One thing I’ve always been certain of is that I want to have a family. When I was younger, this meant a husband and biological kids. My definition has since expanded, but the concept remains the same: children to raise and a partner to love who will raise them with me.
Imagining what this will look like is a cherished pastime of mine. Sometimes we’re building a homestead with our bare hands by a lake in New Zealand; sometimes we’re living in a multimillion dollar apartment in Manhattan and I’m the editor-in-chief at the New Yorker; sometimes we run a bakery in a sleepy California beach town; sometimes my husband is French and we raise our kids in the 6th arrondissement…the possibilities seem endless.
That is, until I actually have to pick one. I met my boyfriend a little over a year ago. He’s wonderful, perfect, perhaps not everything I’ve ever imagined (he’s American, doesn’t have any Oscars, has never taken me to a yacht party, etc), but he’s one of the everythings I imagined. It’s easy to see that we love each other, and I’m constantly being asked “is he The One?”
The question forces me to confront the reality that now, at 28 years old (around the age I always imagined myself to be in the aforementioned fantasies), with all the pieces in place to make my dream a reality, I’m hesitant.
People are always shocked when I answer honestly: I don’t really know if he’s the one. I love him and I’m happy, but it’s hard to imagine myself giving up the possibility of something else. To them, that means it’s not true love; if he were The One, I’d be sure. But I don’t know if that’s true. Many of the high points in my life have been born of my never being 100% sure about anything.
In 2013, I moved to San Francisco on a whim. I’d never been. I fell in love with a long-haired programmer, cooked huge meals for my friends in tiny kitchens, worked in a startup incubator and went skiing and hiking on the weekends.
I loved living in SF, but when my boyfriend wanted to move to New York City, I was up for an adventure and I followed him. We broke up before I found a job or an apartment, which left me with the blankest slate I’d had since graduating college. Thanks to the money I’d saved in anticipation of the cost of NYC living, I seized the opportunity and traveled for a couple months, then decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.
On the PCT, I was “Wonder Woman” (my trail name). I hiked by the light of the moon and slept on dramatic ridgelines. I did it all by myself. I was hardcore.
When I finished, I moved to New York to see what all the fuss was about, and that’s where I live now. I work in fashion. I drink urbane cocktails in crowded bars and buy frivolous pairs of shoes. I love it. In none of these situations have I ever felt like I’m pretending or playing a part, but rather, each time feels like I’ve unlocked a secret door inside me.
All this is to say, I am acutely aware of the many lives I could love to lead, which makes it hard to feel sure that my present situation is IT — it-enough, at least, to think about getting married, buying property, settling down.
I crave newness, challenge and freedom more than I crave stability, and this is what makes me hesitant to call my boyfriend “The One.” He is A One, that’s for sure, but I know now that falling in love — with a person, a place, a time — can happen more than once, and each time it does, it’s electrifying. Each time it makes me fall more in love with myself.
So I’m wondering: Can you legitimately be in love with a present context, even if you know it may not be what you want forever? I talk about this with my boyfriend often, that we might want some time for personal growth, for new experiences, for change. That doesn’t mean we won’t end up together, but we don’t have to be certain that we will.
Now that I’m in my late twenties, people are blown away by this. They see it as wasted time. I used to see it that way too, but I’m starting to come around. At this point, I’d rather revel in the multitude of possibilities than sign off on just one of them. In fact, I don’t know if that kind of certainty will ever exist for me, despite those in my life who’ve showed me it’s possible to pick a dream, a love, a life, and stick with it.
New passions have a tendency of sneaking up on me like a wave at my back, overwhelming me with gentle force and sweeping me off my feet — to San Francisco, to Pacific Crest trails, to New York City, to places I’ve yet to imagine. And I live for that feeling. But it gets harder and harder to justify to myself as the years go by. I do want to get married, I do want kids, and even though these things still exist in that mysterious “future” place (and even though I’m “only” 28), I sometimes worry about what will happen when the future becomes my present. What if I lose my someone — who could have been the one — because I’m so resistant to the idea of forever?
Perhaps what I’m most unsure of is whether I’m truly living life to the fullest and basking in my freedom, as is my intention, or if I’m running from commitment and hiding behind fear. For now, I like being with A One. I like having someone to talk about my dreams with, however far away or unrealistic they are. I like waking up next to him in the morning, listening to music and fighting over the air conditioning.
I also like waking up by myself, puttering around my apartment, imagining the dress I’d wear to The Oscars as Leo’s date. I like luxuriating in the infinite possibilities. For now, I’m riding the wave.
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Collage by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.