A few months ago I sat on a park bench amidst the buzz of a college campus, realizing for the first time in two years that maybe I was out of place. I was twenty-eight years old. I was about to finish a graduate degree. And I was thinking of starting another.
I had also been married for almost eight years to a husband I rarely saw.
As I watched college freshmen skipping past, carelessly slinging their backpacks as if all burdens were so light, I pulled out a notebook and began to write.
It’s a lonely life right now. I am too old to be running around with a pack of friends like these kids—and yet, I don’t really have a family life. Not one that buzzes like this, creating its own nucleus of self-contained activity, a destination and end in itself.
Both still striving for career goals, my husband and I have talked about how these disparate strands will one day converge—we will have enough money to take jobs side by side at a university, or we will have enough money saved to travel together around the country, or we will one day have so satisfied our roles in society that there’s nothing left to do but sit on a park bench like this. We have talked about this meeting of our lives…but we have not yet arrived.
What is it that gives meaning to our lives as a couple? As individuals, we find meaning in work. I find it in writing. But what is the meaning with another person? There has to be common ground. A place where we reap and sow together. Where we both put in time, and dwell together.
Right now we have a house. And technically we both put in time there. He works on the yard (and usually does our laundry), and I work within the walls, doing dishes, cleaning, painting, arranging. Most of our time together we are asleep.
Our house seems oddly empty.
How do two people, young and building separate careers, find common ground, apart from the passing patches at home? Aside from those moments of rushing out the door in the mornings, or flopping down exhausted in the evenings?
Where is that common ground on which we can meet to slowly, deliberately, live life together? Not merely rushing to the next thing or recovering from the last? Is this an ideal that no longer exists in the twenty-first century?
Or is this where kids come in?