When I dragged my husband’s drunk body onto our Tempurpedic mattress which rested against a custom wallpaper I chose for an accent wall in our two-bedroom, two-bath condo with a coveted Chicago skyline view rooftop, I nearly laughed beneath my tears.
I had just graduated a couple of months before with my master’s in Speech-Language Pathology and started a great new job. I stood next to him as he snored away. It seems like I have it all, I thought.
But I didn’t.
I married a Hindu boy with a good job from a good family. I checked off all the boxes — but I soon realized that life isn’t a list.
Marriage isn’t an accomplishment. Custom wallpaper is just really expensive. And a dream job is meaningless if you’re living a lie.
Having a lasting, interdependent, and loving partnership is beautiful. Building a home is divine. Meaningful work is sacred. But when these parts of our lives are more of a facade than reality, we have to question ourselves.
After I left my marriage and started a new life, I couldn’t afford to buy a home or renovate with high-end decor. But that was fine with me. I was on the road to rediscovering myself, and there is no price for that freedom.
Let’s break it down.
Each word in “have it all” is inherently subjective. In the traditional sense, “have” assumes that we need to own something. We need to possess, curate, and show what we have, tying into a capitalistic and consumerist culture. According to Fast Company, the wedding industry rakes in $72 billion in revenue with the average wedding costing $32,329. I promise you that my big fat Indian wedding with 600 guests cost significantly more than that. It felt like a race to get the best photographer, find designer clothes, hire a wedding coordinator, and so on. To “have” is a competition, not a shared proposition.
What is “it all”? When I hear these words, my mind goes straight to wealth, home, cars, career, marriage, children, and so forth. But when was it decided that this consumption gives us anything besides an Alexa-controlled thermostat and parallel parking assistance? Or that our worth can be determined by a partner and progeny?
Consuming things and people is much easier than consuming ourselves, yet we strive for the former.
Some people don’t want kids and end up having them. Some people long for children and can’t have them. How dare we decide which of these people have everything or nothing?
The beauty of not enough.
The check engine, 4WD, and VSC lights remain lit in my 2007 Toyota Rav4, which I affectionately call my “divorce car.” My mechanic assures me the car is in perfectly working condition. It’s just a technical glitch, he says. I’d love to upgrade, but I am also content letting my car give me what it can. Because it is enough. One day, it might not be. But that day will be later rather than sooner because I don’t feel pressure to rush myself.
Things that pressure us are usually conditioned. They are conditioned by what other people have, by advertising, and by monetary wealth.
At the same time, it infuriates me when my mom doesn’t buy something brand new for herself. Her whole life is driven by the reuse of sour cream containers, produce bags, and my baby food jars (yes, she still has them). After her recent move, she saved the shelves from her refrigerator door to store her art supplies. It’s impressive, but I just wish, after all these years of penny-pinching, she would treat herself with the money she has saved instead of living in a tunnel of scarcity.
Yet, I admire her thrifty ideas.
Need is relative. Some people need to save every container and newspaper they can get their hands on because they don’t have a choice. And then there is the opposite, finding reasons to procure what isn’t necessary.
And need goes beyond things. As a divorcée, so many people expect me to get married again, especially soon before my eggs are no longer “useful.” But deciding to get married or have children is a choice, not a goal.
My life is full because I know I don’t want children. This was a decision I made through serious self-reflection. I don’t feel the need to get married again because I don’t think it provides that much more than a loving, long-term partnership.
I don’t want to have it all in the way we usually interpret. I know from experience that it can yield crops of misery. Not wanting it all brought me to writing. It fed me self-love. It showed me that I need to improve myself to have positive relationships instead of finding others to fix me.
And it gave me these kitty angels.
When I look at my cats, I see simplicity and joy, love and laughter, and playfulness and peace.
So you tell me, what more do I really need?