The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. — Allan K. Chalmers
I never answered the second question my husband occasionally poses to me:
"Do you ever feel that I’m holding you back?"
"Holding me back from what?" I’m always tempted to ask. But I know the answer. Is he holding me back from my hopes, my dreams? Everything I’ve ever wanted and still so desperately desire?
Is he "holding" me back from a life filled with the sweet pleasures of Manhattan? Is he "holding" me back from an editorial assistant position at a Hearst or Condé Nast magazine? Is he "holding" me back from my friends, my family, Caribbean food, the "melting pot" of the Northeast and my church? Or is it that I intentionally "hold" myself back?
My instinctual answer to this question is "No, you don’t hold me back" mainly to appeal to his feelings, which are generally hurt when this question is asked. But I’m forced to re-evaluate my answer later. Is that really true?
Another part of me wishes to say, "Yes. In some ways you do."
The honest answer is not an easy yes or no.
In our dating relationship, he lived in Kentucky and I’d lived in New York. He had lived in Kentucky for six years, working down there and spending time with his friends. He’d moved to Kentucky in 1999 after attending college in Florida for four years. The affordable cost of living, the slower pace, scattered population and familiar face of friends helped him feel settled and content. On the other hand, I’d lived in New York all my life with a brief stint at a Christian college in Florida for just over a year. And even Florida sucked compared to New York. Why would I want to live anywhere else?
New York had it all for me: glamour, fashion, a fast pace, history, activities, events, shopping, my family, my friends, mass transit, great food and an endless supply of jobs in the editorial field. Reasons that countered the Kentucky argument:
- New York isn’t affordable. No one ever said it was! That’s the thrill of living in NY! Making ends meet and being the "conquistador of chaos."
- New York has too much of a fast pace. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Hell’s Kitchen. (a nice pun if you know NY)
- New York has a tremendously high population of people living in a small area. That’s the charm of New York. There’s always someone around. I’d feel paranoid if I lived on a hill and my neighbor lived more than a 1-minute run away.
- New York is a bad place for cars. That’s what mass transit is for.
My husband and I fought constantly about who would move where. I often suggested New Jersey or Pennsylvania (where he is from and where his family still lives) as a compromise. In his mind, it was Kentucky, all-or-nothing. Tired of fighting and willing to play martyr, I reluctantly gave in to the move to Kentucky. In retrospect (because hindsight is always 20/20), I wouldn’t move to Kentucky and I would have stood my ground. It seemed like such a silly thing to fight over but now that I’m married to a man who is attached to the suburbs like siamese twins are attached at the hip, I realize my dreams of living in a city are completely gone. I try not to think about it, but it kills me to think that a dream I held so dear (and still do) since I was a child will never be achieved.
Granted, I learned a lot from my move to Kentucky and I don’t regret the move. I do regret not standing my ground and giving in so easily. My act of selflessness was moving to a place I didn’t really want to move to. But I grew resentful and sometimes, still am. I ruminated thoughts in my head: Why did I have to make the move to Kentucky? Why me? Why did I have to leave everything I’d ever known for a place I didn’t know, for a man I loved but barely knew, for a career-ending move? He was a tech guy; he could get a job anywhere. I was editorial, why couldn’t we stay here? New Jersey wasn’t that bad.
I think the question that hurt even more, that still hasn’t been answered, is why he didn’t love me enough to move to New York? Why didn’t he love me enough to endure the high cost of living? Why didn’t he love me enough to deal with unfamiliar and awkward surroundings? Why didn’t he love me enough to leave his friends when I loved him enough to leave mine?
These are questions I should have asked before marriage and thinking about them still hurts.
But then I realized what I’d chose: love over a career. "Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense."
My husband didn’t get off scot-free from my move to Kentucky. It became several of the most troubling months since we’d met due to the stressful nature of a newspaper job that I accepted because there were no other companies located in a 40-mile radius that had the kind of work that I’d graduated from college for. I slid into a depression as I endured 12- to 15-hour workdays, sometimes three days a week and at times, worked six days in a row, never seeing my new husband until he was asleep in bed. The feeling of being enslaved to my job drove me to thoughts of suicide: crashing my car, jumping out of moving cars, anything to escape the hollow feeling I’d once again developed inside. I’d just gotten married and encountered my greatest fear: being extremely lonely even with a husband. My suicide attempts and depression drove him to a point where he finally reassessed the situation and suggested moving to Pennsylvania. After much thought, a month later we took a leap of faith and quit our jobs, packed all our things into a truck then into a 10 x 15 in storage and moved in with his parents. I joked to him last night, "How much easier would it have been to move my stuff from New York to Pennsylvania if we’d done this the first time around?"
I still find difficulty trying to break into the magazine industry, even in Philadelphia. Less magazines to work at in a big city means there are more people who want the jobs that I want. It’s tough competition but I try to be as hopeful as I can and assure myself that a year from now, there will be a position out there for me.
As for my husband holding me back, he hasn’t exactly put a gun to my head and said, "No, you can’t go off to New York and work there." If I chose to, I could divorce him and leave to follow my all-important dreams. So in that sense, the only person holding me back is… me.
But if my husband wasn’t so reluctant to live closer to New York (or in the metro New York City area, for that matter), I’d be able to accomplish all my of New York-related dreams and possibly feel fulfilled or satisfied. I wanted to have a husband and a flourishing, exciting entry-level editorial career in a big city. I’ve got the husband and I guess Philadelphia’s a big city but I’m missing the "flourishing, exciting" part that I’d desperately hoped for. Is he holding me back? The answer… is still "no." My current priority is to spend more time with my new husband and get to know him. Not a two-hour travel to NY for a job. If I were so "committed" to this dream like I’d previously said, I could commute to NY for four hours every day. He hasn’t held me back from anything. I control my own life and the control I currently exert is over the time I spend with him.
In the end, my husband holds me back from nothing. I take full responsibility for my decisions, make certain things in my life a priority and once again, choose love over a "flourishing, exciting" career. Maybe one day I’ll have that dream career, but for now, I need a "flourishing, exciting" marriage.