Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Ode To Those Who Do Not Want Cake

"You cannot have your cake and eat it too"... 

According to very trustworthy sources, this old English proverb was initially coined to insinuate that one cannot (and should not) lust for more than they already have and deserve. Problematic, here, is the fact that what we want and deserve can be two very different things.

Nowadays, people tend to use this term to apply to the age old question: can anyone actually have it all?

One whimsical afternoon I had a very in depth conversation with an extremely wise friend. The friend was caught in some sort of transitional period in life and was in a consistent state of reminiscence: thinking about decisions which had been made in the past, and what could have been different. My friend wondered, "had I not chosen the path of marriage and children  would I have reached my artistic and creative climax by now?"

I was stuck for a response. The thought had crossed my mind.

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, and might I add, a very wise woman. She did an amazing speech for Ted Talks on why the world has few too many women leaders, which I believe can be applied perfectly to this statement. She notes that: "A recent study in the US showed that, of all married senior managers, only two thirds of the married men had children and only one third of the married women had children."

So what is the big play here?

Can anybody really have it all? And even if we don't want it all, who is to say that what we want is cake?

Anybody who knows me is aware of the fact that I like to travel. Anybody who has ever asked me will know that I have no real desire to plant roots anywhere, and start a life in one particular country. I do not tend to define myself by where I am, however I consistently struggle with the definitions forced upon me by where I choose to be, and how long I choose to be there.

At the moment, life is pretty good. I like my job, I have a good home life, and I have plenty of money that I know I will never want for anything. I have tasted professional success to the point that I will soon be relocated to another country to live and work. Career wise this is an amazing opportunity for me; however it means leaving friends and family who are doing nothing but digging their heels in deeper: buying property, getting married, having children... 

It makes me wonder whether, somewhere along the line, the decision will become an inevitable 50/50 split. Will I have to choose between having a great career and a wealth of travel opportunity; and having family?

I spoke about this with another friend. She noted, somewhat non-nonchalantly, that she had relocated to Australia to be with her husband. The choice was hard, but she had wanted a family.

Being faced with angry accusations of "why are you leaving me?" on countless occasions over many years, I cannot help but start to wonder, "why aren't you coming too?"

Within the space of a year, I have lived in three different countries, four different homes, and spent 125 hours mid-air.  I have been on countless dates, and dealt with weddings, pregnancies, engagements, break ups, and breakdowns (only some of which are my own). Through all of this, I have never sat in front of somebody who hasn't questioned why I do what I do. Perhaps this is simply one's way of demonstrating sadness at my departure, but I can't help but be slightly concerned with the fact that it is somehow OK to question a person's decisions to travel, yet it has never been OK to ask someone why they are having a baby, or why they are marrying the guy they have been with since puberty.

What if I want cheese and fruit instead of cake? Should I be subjected to months of tyrannical questions about the validity of fruit, or where fruit will get me when everyone else is tucking into their delicious New York Cheesecake?

Perhaps my maternal instinct will never actually kick in.
Maybe I will die alone with a box of old photographs and travel tickets, and pictures of my pet cats.

But perhaps I will be really fucking happy about it, and all the people that ate the cake will be damn fat and miserable.