Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nature vs. New Trier

When my husband and I bought our condo in the city, the decisions we had to make felt fun and easy.  Walk-up or high-rise?  (Walk-up!)  Lakeview or Bucktown? (Lakeview!)  But now that we are starting to think about moving out of the city, it feels like we have to consider life choices that go way beyond the choice between Brazilian cherry or oak hardwood floors (cherry!).  And it's tough.

The main issue we're wrestling with?  Schools.  And, more specifically, HIGH SCHOOL.  Yes, I realize our son is only 16 months old and our other children don't exist yet.  But assuming we will stay in the same home and/or neighborhood for the long-haul, our decision now could very well determine where they will attend.  We are pretty decided on living somewhere along the North Shore and are very pro-public school when there are great options.  So it's an easy decision, right?  New Trier is regarded as the best school in the Chicagoland area, it's public, and it's on the North Shore.  Done and done?  I'm not entirely convinced. 

From what I hear, the school is huge and extremely competitive.  I would worry that our kid(s) would feel a lot of pressure in that kind of environment.  And given the wealthy neighborhoods that feed into it, I would worry about the lack of diversity in background and ethnicity, as well as social pressures to fit-in (exacerbating my lament in Keeping Up With The Patels).  But, to some extent, these pressures exist at any suburban high school in an affluent area, right?  Should we purposely not choose something that, on paper, is the "best", because we fear that our kids - some of whom don't even exist yet - aren't going to be able to handle it?  Can't we just raise them right so that they can?

My husband and I came from completely different environments and both ended up in the same place.  I went to a small magnet high school in inner-city Fort Worth where white people were the minority, academics were the focus, and where walking through a metal detector before prom seemed completely normal.  He grew up in small-town Illinois, where there were no African Americans in his class (a few Indians, though, because their parents were doctors or motel owners ha), and where going to college wasn't a given.  But we both did well in high school, graduated from Northwestern and became lawyers, and look back on our unique experiences as fun and fulfilling.  So perhaps success is more a function of the individual person and the family in which he or she is raised, rather than where his or her school ranks.  I know that's true, and that success means a lot more than grades or college admission, but there's also a tiny Indian mom inside of me who wants what is considered to be the "best."

Anyone have strong opinions on New Trier, other North Shore schools or schooling decisions generally?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Everything is Fine

Have you ever noticed how much women dish on their boyfriends, but how little they talk about their marriages?  When your girl friend is dating someone, you hear about their fights, what she loves about him, what she hates about him, what her greatest fears about the relationship are, how good (or not good) he is in bed, etc. etc (men - do y'all do this too?).  But as soon as couples get married, they rarely talk about their relationships.  It's as if, miraculously, everything is always fine.  Why the veil of secrecy?  

When I got married, I felt an intense sense of peace and certainty.  It wasn't just a piece of paper to me.  It was finality.  Perhaps that's why couples don't talk about their marriage with others, what's the point?  Either you are happy and content, and discussing that seems irrelevant and braggy or if you are dealing with a problem, you tend to just find a way to work through it or chalk it up to regular relationship stuff.  This is a far different approach to when you're dating.  When you're dating, you overanalyze everything, if you get into a big fight you may question whether you should be in the relationship and when things are lovely you acknowledge how lovely you feel.  While it's a huge relief to leave the bipolar land of dating, maybe having an external outlet to check-in on your feelings regularly and having friends to talk through issues is something we shouldn't give up when we tie the knot.  Ideally you are able to do those things within your relationship, but you may need help every now and again. 

I mean sure, the my boyfriend-hates-when-I-talk-to-my-ex stuff is usually more interesting.  But consider the long-term implications if we talked more about all of the wonderful things and the challenges in our marriages with a few trusted people, as well.  Maybe we'd learn that others deal with similar issues.  Maybe we'd be reminded how strong our marriages really are.  Maybe we could borrow ideas from others on how to make our relationships even better.  The risk of sharing is that you'll feel insecure about your issues, of course, but my guess is everyone navigating a long-term relationship goes through some variation of the same things.  Don't judge your friend's stuff and they won't judge yours.  And know what to keep sacred.  The reward within our relationships could be great. 

One thing I read somewhere that's totally true, though - if you have no one else, bitch to your spouse's mother, not your own.  Their mother will forgive them.  Yours never will.  :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can We Slow Down Time?

The older you get, the faster life seems to move.  We all know that, and generally accept it is a reality of life, but maybe it doesn't have to be so.  After all, the spacetime continuum does not actually change as we age,  just our perception of it.  And if it's just a matter of our perception, can't we just choose to slow it down?

I started thinking about this because I got a notification from a financial institution about our 2012 tax documents the other day and, as I think I do every year, I exclaimed "is it that time of year AGAIN?" as if it were an f'n surprise.  But alas, January 2nd waits on no one. While you are still closing the loop on the prior year by returning gifts from Christmas, the world has moved on to new deadlines and plans.  It seems like you have to stay on that moving train and actively manage what really amount to redundancies that recur in your life year after year...whether it's planning life around your kids' school schedules (back- to-school, Christmas, spring break, summer, repeat!), buying your tx/ou tickets, booking your annual summer trip to [x], coordinating holiday traditions with particular sides of the family, whatever your annual "stuff" is.  The year sometimes feels a bit pre-determined.  Though interspersed might be important and unpredicted life events like starting a new relationship, having kids, or getting a new job, the general structure of our year in large part stays the same after we reach a certain age.  And as each year gets busier and we are forced to think about what we're doing next week/month/year instead of just living in the present, life seems to move faster and faster. 

Interestingly, if you think about it, your memories of the past probably aren't sorted by specific bouts of time in your mind, but instead are grouped by experiences.  Time, or our perception of it, feels more stretched out in the past.  You may think back to the overall experience of high school generally, rather than specifics from, say, 1997 (unless you're my friend D.S, then you do think in terms of specific dates).  Or if you used to spend just a week each June at a lake as a kid (a trip that whizzed by while you were there), it may feel like you spent your whole summers there.  I think back to opening one measley gift  (a Barbie Ferrari!) as helping define my overall memories of Christmas as a child.  Perhaps it's all of our past experiences (including those "redundancies" I mentioned earlier that in retrospect are valued traditions) clustered together over time that ultimately give us a sense of our "life." 

So why shouldn't we be able to think like that in the present?  What if I thought about today, January 8th, not as a day when I have to accomplish xyz, but instead as a small piece of a longer arc of experience -- being mom to a fun toddler, being in my 30s, living in the city, etc.  Then maybe it doesn't seem like today goes by quite as quickly, because those experiences will still be true tomorrow and for awhile thereafter.  By defining today as part of those longer-term experiences that I love instead of in terms of ephemeral measures of time, perhaps I can be more present and appreciate them even more (smell the roses, if you will).  It's quite possible that none of this makes  sense to anyone else and I swear I'm not smoking anything, ha,  it's just a theory about how we perceive time/our lives that I'm willing to test in order to slow it all down.  Thought I would share it in case anyone else was having a "where did last year go!" moment :)