Sunday, April 25, 2010

An embarrassment of riches

I have a friend who has the rare dilemma of choosing between two great job opportunities: one would divert his career path but put him closer to family; the other is a "dream" job that is considerably further away from family.

Career vs. Family -- Does the phrase suggest an ambitious woman deciding whether to have children or go for more job responsibility? Does it make you think of the woman who must choose between putting her kids in daycare or going the stay-at-home route?

I am thinking of neither of those scenarios. This is about the 20- and 30-somethings who have to choose between living close to their parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends -- or moving farther away and facing isolation from the people they care about.

I know I feel a lot of guilt for living 12-hours away from my family. A few days ago a friend asked me how often I visit Atmore and I said, sadfaced, "Only a few times a year." He laughed and said "ONLY? That's a lot!" There are those independent people who are content to only see their families at one major holiday a year. I am not one of those people for so many reasons. As I said I have guilt for being away from family and friends, but we are here for Nick's career. And our future hometowns will likely all be chosen for Nick's jobs. I will try to guide those choices, but opportunities will arise where they will. To live in Atmore, I wouldn't have to choose a different career, I'd have to choose a different life, with one less husband.

This is another one of those conundrums faced by the overprivileged with opportunity ("Oppies," to coin a new word): do we follow that awesome ambition, or do we stick close to our loving and supportive families? It's an embarrassment of riches. One that I have time to contemplate because I don't have any "real" problems.

We know for a few decades, women have been choosing between career and children, or trying to have both. And we Oppies are choosing between our far-flung ambitions and our families back at home. You could even distill that down and say our choice is between work and home. Choose work and you're not going to your niece's Thanksgiving pageant, but you'll go with her to breakfast with Santa when you visit at Christmas. You'll find out your mom went to the emergency room three days after the fact because you talk to her twice a week instead of seeing her every day.

You sometimes wish you could give up every other part of yourself just to be the daughter/son/aunt/uncle who is there everyday for trips to the park, but that would mean... giving up every other part of yourself. If everything that makes me happy is a piece of pie, I have a whole pie -- one slice is just in a different state. My metaphors are starting to drift. What I'd really like to know is whether the Baby Boomers faced this same sort of choice and which choice ended up being better in the long run.

Anyway, there are two things I know I will not stop hearing as long as I'm away from home, making this life: (1) "we're so proud of you" and (2) "we miss you -- when are you coming to visit?"




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