Sometimes I wonder where I am going with the new “freedom” in my life. My children are finally on their own, leaving my husband and I to play together and apart, depending upon our moods and which hunting season it is. I am pulling away from the necessity of being a “perfect” employee and actually entertain dreams of traveling through Ireland or England or at least the Smithsonian. Even though our bills are out of this rarified atmosphere, I still manage to believe that by watching TV in the dark and not turning on the air until it’s 90, I will be able to squeeze enough blood out of the turnip and put it in my savings account for a rainy day.
I realize that the peak that I stand upon is a precarious one indeed. Any gust of wind, any fluctuation in temperature, might turn the entire direction of my future upside down, reassuring me of a world of mountainous debt, not to mention being the oldest catalog coordinator in history. How do those of us caught between Woodstock and Country Thunder survive? How do we find our way through the maze of downsizing, upgrading and specialization that seems to run rampant through our lives?
The reality of the “haves” and “have not’s” are no more marked than when I drive through downtown Chicago on my way to football games. Living in the quiet countryside of rural Wisconsin, it’s easy to forget that there’s a dynamic, yet alternate, reality that is shared by thousands of people making millions of dollars a year or more. Surrounded by corn and soybean farmers, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole other species that thrive in high rise condos facing the lake and drive Porches and BMWs and take a jet to work each day. When I drive through the thriving metropolis of the nation’s second largest city, I can’t help but notice the plethora of new structures reaching toward the heavens. If there is a recession, the area surrounding Soldier’s Field hasn’t felt it yet. Nor have most prime property locations in any large city. What do these people do for a living? What do they do in their nine-to-five lives that enable them to buy designer clothes and eat at Alinea (the most expensive restaurant in Chicago) once a month? What could they possibly do in eight hours that I can’t do?
All right all right. First off, they are a lot smarter than the average Joe-lene…or Joe, if you prefer. Private tutors, Ivy League schools, 4.99 GPAs — who knows what extra genes float around in their DNA. Outside their intelligent, futuristic mindset, their choices were different than mine. Their callings more focused. Precise. Obsessive. Sometimes money breeds money; other times poverty does. Hence the buildup of Metropolis. But sometimes I fear this gap between “them” and “me” will burst the few bubbles I have left floating around in my head. After all, isn’t the preverbal rainbow just around the corner? Isn’t that pot of gold just waiting for me to discover it? I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in one of those condos on the 56th floor of a building that faced blue water 24/7?
I want to find a purpose in all my crummy luck. I’d like to think that there will be money left in social security for me and my friends. That I will be able to afford healthcare when I’m 75. That there will BE healthcare when I’m 75. Economics has never been one of my strengths; I have never been able to understand the Dow Jones or the trading of futures and options on exchanges. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to change my stance in life. I want my “golden years” to have more of a twinkle of gold than the smudge of soot. I know that the choices I made in life were the right ones for me. I know that making a little less money through the years is nothing compared to the love and devotion I get from my children and husband and our two stupid dogs.
But there are times I wonder if I could have tweaked the decisions I made. That I could have, should have, stayed in the same job a little longer, spent a little less on groceries, or my last trip to Las Vegas.I don’t really regret the money that has drifted through my hands through the years. I’m not sorry having popped for the Renaissance Faire or paid for gasoline that was spent on driving to and from soccer games.
What I do wonder is how all of this baggage will affect my newfound “freedom” as a woman of the millennium. How buying clothes for my son from American Eagle balances the wardrobe of a woman going through her mid-life crisis — again. How I can wear the same plaid booties I saw some young, fresh college thing wearing and not look stupid?
I naively am waiting for the big pay off. The jackpot. The book sale that will propel me into the world of Rowling and King. The winning lottery ticket that will pay off my debt and leave me a little extra for that trip to Ireland. Until then, though, I will keep working and paying my bills. After all, my kid reminds me that it will be he who chooses my nursing home.
I’d better behave.