Where are you right now, in an alternate universe?

Some version of me is living in a different time in New York City. A pandemic-free, crushed condo houses, littered with tiny trees, in cramped quarters. I’m in a studio apartment, creating silly videos and voice overs and podcasts. Some days I check in with everyone back home. Some days I lounge like a cat in a chaise, eating up the sunshine from the one tiny window I’m afforded behind me. The traffic noise and light pollution become lullabies. Coffee shops, and corner stores become my sanctuaries. I congregate in the City that never sleeps. I marvel at it. And I lose myself in the concrete jungles.

When I was a kid, I didn’t have an affinity for simply playing dolls. Or playing housemaker. I was an array of professionals. I was a teacher in one scenario. I was the CEO of a company I’d started with my sisters. We sold computer software technology.

I didn’t go home to a man. I went home by myself. I had a cheque book, and my keys, and a pack of cigarettes. My “Boss Bitch” dress up included an apartment I’d fashioned by outlining a chunk of our lawn from fresh clippings of grass, and my “lap top” was two pieces of wood I’d found by the garage. One served as the screen, the other I’d marked down the letters of the QWERTY keyboard. I had invoices from my clients. I took calls, patched complaints to the correct department.

Then my sisters would grow bored of our company, and they’d go home to their babies, and their husbands and play. I would work long hours.

Once, I designed a rocket ship out of our tree by fastening bits of twigs into her bark and pretended we were headed to space.

I remember having dolls. Sarah was my Cabbage Patch. And I painted her lids with bright colours. And she had a job. And a career.

I also had a theatre house. My sisters served as the principle cast. I remember my Grandmother coming into our room and giving me a blast of shit for being too hard on the actors. The play was still good, though. It even had props.

What’s my point?

That in some alternate universe this boss bitch is laying back, cool times ten, probably affixing a roach trap in her shitty little studio apartment she acquired all on her own. And she’s probably put together in some two-bit hand-me-down outfit, or thrift store find. And she’s got her keys, and her smartphone, and her willingness to jump off emotional cliffs of fear to face the unknown head-on.

Was I built for kids? Or husbands? Or home ownership? Or a domesticated life? Probably not. I was probably the least likely to end up in a scenario where I had to chore wheel myself. “Today I will wash the bathroom, what should we have for dinner, how much am I budgeting for groceries? Did you enroll them in that dance class? Chalk board routines are the only way!”

But when I stack and quantify the girl who thought she’d grow up to be a solitary wanderer against what I currently have, I can hear that little girl inside me saying: girl – you have a career. And not only do you have a career you love, you did it while raising three children who love you. You’ve already padded one off to college. Two are coming up right behind her. And you’re not setting roach traps – you’re building memories into the foundation of the home with a person who loves you. And don’t think of Jan as “coming home to a man”, but instead being on an eternal slumber party with your best friend. You get to share your hopes, dreams, fantasies with the one person who gets you the most.

And even though this pandemic has surged, and bubbled, and caused, and created the very worst in both of us – even though we have seen each other at our very worst, we have witnessed those around us at their very worst; that we have had to scream it out, cry it out, then talk it out, hug it out, and apologize it out, it still is better than being alone.

Because what my 8-year-old self – the one with the clicky heels on the asphalt, with the big hair, and the credit cards, and the independence she craved – didn’t account for was loneliness. Was success without someone to share it with. Was accomplishments and accolades that threatened to sit idly alone on the shelf, covered in dust.

It’s hard some days to think – is this what I signed up for? For dishes, and cleaning the bathroom, and buying 2x4s for home renos? Yell matches with teenagers, and spending the money I saved on expensive grocery lists? How about the domestic squabblings that accompany all marriages and feels like it’s somehow dominating mine?

It is hard to ask myself sometimes – is this worth it?

Of course it is. Because it isn’t all dishes and chores. It isn’t all passive aggressive teens who aren’t interested in helping. It isn’t all husbands who piss you off by leaving their socks on the floor, or refusing to listen to you rant about another episode of actual realty tv that has you tied into knots.

It’s movie nights, and taco bars, and pride in our home, and cakes with cherry chips, and silly selfies, and quiet nights in, and loud nights out, and the falling together every night on his side, to the humming tune of a 90s sitcom providing the soundtrack of our dreams in the background.

Besides, the youngest of our brood is almost 9. That means we’ve got a decade to pack for New York.

— c ☆

my heart, love and prayers are with the citizens of New York as they navigate their rise against COVID-19. Thank you to the Front Line workers; the doctors, the nurses, the lab techs, the PSWs, those working in Essential Services. I love you all.

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