What May Have Been
We go to the movie theatre. Once, twice, three times in three weeks which is more than in the last two years. Movies used to be such a big part of our rooted life and this brief re-settling happens to coincide with our old favourite time of the year: Oscar season. We’re still woefully behind in terms of pop culture knowledge, but to even catch a glimpse of it again has been fun for both of us.
On Sundays Pete watches football and I curl up on the couch beside him with a book in hand. We scour Netflix and Hulu, and catch up on so many shows we’ve fallen behind on. We watch some really cheesy and shameful crap. Like, so embarrassing. I can’t even bring myself to share the titles here.
After a couple weeks of this sedentary life, we hit the gym. Once, twice, three times a week, more for Pete. I enjoy it more than I ever remember enjoying exercise before. I try harder. I figure that if I am there then I might as well push it (especially considering the fresh cookies waiting for me).
I was a gym rat for a period of time in our settled lives too, but only in earnest when I was off work for stress, I otherwise never found that time for myself. And I never wanted to go with Pete before either, bridled by stupid but typical insecurities. Somehow I felt shy of the way I looked while running and by the inordinate amount of sweat I produce. But now, like in everything, I just want to be with him all the time. And of course he’s supportive and helpful and happy to have me there. Now I’m embarrassed by my former embarrassment, but that is all a part of human growth I suppose.
It’s been interesting to compare this time house-sitting in Ann Arbor to the last few years of our settled life in Canada. After our rapid travel in Italy and a quick visit home, we find ourselves relishing the slow and familiar groove, albeit with some subtle tweaks based on the fundamental changes we have borne. It encourages us to have little flashbacks to what was, and maybe what would have been still, had we never left to travel over five years ago.
Impossible questions, but they are often posed to us by others, and by us to ourselves. Usually we dismiss them with a resounding WHO CARES, as it now is what it is and the alternative path seems so foreign. But whether it’s the fact that our actions in these few weeks closely mirror times past, or that the blue walls and tiles of the bathroom are almost exactly what we once had (it’s uncanny!), these questions have resurfaced more fervently in our conversations.
The truth is that we weren’t unhappy with our former lives, but there were certain things we weren’t happy with. And I suspect that we would have simply tried to squash the percentage of us that was dissatisfied. Because we were doing what we should have been doing, and that should have been enough.
Although I think our old house would have been replaced by now, whether just swapped for another in a new neighbourhood or for something smaller inner city, our first few years together saw us move around a few times as it was. Now, on reflection, it seems that we were always searching for a community to fit into. We never found it, and I doubt we would have by now.
I would certainly have more than the one pair of fuzzy pants that I’m already wearing holes in while we’re here in Ann Arbor. Bigger salaries would have meant an accumulation of nicer things, some which admittedly would have been a novelty when we bought them, but then sat idly afterwards. Such a thought makes me sick to my stomach now – the waste of resources and dollars that could be better spent on adventure.
I’d like to think that I would have pursued more fulfilling work, but probably not. Even after what we had been through, enduring those events which caused all ambitious and competitive bones in my body to splinter and disintegrate, the ample pay check would have kept me from searching elsewhere. I may have lost my track to an executive position, but I could have still been successful at a more moderate level. I would likely have never known the freedom and bliss of being my own boss and working side-by-side with my best friend.
As for kids, we would perhaps be taking care of little humans in some form, whether I popped them out or not. I’m sure we’d love them, and I’d like to think we’d even be decent parents (because we are a kickass aunt and uncle, that’s certain). Or maybe we’d be those people who had kids but shouldn’t have, not emotionally able or willing to give them what they need.
Because while it is all conjecture to predict a parallel life, I do know one thing for sure – if we hadn’t summoned the courage to burst out of the existence we had, that intense need for change would have surely manifested in another way, and likely in dramatic fashion. Maybe I would have spiraled deeper into my trauma-induced depression. Maybe there would be no “we” to talk about. I definitely don’t like to speculate with such negativity, but I can’t deny those real possibilities.
So we will soak up the comforts of this house-sit, this brief semblance of our former life, and be grateful for it. Parts of it we find soul nourishing, and even crave when we’re on the road, so we will take advantage of those bits which are most satisfying.
And we welcome this unexpected cause for reflection which has proven to be gratifying and affirming. As comfortable as I am sitting here in my PJs, watching reruns of Project Runway (okay, I’ll admit to ONE of my guilty pleasures), my bags are just a few weeks away from being packed and moving again. Our appetite to see the world has proven to be insatiable, and we will happily indulge it together.
We may always wonder, but never ever will we regret.