In 2008, I had a conversation with my mother that went like this: “Mom, I’m quitting my job to become a writer.” “WHAT?”
Just a month before I was scheduled to leave, and after I had put in my notice, I got a job offer for $100/hr consulting work. 1-2 year contract full time. $200,000 a year (software job, and here’s the thing about consulting, they pay you more when the job is really terrible). All I had to do was live in Texas. And do I job I had left a few years earlier. That’s it. Not that bad really.
I didn’t do it. I leapt. On reflection, it was really insanely risky because even though I ended up making it, I had no reason to have such blind hope. I could have just signed up for a good yoga class, some therapy, a weekly massage and figured out how to make that career work. Instead I threw it all away to become… a writer. A writer! How much do writers make? Hint: not $200K a year.
Anyway I’m happier now. I love my life. But that recklessness is still in me. I do feel like this is true: if I put my mind to it, anything is possible.
Having a second baby changed that.
This is how it happened. I have been talking about sailing for years. Drew barely wanted to do it, he was daunted (rightfully), but I persisted. I pointed out people who did it with little kids. We saved money for a sailboat. I read books and clipped passages to read to Drew. I’ve been planning this for years now. Then I got a book deal — it was sealed, when I turned in my final manuscript in June 2014, I would get a lump sum payment from my publisher. That was our sailing kitty. We didn’t announce it, but we quietly decided that yes, absolutely yes, we were going to sail. Maybe it would just be the Caribbean or the Mediterranean for a season until we got our bearings. Maybe Cole and I would fly to the next destination while Drew did ocean passages with friends. Maybe it would just be for part of the year, but we knew enough families with small kids who loved live-aboard sailing, that we were convinced we could make it work.
Then I had Stella.
I learned something about my husband this year: he has ADHD. Since coming to Mexico we’ve had better access to pharmaceuticals so he finally found a drug that works: Concerta (it’s awesome). We also found out that he isn’t a 15 mg dose kind of guy, but more around 50-60mg. We had been doing it wrong for years. Suddenly Drew’s difficulties concentrating were abated. It was grand. I was really happy for him.
For adult ADHD sufferers, age can play a factor. It does get worse and worse the older you get. It’s also often triggered by having children. The buzzing distraction of little ones running around to the adult with ADHD is like the equivalent of not sleeping for 48 hours. It wears down your defenses and where you were once able to cope, you’re suddenly forgetting things, driving distractedly (almost getting into accidents), unable to complete tasks, feeling overwelmed and irritable.
Drew was so distracted when we had Stella, I asked him to get soup and juice for me while I was in the hospital (all I was able to eat) and it took him three trips to the store to finally come back with a can of tortilla soup (no spoon) and V8 (which I have never had in 13 years of knowing him). It’s hilarious, but also, oh my god, what has happened to my husband? It’s adult ADHD. It’s tricky.
Still, we even looked at boats here in Mexico. We visited the marina. I did more research.
The first few months were really rough, but I think we’re back to normal now. But here’s the thing: sailing is stressful. Navigating into a harbor at night, with an ADHD captain who loses focus under duress is just not going to work. Of course, I could sail the boat, that’s not a problem. But these things add up.
I was heads-down charging through with this plan, meanwhile my life was changing around me, it took me a while to come up for air.
There’s my little babies. They don’t really care to be on a boat. They would like to be in a playground though, with other kids. Or have all their toys. Or get to go outside and play in the yard without being tethered to the mast. We could do it… but should we?
No. Not really.
When I had Cole I swore I wouldn’t let my life be changed, but I was wrong. It’s a different kind of leap, the one you make for your family. It’s just as scary and terrifying as starting a new career at 30, it’s the choices you make for the people you love. You leap. You hope it will work out. You’re never the same.
I’m so stubborn. I really, really wanted this. But then, it just dissolved in my grasp and I let go.
Goodbye sailing. Hello my sweet family.
Maybe we’ll rent a boat one day for a week-long vacation where we motor around and island-hop — when the kids are bigger, and Drew has lots of Concerta. Until then, I’m content to admire the sailers who are making it happen.