Did I just begin an essay with THAT title? Yes, I did. Trust me, I think I’m nuts too. There’s a running list on my phone of every name that I like for the children I hope to one day have. Before I proceed, please know I am not pregnant nor do I intend on pursuing motherhood anytime soon. But, I feel like that just makes my title weirder. Reader, I am a planner. I visualize and mull through the details of a time that has yet to be, and that pacifies my radical present. It makes me feel like I have control where I do not. Life is a cosmic force with its own agenda, but I test the limits of fate by hoping, wanting, planning. I always regarded planning as my safety net, my blueprint, but I think my plans and my shoulds are the gates, fencing me inside everything familiar.
Night falls, and I become a cartographer. I map my future out in ornate detail. Every thought is a star, and I fashion constellations of my life: the Big Dipper of my family, the Virgo of my college career, how my early twenties line Orion’s belt. This has been my ritual for as long as I can remember.
Plans are paper– easily bent in another direction. I aspired to the quintessential high school experience, only to flourish in Speech and Debate. I was six when I declared I would attend Boston University. I went to Ohio State. When I was ten, I thought I would get married at twenty-five. I am twenty-five and have never been in a relationship. Planning is my security blanket in the present. Yet, I know having my plans foiled is often what’s been best for me. Speech saved my life. Ohio State saved my life. Being single for twenty-five years is the bell that rings over and over again that this life is mine. Life fangles origami out of my paper thoughts.
And that’s romantic in retrospect. People poeticize the past because time provides the certainty we need to narrate. After is a clearer sight than during. Events and attachments that began in error are told in conscious rhetoric as if it were that way all along. We know it turned out ok, and that changes how the past is told in the present. But, for me, today is still today. My view is cloudy. I’m deep in the during, and it is uncomfortable. I writhe in irritation and restlessness and all the secrets my future keeps from me.
I don’t know what I’m doing!! Rules and rigidity were how I felt safe when I was the only person who could ensure my safety. I blended into norms, and although I felt the questions whispering, I didn’t listen. They were polite enough to remain quiet in earlier years. Now, I am an adult. The questions inundate me. It is a monsoon season inside my head, and sometimes, I drown in my own thoughts. Because what if my future doesn’t look like what I thought it would? And what if I don’t get all the things I want so dearly because I don’t deserve them?
My bisexuality was always there, but because I am attracted to men and women, I felt part of it was mutable. So, I only romantically pursued men. I’ve always operated under the assumption that I would marry a man because I want to be a mother more than anything. My whole life, I have known this. It’s my greatest fear that I’ll never have the incredible blessing of being a mom. Because of that, I did not date women for a long time. That admission is drenched in shame. Partially, I avoided dating women because homophobia is real. I avoided my own queerness because I felt less desirable to both sides if I were honest. The other part is that society makes it so easy for straight couples to create families and be families, whereas queer families do not receive that same privilege. But I’m not marrying every person I’m dating. I don’t want to marry everyone I date! Yet, I date with this idea that I must produce a finite decision about every person all the time. Have y’all ever dated? Because it’s a murky mess! My decisive reflex inhibits connections. I am so engrossed in my thoughts that I’m absent from the person in front of me. I am so submerged in overanalyzing a good time with bullet points and foregone conclusions (both are largely informed by social norms and not my own feelings), I’m missing out on the people themselves.
Moreover, the older I get, the more marriages and relationships I witness, I think maybe “sure” isn’t the goal. Perhaps it is choice? You choose this person. You choose the values you share and to continue together. There aren’t any guarantees, only the mutual trust and respect for each other in that union. Love comforts you, but it is not the job of love to assure you. There are other coping mechanisms for that.
I am twenty-five, yielding a liberal arts dual major with little value in Capitalism. Professionally, I am hungry and unsure. In comets of words firing through my thoughts, I know I am a writer. Advocacy howls my name. Community calls me. I know what I am made for. I lack the courage to do it. There is always an excuse, an explanation, a student loan to blame my cowardice on. Creatives abandon safety in pursuit of their art. Benefits and a retirement and consistency — these are not guaranteed for artists. But the courage is coming for me. I feel its pounding pace darting in my direction. It’s pummeling the earth, and I am standing still for it to catch me. I don’t believe my talents were given for me to squander them. Creative deprivation and avoidance are shortchanging my existence. That was a truth I hid from, but it has found me. The plan was to have a traditional career. The plan was lined in white picket fences I never liked in the first place. The plan was for the approval of other people and the hope that external gratification would be enough. It is not. The nickels and dimes of normalcy are a pittance, and I find myself on the edge of error in wondering if I should gamble on myself.
I’m scared for you to know that I keep baby names on my phone because what if I never have children? What if no one ever wants me enough to build a life with me and create those kids? What if I am too ugly, too weird, too fat, too extra for that life? I’m so embarrassed for you to see this, Reader, but it’s true. What a cruel thing it would be to grow a mountainous love inside someone and deny them anyone to bestow it onto. What a cruel thing I am to repeatedly deny myself things or people hailing from outside my “shoulds”. As I descend into woe, I remind myself: “you are twenty-five, and although this is the oldest you’ve ever been, you’re still young in this big, wide life. You have time and sizzling possibilities awaiting you.” We, people, are powerless to the cosmic pull. Our power is in the effort, in showing up and working hard and heeding the universe when it talks. Power is marching forward despite how uncertain things are. I try to do that. List of names in my pocket, solar map across my skull, I forge ahead. One foot in front of the other, guided by the inertia of the unknown, I step outside the gates.