(Potential) Adventures in Wonderland

Z

Every now and then, we come to a stage in our lives where everything is a fork in the road. It’s upheaval in our careers, in our families, and in our love lives, all at once, in that precarious position suspended in the air right before the pieces fall into place. The suspension, the intake of breath, the moment right before you follow a white rabbit down a rabbit hole or choose to drink a potion that says “Drink Me” – that is the most exquisitely agonizing moment of all. Will the path you take be the right one, or one plagued with regret?

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by…and now I’m hopelessly lost. Screw you Robert Frost.

It is a common affliction of modern womanhood that we perceive we can have it all, but make ourselves crazy in the practice of fitting the parameters of “a model woman.” Feminism told us that we can be expert wives and mothers, daughters and sisters, while balancing expectations of careers we excel at to create a mark in this world. But feminism has just created another mold in which to fit ourselves, telling us that if we drop one of the many plates we juggle in the air, we are failures. The woman who chooses to stay at home and raise a family is no less a feminist than the one who works grueling hours as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but the societal construct of feminism dictates that she has let down the gender somehow. The world has moved past traditional feminism into a realm of what I like to call post-gender equalism – a practice that still fights for absolute equality between genders (equal pay for equal work ladies and gents, is that so much to ask for?) while creating a space that allows for women to make their own decisions on which path their lives should take, free of judgment.

The only problem with my soapbox rant is that my year of upheaval, coupled with my overly active imagination, has left me with multiple possible futures. Some days, I envision a rattling old Victorian house with a wide, wraparound porch and a cupola, and a spouse who is just the whisper of an outline, a ghost. I know that he enjoys travel and can follow the quirky imaginings of my brain, that he can carry a discussion on geekery or sit in comfortable silence at the end of a long day. He shares my unquenchable curiosity for the world, has an intellect that challenges mine, and though he may not always understand my love of writing, we support each other’s dreams. He provides the stolid practicality and I provide the pie-in-the-sky idealism. In our post-gender equalist home, I cook, vacuum, and iron, and he does the dishes, the laundry, and the dusting. We both take turns putting out the trash and fixing things around the house. In the summers, we drink lemonade on our porch at dusk, and have conversations about life, the universe, and everything, sometimes alone among the fireflies, sometimes with friends. In the winter, we’ll build fires in our fireplace and catch snowflakes with our tongues. I’ll have a study for my writing, and we’ll have a library of his books and mine, comingling on shelves. Maybe we’ll have children, maybe we won’t.

Other days, I crave a very different life: an independent one, where I am answerable to no one and no one is answerable to me. I could be a foreign correspondent or sign a book deal and write novels or travel memoirs. I’d live in a house by a lake, somewhere out west with temperate weather, lots of rain, and seasons that still change, though not as drastically as they do in the east. The house would be tiny but efficient, rustic with lots of wood flooring, a deck that looks out onto the water, and a guest room for visitors. Maybe I’d open a small bookshop, feeling the heft of my keys and my ownership as I lock up every night after days of feeding books to young minds. Evenings belong to me and to my writing, to reading, to seeing dear friends.

Both lives stretch before me like Plath’s proverbial figs on a tree. The problem is that I can feel them ripening and getting ready to fall, to spoil before I have chosen. But there are so many possibilities. (See that one fig, way up high? That’s a life as one of the first colonists on Mars.)

We don’t have all the time in the world, and perhaps one day, I’ll relish this moment of suspension before choices are made, this time when possibilities are endless. For endless they are, and moments of change like these are rare. But change is coming, inevitable and fast. I can feel it in the air. I just hope I’m ready to jump down the rabbit hole and befriend a few Cheshire cats when it arrives.

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Read more of Zainab’s columns, here.

Zainab Chaudary works in politics by day and as a writer by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets @TheMemorist