The problem with cultural narratives around life changes is that sometimes they make you forget that you still have choices. We think motherhood will make us never shower and give up our dreams. That marriage will make us boring and settled. Marisa Solan’s post nails what happens when we start believing the hype. When we think marriage means having our ducks all in a row, and we forget that ducks are wily. So here is to way more Hunter S. Thompson murals in married life, and to way fewer responsibly painted neutral walls.
Since way back when my husband was “this cute guy I’m seeing” we’ve been making grand plans together. They were mostly small, but they were all grand. We wanted to do stuff. So we’d just up and do it.
Want to go to a concert in North Carolina? Grab your wallet and not nearly enough clothes for the weekend and hop in the car!
Want to paint a huge and ill advised Hunter S. Thompson mural on our apartment wall? Oh good—your roommate already stenciled it on!
Want to live in Japan? Apply for a job and fly to Canada for an interview and get visas and pack a bag and HOLY SHIT DID WE JUST MOVE TO OSAKA?
It was a time of scheming and flying by the seat of our pants and ordering and eating things that we didn’t recognize. Of Doing. And loving every second of it.
When we came back from Japan we got engaged and started planning the wedding. We still had a bunch of grand plans—where we’d live, what we’d do, who we’d be. But the Doing of those plans was suddenly overwhelming. It was all so big now. What if we made one of these big decisions and it was wrong? We found ourselves putting things off. Waiting for…something. Until we had more money. Until after the wedding. Until we had more time. Until, like Goldilocks, we found a time and a place where everything was Just Right and we’d know that we were doing the right thing. And every time we put something off, it got scarier and scarier to make any decision at all. We were stuck.
In our old apartment we talked for ages about repainting the bedroom. We went back and forth about whether to do it now or wait until we had different furniture or a new light fixture or we found the exactly right shade of brown. We decided to put it off until after wedding. But that day came and went and we were still waiting to find the perfect weekend or the right dresser or who even knows what. We were paralyzed by indecision about painting a wall when we just up and moved to another country just a few years ago. And the waffling was agonizing. It was like living inbetween, in limbo, forever. Like never being anywhere. I grew to hate my apartment because I didn’t even feel like I lived there. It was just where I was between where I came from and where I was going. Of course, this explanation all comes with hindsight. In the moment all I knew was that coming home to that bare-walled room every day made me feel like burning the place down. And feeling like that did us no favors in those first months of our marriage. We were watching and waiting for this perfect point when we could start doing things again. When we would somehow magically know that this was the right decision.
The thing I forgot, you see, is that it’s all just guesswork. You try the best you can to make sure that you’re doing the right thing, but at the end of the day you can’t know the outcome. The truth is, most of the time whatever you pick will be a little right and a little wrong. All those things I mentioned doing above—they were all great, but none of them were perfect decisions. The concert was brilliant but I got in tons of trouble with my mom for picking up and driving twelve hours away without even telling her. The mural looked awesome, but it took us about thirty coats of paint to cover it when he moved out of the apartment. And Japan was brilliant and complicated and not the right place for us in the long run. I remember reading a submission on APW about someone saying that when you’re shopping for a house you may not find the perfect house, but soon the imperfections become part of what you love about it, and it reminded me that if you sit around not doing anything until perfect shows up, you’re gonna miss out on a hell of a lot of imperfect fantastic life in the meantime. I forgot that guessing wrong is always better than not even giving it a shot. At least when you guess wrong you know the answer for next time. If you don’t even try, you’re just stuck. Paralyzed and immobile. Waiting for some imaginary right answer that will never come.
Today is not some inbetween point that you have to just power through to get somewhere else. It’s your whole life, right this minute. We had to stop waiting around for the right answer. If we wanted that wall painted, we were going to have to do it. So if there’s something you’ve been waiting around for—to learn French, to see the Jungfrau, to have a baby, to move to Morocco, to pop the question, to cut all your hair off, or to try eating olives (don’t bother—they’re totally gross)—and you’ve done your research and now you’re putting it off because you don’t know if it’s the exactly right thing to do, then cut it out! Do it already! Maybe it won’t be what you expected it to be, but no one looks back and regrets the stuff they took a chance on.
Photo of Marisa and her husband by Photo Pink