Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tangled Knot

So I went home this weekend. It's always a mixed bag for me to go back to where I grew up. It's good to see everyone and everything. The familiar is comforting. But since it has been eight years since I've really lived there, the familiar isn't so familiar anymore. I love my friends, I love my family, I love the town where I grew up. But it's getting harder and harder to go back there. I was seventeen when I left Michigan. And I'll never be seventeen again.

I used to say I lived in rural Michigan. But the town I grew up in is more like an exurb now. With the exception of a few natives (or locals, as we prefer), it's all rich folks who use the homes that are sprouting up all over the places as getaways "up north." To the locals, "up north" implies the upper peninsula, not thirty miles north of Grand Rapids. But, in keeping with my newfound awareness that anytime I drive longer than fifteen minutes while in the Twin Cities I feel like I'm in Alaska, it's somewhat understandable to me how these usurpers of our land and our way of life feel like they are "up north."

And that's the problem. I now relate to those people. Not the locals. I don't get the locals. I get the rich folk who use MY TOWN as A VACATION DESTINATION.

The reason I went home was because I was throwing a wedding shower for a good friend. We were really close in high school. So all my high school buddies were invited. Yeah. So none of them lives any farther away from my hometown than Grand Rapids. And I don't understand them. Even my good friend who is getting married (hey, in a couple of weeks, so I'll get to go back soon and you'll get to hear more about Michigan adventures), who I thought was like me in all the ways it matters, who I thought would defend my way of life and who I thought understood me more than anything - she's bailing on me. First of all, she's getting married. Second of all, she's taking the man's last name (huh?). Third of all, she wants to have kids RIGHT AWAY. Oh, this is not how I dreamed my life would go.

But that's her dream. And that's fine. For her. But the problem is that everytime I go to these little high school reunions, it becomes harder and harder to remain impervious to the pain that comes with the questions about when I'm going to return to Michigan, when I'm going to settle down, get married, have kids, get a job (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I HAVE A JOB WHERE I BET I WORK HARDER THAN ANY OF THEM AT THEIR JOBS), or just live a life they understand.

1) I'm probably never going to live in Michigan again. If there's a job there when I go on the job market, I'll do my damnest to get it. But the job market's tough. I'll take a job where I can get one.
2) Settle down? I've lived in Minneapolis for three years. I'm pretty settled.
3) Get married? Take it up with someone else. You can be in a committed, loving relationship without being married.
4) Have kids? I barely remember to feed myself most days. And if I forget to feed my fish it's okay. Somehow I think children might be a problem for my slacker lifestyle. More to the point, the zillions of kids running around at that wedding shower reinforced my viewpoint that I do not, at this point in my life, have the necessary characteristics to parent well. Furthermore, after watching some children who are not parented well, I refuse to participate in the lies that people tell themselves when they have children that their children will be different. My children will be brats. Until I'm able to serve them, both financially and emotionally, and prevent that brattiness, there will be no children in my future.
5) Get a job? Fuck you. I have a job.
6) Live a life they understand? Never. I refuse to have a job where I punch a clock. I refuse to have full-time custody of three kids while my mom is forced to babysit during the day while I work full-time.I refuse to have to pay child support for a child from my partner's previous relationship. I refuse to worry about every penny coming out of my pocket because I'm so broke I'm taking out a loan to buy a five-year-old minivan because my third child is coming and I need a bigger vehicle. I refuse to be so worried about finances that I can't focus on my personal relationships. I refuse to be one of those people who can only talk about children.

There are some similarities in how we live, though. I am just as judgmental about their lives as they are about mine. I feel bad about this, but I don't understand some of the decisions my friends have made. They don't understand me - I don't understand them. Two weeks from now, I will watch someone I have known since second grade change her name. I hope it makes her happy. I hope she lives a life that she can be proud of. And I hope she welcomes me in her life and that our paths will continue to cross.

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