I wasn't sure whether to post this on my genealogy site or this one. To be honest, I wasn't sure whether to post this at all. I tend to refrain from really personal posts, and pretty well always regret it when I fail in that. But a feeling has been overwhelming me lately, and I think it safe to assume I am not alone in this feeling.
I won the jackpot in family photos recently. My grandmother made the move to a lodge, and in doing so, gave away a whole lot of her stuff to her kids and grandkids. I was fortunate enough to get box upon box of photo albums -- a prize I'd been begging for for years. I developed an interest in genealogy several years ago, and have since been harassing every living relative I know for any pictures, documents, or stories they may have, so when my mom arrived on my doorstep with 4 giant boxes of photos, I was beside myself with excitement. I spent weeks pouring over each album, smiling reminiscently at photos of childhood Christmas celebrations, and staring, fascinated, at worn and faded photographs of ancestors long gone, seeking out familiar features. What a treasure I had acquired, I thought -- how fortunate, how blessed I was to have so much history summed up in these books.
And then, I got really depressed. My feelings of fortune were replaced by feelings of futility and waste. Why give these photos to me, of all possible people? At 32, I have no children, and it is quite likely I never will. My cousins, hell, even a couple of my second cousins, have acquired themselves large families, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It seemed both ironic and tragic that the one person with an interest in, and access to, our family history was the one person that had no one to pass it on to. I, in stereotypically depressive fashion, pictured myself dying in my modest apartment, and...whomever would arrive to clear out my things finding these boxes of photos and having no idea who to give them to. I was overwhelmed by the burden of being the dead end in our family tree.
I know a lot of women my age, some younger, some older, that have no desire to have children. Some simply don't see a place for them in their life-plan, some have made a conscious decision to not participate in the increase in population. Some have approached it from a political position, some from an emotional position, some from an awareness, and lack of desire, to pass on their own insanity. All of them, however, agree that they do not want kids. I am not among them. I have always wanted children. From the age of 5 or 6, all of my future plans incorporated kids. I would graduate highschool (ha!), begin university (double ha!), meet and marry the man or woman of my dreams. Postpone my degree while I gave birth to, and began raising, my first child. And so on. I had it all figured out. And then, I turned 30, with still no sign of offspring. I had put off a lot off things with this one plan in mind. I began to panic. If this, the central part of my plan, was never going to come to fruition, this meant re-evaluating my entire life. It meant redefining myself as a person. I had always intended for "mom" to be my main title - what was I without it? What would I be? How would I define myself from this point forward? I really had no idea. The only other titles I've ever felt comfortable with are "daughter" and "poet". But those aren't entirely satisfying in the staring-my-mortality-in-the-face sort of way. Perhaps my poetry will live on, but perhaps it won't. Poetry is possibly the most finicky and pretentious of all mediums, and there is just as large a chance I will die entirely unheard of as there is that I will become the next T.S. Eliot. And, while being a daughter is a precious and infinitely valuable thing, it certainly won't carry on into anyone's future. I have had to face the fact that I am the end of my line. As an only child with no children, my own direct ancestral line ends with me.
And I guess I just have to deal with that. But this is the feeling that I've found overwhelming as of late - the rational, logical part of me has no problem facing the prospect of not bearing children. In fact, I can think of many positives to this situation. But the emotional, creative part of me is lost at this revelation. How does one make use of their acquired knowledge if they've no one to pass it on to? What exactly is the point of one's existence if they do not create a next generation? And these are not questions asked from a self-defeating position, but genuine, existential pondering. When one has always envisioned themselves as a parent, as a carrier-on of things, all other possible avenues seem foreign and vague. It becomes necessary to retrace one's steps to a time and place when all things were unknown, when the future was uncertain, when life was scary as hell. Only this time, you're going back with the wisdom, and bitterness, and appreciation, and freedom that age brings. It's a clusterfuck of emotion and logic, knowledge and ignorance, freedom and limits. It's a world I never imagined having to enter, one that I never planned to live in, one that I hope to make a mark on, and one that scares the shit out of me.
The photo albums have since been packed up, the best of their contents scanned and posted. The memories have likewise been locked away, sent to their rightful place of things both fond and distant. And, a new plan has begun, if not to hatch, at least to incubate. There is no feel-good, heart-warming end to this post, nor to this feeling, I imagine. But there is a bit of hope, and a bit of excitement, in the unknown. When the plan that has both guided and distracted you for so many years is suddenly carried off in the wind, every opportunity becomes yours to seize; everyday becomes a new beginning.