As the writer Glennon Doyle Melton says, when in doubt, choose the next right thing.
But how does that work when you’re in a family?
What if the next right thing for me isn’t the same as the next right thing for Ali, isn’t the same as the next right thing for Jordan?
How do you make choices as a family when what each individual wants and needs is sometimes at odds with what other individuals in the family want and need?
To wit: Jordan loves New York. I have creative dreams that are more easily energized and fulfilled here than in Washington, DC. But Ali did not thrive in pre-K this year, and the more I get to know both my highly intelligent, highly sensitive daughter and the NYC public school system, the less I feel this is a match made in heaven.
And then there’s the matter of our exorbitant rent.
We’ve been thinking of downsizing, of finding a cheaper place here in NYC, but that doesn’t solve the school issue, which isn’t really just a school issue, it’s a family mental health issue.
And so thoughts turn to the wonderful school she attended in Washington, DC. The progressive, public charter school that we literally won the lottery to get into. Would they ever take us back?
And if they would, could Jordan and I thrive there, in a place that has never felt quite right to either of us, despite the fact that it is home to some of our favorite people on earth?
Could I pursue my creative career — the one I’m really finally committed to deep down, the one I’m finally giving myself permission to both want and pursue — from a nontraditional locale? When I say “could I,” I mean, both logistically and in terms of finding the creative spark and inspiration. Could I double down on producing things with my DC creative community in ways that would be satisfying?
I believe so fervently in living life in a way that makes you come alive. I want that for all three of us. Is it possible to create the conditions for all three of us to come alive, all at once?
And can we finally be done with this endless conversation about where to live?
I know some families who take turns pursuing their dreams . “It’s my husband’s turn,” the wife will say, as they move across the country for his exciting new job, after years of him waiting patiently as they put her career on the front burner.
When you have kids, I guess it’s always their turn. That’s the deal, right? You put their wellbeing first. But there are shades of gray. Maybe the very-most-perfect environment for your child doesn’t quite mesh with the very-most-perfect environment for you, so you compromise, trying to give everyone enough of what they need.
Does that work? Or then, is no one getting exactly what they need?
And there are ripple effects to people not getting what they need. Behavioral issues, mental health impacts.
Nothing’s perfect, I know that. But I want to make a move that feels perfectly right for us, right now. For a few months now we’ve been just kind of lying low, seeing what emerges, and maybe that’s the path we need to stick to. Maybe we can’t engineer it all (I know we can’t), so we just need to ride things out one day at a time. But every day is a day closer to her first day of kindergarten, every month is another month that our monster rent check is due.
It’s hard, this business of living in the moment.
Super. Duper. Hard.
Postscript: Creative Minds said we can’t re-enroll without going through the DC public school lottery again. Womp-womp. It didn’t feel right, anyway, but the power of that educational opportunity was alluring.