Today I am Zombie Mommy! Not only because boo was coughing all night. Not only because Harlan got up and became crazy daddy and turned on the lights and tried to force-feed him cough syrup even though he didn’t want it. But also because in the midst of all this drama that had me nursing bleary-eyed in the rocking chair at midnight, at 1, again at 2…my mind started chattering so loudly that I could barely hear my crying baby over the roar.
Some of the chatter was about Mulholland Drive, the awesome fucking David Lynch movie I once considered inscrutable that we watched again last night that still gets five stars, even though I understood it this time. It cluttered my mind in a pleasant, wow, what did that mean? how cool is that? kind of way. But mainly thoughts on Lynchean weirdness and genius got bumped by thoughts of Boston. Boston, Boston, Boston is strangling my psyche.
My husband is up for a job in Boston, a town back east that I haven’t visited since I was ten. I’m sure it’s a really nice place to live, full of art, culture, crackling university life, quaint brick homes, crabcakes galore, and guys that look like Matt Damon and Eddie Burns wrestling each other on cobblestoned streets. I’m sure we would make loads of nice professor friends and mommy friends and there would be progressive preschools to send Aidan. He’d fit right in with his Irish name! As far as places to move for a job, Boston isn’t so bad. It’s not the south of France, Bali or the Big Island, but, as my sister says, it’s not Nebraska.
The problem is I love our life now. I love our life here. I’ve been known to say on more than one occasion that we have the perfect life. Harlan thinks that’s weird, he thinks there are plenty of things lacking in our life. But I really mean it. Those little things we lack, the steady paycheck and steady gig, for example, are unimportant next to the many wonders of the life we have created here in Venice. Our beautiful home on a gorgeous, tree-lined street a block from bustling Abbot Kinney and a ten minutes’ walk from the beach. A community of friends old and new who feel free to drop by for a beer or a barbecue or a cup of tea or just to gawk at boo. My parents just minutes up the coast who stop by to babysit or give us fresh fish they just picked up at the farmers’ market.
I love our life, and here it might be snatched away from us by a job. I understand that these days work is hard to come by and you have to go where it is found, but wouldn’t it be a mistake to leave the life we love here? What if a job in LA is right around the corner? I know we can’t know that, but don’t we need to have faith? Haven’t I always believed that something will happen to make things right? Hasn’t that been one of my guiding principles? But what if it doesn’t and we turn this job, a tenure-track teaching job at a respected university, down? Would we regret it for the rest of our lives? But is another cross-country move really the answer? The thought of packing up our books and cats and loading them onto a truck once again makes me shudder. I can’t leave LA—I’ve visited at least ten preschools! And plunked down application fees for at least three!
I think if we actually made the decision to do this I would just sit down and cry for a week, mourning the life we’ve created here. I know we’re adaptable and we’d be fine, but it would make me unbelievably sad. My baby would not grow up a Venice surfer, but a New England prep. Inconceivable. And a tenure-track position in a university doesn’t mean moving for a couple of years. It means growing old in Boston, in a town where we have no history, away from our friends and, more importantly, my family. Yes, we could leave if we really hated it, but we’d have to really hate it. That’s the kind of commitment we’d be making.
What’s really annoying is that this is keeping me up at night. I often criticize my sister and mom for stressing out over things that might never happen, and this is one of those. Harlan might not get the job (although for his sake, I hope he does). Something might also happen to save us: a TV show, a big-budget movie shooting this spring in LA (that’s of course what I’m hoping for) and yet I’m totally obsessed with the fact that it might happen.
I don’t want to do this because we feel we have no choice. I don’t want to do it out of fear. I want to do it because we feel it’s right for us, because Harlan feels he’s reached the limits of his professional life and he’s ready to move on and do something more intellectually satisfying. Not because our economy has tanked and we have no money and there are no jobs doing what he loves, so we have no choice but to retreat back east and teach. For Harlan, I think there are elements of both. He’s so frustrated with his career right now that this actually seems like a more fulfilling option, and he would like to be able to count on a steady paycheck. But for me, it would feel like defeat. It would feel like heartbreak.
I know I’d whip myself up into seeing the bright side and getting excited about a new town, interesting new people, proximity to New York City and the Cape. But inside I’d be thinking we don’t know anyone there, I hate the cold, I don’t want Aidan to grow up with a Boston accent, I want my mommy.
What if I get pregnant again? How would I survive a pregnancy in the snow? How could I raise another baby without my parents two miles away? But already I start thinking, hmm, with a steady paycheck, we could get a babysitter and I’d have time to write. Those are the trade-offs, I guess. Of course as a professor you never get the opportunity to make real money, not the kind you can make shooting films for Spielberg or Scorcese. But in this climate, could that ever come to pass? Big money has never been a motivating factor for me. Passion usually guides me. That’s what makes this situation so complicated. It’s not about passion, it’s about necessity. I see the good in it, I see the bad, I see a decision I don’t want to make. And I’m having a hard time sleeping at night.