ambition / Career / motherhood / Writing

The Mother of Ambition

Tonight, in between Game of Thrones and Mad Men, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and caught an event posting an acquaintance had marked as attending. Titled “The Birth Monologues,” the tagline was “Everyone Has a Birth Story.”

I re-read that sentence four or five times, chewing slowly. Everyone. Has. A birth story.

What was my birth story? My mom had a baby. It was me. I was there, though I don’t remember it. According to my dad, Boy George was on The Tonight Show that evening.

The fact that I do not have a birthing story of my own isn’t a fact that I mourn or wallow in. I’m birthless by choice, and I’m thankful for that choice. It should be a right to live the life you desire on your terms, but we know this is not so. In our world it is a privilege, and I don’t take that fact for granted.

Everyone has one though? Am I really that other-ly, oh random Facebook banner?

I guess what made this little moment stand out in my mind was the way it clustered around other little moments of the day, like a baby bird that died in our backyard because it fell out of the nest, as much as I tried crying at it, “wonky bird, you need to fly!” like I could reason it into a miracle.

Or like reading this article in The Atlantic about being childless by choice and how much I related to the sensation of feeling strange not because I don’t have children, but because that dormant, “natural” desire to procreate has been absent from my heart my entire life. Despite that mantra people throw at you nonstop throughout your twenties, that “oh you just wait, once you hit thirty, things are going to change.”

Tick tock, they tease, clicking their tongues.

I turned thirty last October. I can sense a ticking, but it’s the countdown of ambition, the desire to accomplish my dreams before it’s too late, and I run out of time or energy or talent or whatever other finite magic I may be squandering watching Game of Thrones and Mad Men instead of writing The Great Transcendent American Essay. What did I do this week, I ask myself. How many words did I write? What did I read? What ideas did I come up with? How much time have I wasted? What have I squandered? Is this a week that has brought me closer to what I want, or am I dog-paddling in mediocrity?

I’m hard on myself. That’s what people say to me. That’s the advice I give people who beat themselves up like this: “you need to go easier on yourself.” When it comes to self-love, I’m my most hypocritical.

I just always wanted to do something great, before I knew what it could be. To create something that would outlive me. That is the biggest regret I can imagine, not making a contribution. Demurring from the conversation. Dropping out, settling down, being nice and being quiet.

Maybe we all have a birthing story in the abstract fashion, the restarts we take when our destiny forks. The reinvention that is essential to moving forward. Parts of us die and we begin all over again. Our heart breaks and our world decay and our hindsight finds the second chance in a disaster.

Our lives are constantly being birthed, but that does not make all of us mothers.

I’m usually too busy doing (or fretting about not doing) the things I need to do to get where I want to be to consider that I’m odd. Then I have a day like today, a day where they realized “they” were wrong about me but I wasn’t wrong about myself. And I type that sentence and realize that I’m wasting time feeling weird when I should be celebrating that I know my heart best. And if I know what I won’t do, I’m sure to be on to what I can do.

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