There are days I wake up and I wonder how it is I got here.
How do I live in the suburbs? How is it I have three kids? Where has the time gone?
I turned forty last year but because I was pregnant and fairly miserable with sickness, I didn’t realize it. I didn’t have a big party, or invite anyone over. I think I spent it on the couch, horizontal and probably whining about heartburn. But I turned 40. Had you asked me when I was 35 what I would be doing for my 40th birthday, I’d have said I would be at my favorite restaurant surrounded by close friends, celebrating a pretty momentous milestone. But no. Instead it was just another day, one I barely even realized. A day that came and went.
You’re supposed to realize you turn 40, right?
I turned 41 last week. And if it hadn’t been for Facebook, I’m not sure I would have remembered.
Sometimes living in the suburbs feels like waiting to die. I know that comes off as horribly depressing. And overall, I’ll contend: it’s a depressing thought. But it’s also darkly comical. Living in the suburbs feels like waiting, waiting for what? I’m not sure.
I think we plan vacations and then look forward to vacations so we don’t remember that the bigger picture—or some ultimate goal—doesn’t actually exist. There are lessons for the kids, countless practices that include balls and expensive equipment coached by parents with unfulfilling day jobs. We schedule date nights at mediocre restaurants and drink overpriced wine. We discuss the kids’ practices or that upcoming vacation. We go home, pay the sitter, and then continue to wait some more. We make schedules that repeatedly fail because of course they do when you’re dealing with snow days, sick days, train schedules, kids and other people. And when those schedules fail we come up with ways to make sure they don’t fail in the future because failing makes us feel bad. And it sucks to feel bad.
Our walkway needs to be shoveled. And the trash needs to be put out. Recycling comes every other week and if you miss the alert that they moved it due to a possible snowstorm, your garage starts to look like something out of an episode of Hoarders.
Small rodents break into your garage and lick clean the cans you didn’t properly rinse but since they likely got a big dose of dopamine and left with a full stomach it’s hard to hate them. Good for the small critters who don’t have vacations to look forward to or date nights at mediocre restaurants. They don’t have plans that fail or Common Core math tests to bitch about.
Living in the suburbs feels like waiting—waiting to return to something that matters, something bigger than yourself, something you pictured when you were 21 and graduating from a college you paid a ton of money to so they would repeatedly tell you that after you were done you could do anything; that you could change the world.
Today I grabbed a single trash bag from below our kitchen sink and went around the house tossing random pieces of crap into it. I filled that bag up within 10 minutes while the baby babbled gleefully into an empty box of tissues. That felt great so I made a plan to do it every day for two weeks. I’ll fill up a trash bag full of our shit. And items from that bag of trash will eventually end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean floating on a sea of garbage the size of Texas because that’s what we do in the suburbs as we sit and wait for upcoming vacations: we give up gluten, wear yoga pants from lululemon, fight about parenthood, drive big cars and destroy shit.
Then one day you find yourself in the quiet car on a train headed north on the way home from a job that brings you nothing but stress and someone makes a thoughtless mistake and you think to yourself right before the car explodes into a burning inferno, “What was I waiting for?”
I want to dig through the empty cans in a drafty garage and discover happiness. I want to run these thoughts out of my head. I want to find meaning in an empty box of tissues and not spend another dime at a mediocre restaurant. I want to walk among a sea of strangers in a city where you don’t realize you’re waiting because the backdrop is forever changing and its inhabitants are fooled by distraction.