FishDreamer scribbles: It ain't over yet.

Saturday, 5 June 2004

Choices and Options

I have a couple of things knocking around in my head that I want to write about. In between my daily routine and the training I'm doing (for the half marathon I can't schedule yet), my mind is going off on the meaning of thought and the purpose of online relationships and what it is I really want out of life. I don't know if it's my birthday that set all this off, but I'm enjoying it when I get the chance to actually sit and come to some conclusions (which isn't often, unfortunately).

We went up to our property to look around and get some estimates on the work necessary to build a cabin up there. It was wonderfully relaxing and fun, hiking around nearly forty acres (we're also still not clear on where the boundaries are). But I had to make it clear to Mr D that I am by no means sure that I want to actually build a house and move up there. It's extremely remote, it's populated mainly by unthinking reflexive right-wing conservatives, and I am too accustomed to the things I get in the city (good ethnic restaurants, decent libraries, conversations with people who read and think, and so on). He hadn't heard me before when I tried to express this, but I think it was understood this time.

Having a cabin up there will be great, and it will increase both the value and the resale potential of the property. I love going up there to visit, and I would like to explore the Canadian side since I've heard it's a fairly popular vacation destination so I'm hoping maybe they have some of the things I'd want, particularly Asian restaurants. But the whole thing got me to thinking.

The property up there is hilly, with a deep ravine splitting it in half. It's not big enough to divide (by about a couple of acres), it's not big enough to graze cattle on, and it's too high (altitude over 4,000 feet) to grow many food plants. It is apparently horrendously cold and windy in the winter, and it was windy and chill while we were out there this time. I probably would not have bought it myself, but Mr D really wanted to. He grew up in country similar to that (minus the elevation) and I think he really misses it.

And now there are parcels of land for sale closer to the place we stay when we go, that are less difficult to get around on. They're cheaper, too. And a little part of me regrets that we're already invested in this place, because it closed our option of getting something else.

That started me off on a whole round of thinking about options and choices and how any choice you make cuts off some options, that you may not even know about yet. No wonder I used to always be completely paralyzed by decisions with large ramifications! I still don't like to limit my options, but I used to be terrible about it. There's a line from a Rush song that I know I've quoted before that has always helped me:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

That's one of the quotes I used for a particular installation at Burning Man the first year I went. And the older I get, the more I realize how the choices I've made limited the options I had later. I don't know that I ever consciously noted that before. It's not comforting to me.

But it's not like we don't have to make choices, and I choose (heh) not to regret the ones I've made. The things I've done and the choices I've made have shaped the person I am now, and while there are of course things about myself I would change, I still mostly like me. I would be my friend, I think.

But I still wonder sometimes. What if I hadn't gone to school in Maine? What if I hadn't refused to transfer after two years there? What if I'd gone to Chicago or San Francisco instead of Seattle after college? What if I'd gone home instead, or moved back to Alaska? And what if I did any of those things now? There are so many big forks in the road that are behind me now, and sometimes I wish I had some of them in front of me instead.

Which is more about getting older than it is about alternatives. It's not like I couldn't still move to Alaska, or joing the Peace Corps (I applied, but I didn't follow through with it because at that point in my life I desperately needed stability). It just would be harder now, because I have not chosen any kind of nomadic lifestyle.

It's like this. For the first 23 years of my life, I moved a lot. I lived in fourteen different places, not counting changing dorms in college. Once I got out of college, the thing I wanted most in the world was to put down roots and make my own place in the world. I ended up in Seattle because I have an uncle here who was willing to let me live rent-free in his basement until I got settled. The first year I lived here, during the serious gray rainy season, I dreamed about moving to Arizona where it was dry. (That would have totally sucked for me, and I realized that.) I also have always wanted to go back to Alaska. And I had a friend from college with whom I discussed rooming together in Chicago. I had choices, but since my true deep need was for a place of my own, I chose to stay put.

It is now fifteen years later, and while I've moved from rental house to rental house and then to condo, and now to owned house, I have not left this area. Sometimes I still want to, but I am settled. I have friends, I have habits, I have a job and a house and I have a husband and we have a LOT of stuff. I was really unhappy for a while, but I don't think it was here. It was me, and my mental and emotional state.

The intertia has overcome the will to keep moving. And really, I don't want to. There are things I would change about this place, but I haven't found anywhere else I'd rather live. Not while I still have to earn my way, at any rate. If I didn't need to work, I'd travel more. I'd go live abroad again and learn languages. But for now, I am happy where I am. I'm just not sure I've figured out where I want to grow old. I don't think it's here, and I'm starting to wonder how much time I have left before I figure out where that place is.

Or maybe if I just plain don't want to grow old at all, and it doesn't matter where I do it. (This thought brought to you by the rapidly approaching age of forty.) But that is another topic for a different day.

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