First: That infuriating moment when you just spent 40 minutes editing a post, only to have WordPress log you out and not save any of your changes. *HEADDESK* Mental note to self: must write and edit posts in Google Docs before putting them into WordPress. Oy vey.
Ever have one of those days when you find yourself at the mercy of a colossal freak out which, much like a totally unforeseen and utterly devastating natural disaster, comes out of nowhere and leaves you stunned and weepy? That was me earlier this week.
I know this is a serious 180 from my usual type of post, so I apologize for being all Debbie Downer here — but all my worries and frustrations pulled a Captain Planet and combined forces to produce a meltdown of Chernobyl-like proportions. Since writing is what keeps me sane and helps me work through whatever it is that’s upsetting me, I’m going to get my catharsis on in this post.
First off, I’m incredibly homesick. I miss my family, I miss the West, and I miss the laid-back lifestyle that exists out there. There are so many things about DC that I find absolutely exhausting: the breakneck pace of life, the cutthroat competition, the total lack of a sense of community, the exorbitant cost of living…the list goes on.
Life in DC is just plain hard. The infrastructure here was built for the city’s population circa the 1950s, but there are a few million more people living here now than there were 60 years ago. Resources are scarce, and competition is tight. By and large, people here are much more concerned with their own self-advancement than they are with, say, helping other people or doing the right thing.
Simply making a living is difficult here. DC was recently rated as having the highest cost of living in the U.S., which isn’t all that surprising given the obscene amount of money a person has to shell out just to find a place to live that isn’t a crack den. We lucked out — big time — in finding our apartment, and I feel incredibly glad that we live where we do.
However, this is where the big stuff comes in: the high cost of living and intense competition for resources mean that it’s really hard to have a family here. Waiting lists for daycare tend to be in the range of 12-14 months at a minimum, and even once you get your kid into one of the coveted daycare slots, you should expect to pay somewhere between $1500 – $2000 per month. This is the sort of thing that strikes fear into my heart, since I very much want to have kids. Our families both live thousands of miles away, and although they’d love to help out, the lack of proximity means they won’t be able to help out much with child care.
This, friends, is the crux of my freak-out. I want desperately to have a family, but I don’t know how we’re going to afford it. I mean, we can wait until we’ve saved more money and can afford the huge hit to our monthly expenses — but I’m 32, and, well, let’s just say that my dairy products aren’t getting any fresher. Oh, and have I mentioned that my biological clock is going off like Big Ben on steroids? Because it is. The extent to which I get verklempt when I see a baby (even if it’s just on TV) is either comical, or pathetic, or both.
The high cost of living here also means that it’s going to be really hard for me to pursue my dream of making a living as a writer. I’d have to bring in the sort of income granted only to big-time published authors in order for my dream to be viable here, and that scares the bejesus out of me.
Basically, yesterday all these things combined and turned my brain into a swirling mess of freak-out. I wound up in the most epic of downward spirals:
How will we ever afford to have kids? We’re nowhere near our parents, so we can’t rely on them to help out with childcare. How will we ever afford to do anything? Will we always live in a place where there’s no sense of community? What if we turn into all the families I see around DC who are burned out, miserable, and unable to spend much of any time together because both parents have to work long hours in order to make a living? What if I wind up never having time to write? It’s one of the main things that brings me a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness! Omigod, nothing is going to work! We’re going to be destitute and miserable, our children will be unhappy because we’re going to be overworked and unable to spend any quality time with them, I’m never going to be a writer, and everything is going to be a mess!
Cut to a picture of me wrapped up in a comforter, sitting on the couch, and sobbing hysterically.
Having held onto my title as the queen and reigning champion of the ugly cry (made all the worse by the fact that this happened after work, so I wound up with a tremendous case of raccoon eyes thanks to the running mascara), I’m now at a point where I’m coming up with coping mechanisms. I have to figure out a way to feel okay about staying here, since this is where we need to be for now.
At this point, there are a few key things I can focus on: 1) the fact that our living situation is much better after our recent move, 2) the fact that we have a great group of friends here, 3) the fact that there are almost certainly solutions to the quandary about having a family — we just have to be creative about it, and 4) I can have faith that these things often work out well in the end.
First, since moving into our new place, our quality of life has gone up dramatically. While it’s a bit smaller than our old place, it’s both nicer and cheaper (and I get to take the bus instead of dealing with the Metro, which is a huge win). We’re also able to save some dolla dolla bills, which helps facilitate my long-term dreams of having a family and doing more writing.
We also have some awesome friends here, and that counts for a lot. DC might not be a naturally friendly place, but we do have friends from grad school, friends of friends, etc., who are fantastic people and who form sort of a family-away-from-family that we feel lucky to have. This group of people is definitely unique to DC, and we wouldn’t have that anywhere else.
Although I’d love nothing more than to have a family and make a living with my writing, for now I’m going to focus on the good: the fact that I get to write here and at Girls Gone Sporty. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to make a living as a writer, but at this point, I’m grateful just to have the opportunity to write.
As for kids, well, I have no idea how that will work out. I know we’ll need to be creative in finding solutions to the issues of cost, childcare, etc. — but I also feel strongly that this is the sort of thing that I just have to hand off to a higher power and hope that the right plan of action will become clearer as time goes on.
Although it probably sounds campy, I find that whenever I’m faced with a situation that seems bigger than I can handle on my own, I feel a lot better when I basically hit the forward button in my mental email queue. It looks a little something like this:
To: God/The Universe
Subject: FWD: Freaking out about having a family in DC. This is way more than I can figure out on my own. Please help!
Whenever I do this, I’m able to have faith that things will work out and that everything will be ok. I’ve seen this phenomenon pan out time and time again in my 32 years, and I trust that it’ll continue.
And because life is cool like this sometimes, yesterday this essay from Tiny Buddha showed up in my email — and ehrmagherd, was the timing ever perfect. It helped drive home some of the key points on all this: namely, that I don’t have to determine, plan for, and rigidly adhere to a strategy for how all this will play out.
I’ve gotten much better recently about letting go of my attempts to control everything, but occasionally my “MUST MAKE THINGS HAPPEN EXACTLY AS PLANNED!” tendencies creep back in. In reality, though, I don’t have to do this — and, furthermore, I can have faith that this process will unfold in ways I never could’ve expected, but in ways that lead to happy, healthy results.
Taking steps, even small ones, in the direction of my dreams, is enough. I can take things one day at a time, and I can keep my mind and heart open to unexpected opportunities, possibilities, and solutions. Knowing what I want is enough, even if I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out. And that’s okay.
What helps you cope when you find yourself amidst an epic freak-out (and, um, I’m not the only one who has epic freak-outs, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this boat)? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you know what you want, but you’re not sure how to make it happen? This is the sort of thing where peoples’ stories go a long way towards helping others, so I’d love it if you leave a comment and discuss!