find a job, it paid less than China–yet I took it anyway. I was working in a cramped office in a dump in Little Tokyo (despite having a prestigious title). I was given no responsibility. I later changed jobs to one with a 20 minute commute instead of 2 hours, but I felt my mind growing dull. The work is tedious, although the office environment is pleasant. It’s boring work and it pays terribly, but it offers healthcare, dental, and other benefits. In America, finding a job with benefits is becoming harder and harder to do. So I keep the job.
Compared to most Americans, I have it good.
But compared to what I had in China, I felt like I had risen to the top–and hit rock bottom.
As I drive to and from work everyday, the same old routine, I begin to feel my soul wither away, little by little. It’s the same schedule, day in and day out. Nothing changes. As I file paperwork and organize application after application, I start to wonder what I’m doing here. What it is that I want to do. How I had lost sight of my childhood dreams and ambitions; no, even the goals from a few years ago, and ended up here.
I start to think I’m falling into the trap of the mid-life America wasteland, where people work day in and day out with no vacation, and life starts to dull. Where the dreams of childhood were merely just dreams, and we cope. We mature. We strive to merely survive. To pay the bills.
Then, I went to Europe. Since leaving China and going on my road trip with Richard, I had never felt more alive. My soul returned.
Yet, going to Europe used up almost all of my vacation time, and it might be another year until I’ll accumulate enough holiday to go on vacation for a week again. The thought is soul crushing. I don’t know how Americans can work so long without a break. I think I’ll die unless I travel again… and soon.
I’m 30, but I don’t want to have a family right now. Or anytime soon. I don’t want want this big house in southern California. I don’t want my stable, but boring job. I don’t want to stay in Los Angeles and have my sanity robbed from me on its stressful highways. I don’t want to settle.
Because of this, by society’s standards, I’m an outcast. I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in the equation.
In China, and during my first years here in the States, I thought that I had to “get my life back on track.” I had to get that stable job, get married, have children, settle down and start pummeling away at my retirement fund. Going to Japan and China led me off “the path” and I wanted to return to a place that would receive approval from my family and friends in the United States .
But now, I realize that I don’t fit on that path. Maybe I’ll never have children. While my job right now is stable and safe, it’s not where I want to be, or where I should be–and I’m not afraid to change. Although I should have shaken the travel bug long ago, I haven’t. There’s so many places I want to see and experience. No matter how old I get.. 30, 40, even 50… I want to keep discovering the world, and the human spirit in the process.
I have plans in the works for changing my life. I’m not going to buy a one way ticket to Shanghai like I did when I was 25, but I’m going to move once more.
I realized I’m different. I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in.
And I’m finally OK with it.
I apologize for the heavy post.
I hope to update more (and with more pleasant posts), but right now I’m working hard on my next life step. Will reveal soon!