This is not about Bernie Sanders. Amanda wrote that post. It’s not even about price as we’re used to thinking about it, in dimes and nickels and dollars and all. This is about other prices (though in the end money is usually a translation of time and effort and other trade offs we’ve made too.)
Yesterday Older Son realized that he has to mothball his Ninja Nun comics and bid sister Agnes Day farewell possibly forever.
Perhaps you’ll say this should have occurred to him before, but like many other things in life, it came on so gradually that it didn’t hit him full force till last night. He hasn’t updated in over a year, first because he was helping me rebuild the Victorian almost from the ground up (more like refinish, but that’s about it) while working almost full time, and then because he was accepted into medschool, we had to find him an apartment, and then he was getting hit with the hammer of MS1 — now almost finished — which I understand like many military disciplines IS supposed to break you, so they can reassemble you the way they wish.
Suddenly he was faced with the fact the upcoming summer is the only summer he’ll have ALMOST free for the next seven years or so, and while he can resume Agnes and take her to a point where she can be safely parked, he’s not sure when or if he’ll come back to it. Sure, theoretically, he might have more time when he is a full doctor, but is that time better spent on comics, or novels? And if comics can you pick up after ten years on the same character and setting? I’ve tried to do that with novels, and let me tell you, it’s a task.
We had a rather maudlin conversation last night, as he realized, to put it in simple terms, that when you pick a path you can’t walk the other as well. You either follow one road or the other. You can’t walk both.
Now most of us here are… uh… insane would be the term, but overachievers or polymaths would work if we want to be polite. We — almost all of us — have enough work and hobbies each for a platoon of busy people.
And for a long time (the boxes in my basement attest to this) I refused to believe that to walk one path is to deny the other. I still do writing and art (and can’t wait to have a permanent abode again, so I can settle in and pull out the art computer and start working on everything I’ve lost through lack of practice) but I have boxes and boxes of fabric, and unless things calm down considerably once both boys are out of the house, I don’t think I’ll ever resume dressmaking. I’d like to make stuffed dragons, at that edge where they’re almost sculptures, but I’d have to learn. I still do fillet crochet but at glacial speed, since I only do it when I watch TV, which is rare these days.
What I mean to say is that I’m 53 and only now coming to grips with what my kid figured out: you pay in time and in yourself, as well as in money, for what you want to do.
As with a novels, where each time you make a choice you collapse all the possible choices, which makes the novel always less than it was in your head (and sometimes three novels, but that’s something else) every time you make a choice in life, you collapse the choices you can make from there. Your range of choice becomes smaller.
For instance, when I chose to spend my time practicing writing, instead of rebuilding my freelance translation business after the move to Colorado, I didn’t realize I was paying for the opportunity to maybe one day be a professional writer with my mastery of languages, so that 24 years on, I could not really remember most of them (even if I can still read in them) and my own brother calls me an “Ex speaker of Portuguese.”
It’s not all bad. It’s entirely possible I’d have made a lot more money if I’d stayed in translation, but you know, there’s no way to tell, and if I hadn’t tried writing, I’d be regretting it now.
And honestly, I never wanted to be a translator, I wanted to be a writer.
The trick of managing life is to accept you’re going to collapse your choices, but if you never collapse your choices, you never do anything or achieve anything. You’re just living in a formless sea of unmade choices.
I have no idea whatsoever why older son wants to be a doctor. But when he actually gets to do the hands-on stuff (rarely since he’s young in craft) you can’t help but realize that there might be more than volition here. In the sense that someone is born to do something, he might have been born to do this.
I don’t know if I was born to write. I know it’s what I always wanted to do, even when I thought it was impossible. And I’ve paid the price, because there’s always a price.
The same with having the boys. No regrets, butit cost us not just money, but time and health and energy. However if I hadn’t done it, I’d have lived half a life, and I really — trite as it it sounds — wouldn’t trade the boys for anything, not even a Bil Gates sized fortune and a Stephen King sized career.
You puts down your bet, you collects the winnings.
I got maudlin, too, thinking of the paths not taken, and of everything I now lack the energy to do. BUT we live in a blessed time. It used to be you were done raising the kids and you were DONE. Nothing in front of you but doddering old age or premature death. Now you can start a career at fifty and still have 20 good years in it.
So… As we’re buffeted and besieged with the technological changes that are turning society upside down remember that every choice has a price, and some of the price you won’t even know. But there’s no point getting mired in might have beens.
Choose. Be. Do. A life where you never pay any price is a life where you never do anything.
Be not afraid. Build. Live. The price will take care of itself.