Tuesday, August 13, 2019


The other night I had this dream: I was talking to my old thesis supervisor (I did an MSc thesis in the '80s) and he was saying I should go back to school and do a PhD in systematics. He was quite convincing, named a specific university to do the doctorate at and said it would cost me hardly anything. I knew he was well-known in his field and that if I wanted to do it he could get me into the program he was promoting. I seriously considered it, remembered how much I had enjoyed doing that kind of research back in the day. Then I woke up.

I was still quite swayed by the idea but I also remembered that this guy was long dead, he couldn't get me into anything. I'd have to do it all by myself. After getting up and making coffee I got onto the internet and poked around. It all came back to me: how difficult it would be to get into a program I would like to do, how much it would cost, and how much stamina and energy it would take to do it. I also remembered that I had been down this garden path several times before and had reached the same conclusion: not doable. So why have this dream?

I told the dream to one of my dogwalking friends, a woman in her mid-80s.

"Sounds like you're trying to figure out what to do with your life," was her judgement.

She said that most of her life could be divvied up into Ten Year Plans, she spent roughly ten years on different projects that took up all her time and energy at the time. She said that the past ten years she'd spent on leisure activities: going to concerts and the theatre, hanging with friends. She wouldn't mind doing something a little more meaningful but felt that she just didn't have the energy for it any more.

"But you're still young, you could do it," she said.

I laughed. This must be why I hang out with people so much older than me, they think I'm young.

I told her that I wondered how my life would have turned out if I hadn't had kids, that I kind of regretted that. She said she felt that way too, or rather, she wished she had waited to have kids until she was fully formed, had had a chance to "find herself".

"But you know, in those days that's what you did, get married and have kids."

And besides, by the standards of the day she actually waited longer than her friends to start down that road, she was all of 22 when her first kid was born.

I was 23 when my first was born, and I wasn't "fully formed" by a long shot. Five years of marriage and then twenty of single parentdom. Now my kids and grandkids live in other provinces, I see one or two of them for a couple of days a year. They call on Christmas and birthdays. I thought I could have a relationship with one or more of the grandkids but at this point I think that ship has sailed. It just seems like a lot of time, energy and sacrifice went into that project with very little to show for it.

I think of all the things I could have done instead, and then I wonder if I would have, or if instead I would have squandered all that free time and energy because that's what we do when we think we have all the time in the world.

1 comment:

Wisewebwoman said...

What an interesting post. I have wondered the same things, Annie. Everyone talks about the joys of parenthood but it requires a huge amount of investment of time and resources often with very little reward and there is very little writing on that topic.

I too wonder. I also observe the happiest couples I know are the ones that never had children.
Children can suck the life out of a marriage. Two exhausted people trying to have a relationship in the midst of a colicky baby screaming 24/7.

I've had similar dreams to yours which startle me about opportunities missed basically.

I wish we had the chance to take the other road and see what happens, don't you?