This will change everything

16 Nov

This is a post about something kind of reflective and a little bit more serious than what I often write about. If you are hoping for a funny post about my mother-in-law or how my wife topples over on the subway, you should feel free to look at those. Otherwise, press on. There’s no poop.

Part of the late-pregnancy experience is the imminent feeling that we’re about to hit a life inflection point. I think we don’t appreciate these inflection points as much as we should, because they don’t come around often in our lives.

What do I mean by inflection point, and their (potential) life effects? Inflection points are moments of natural break, where it’s much more possible to re-assess than while you’re mid-lifestream. In sociology, we sometimes call these ‘hot schema’, as opposed to cold schema, where you are in a state of reflective cognition. This is fancy-talk for saying that most of the time we run on autopilot. Our routines, culture, day-to-day lives are filled with autopilot. Then something happens, which pushes us to be more reflective, make more deliberative choices, to question routines.

If you think about your early life, these inflection points came hard and fast: pre-school to schooling, then school years themselves, elementary to middle school, high school, high school to college, post graduate. They get less frequent then, and less universally-shared: first real job, graduate school, marriage, kids, death of loved ones maybe. There are less inflection-ish inflection points, like promotions, but these are not exactly the same.

This is, I think, why post-collegiate relationships, and sometimes jobs, are such a bear. In absence of a natural break (graduation), you have to bring yourself to make a decision about what you want your life to be like. I would also argue it’s why people go to business school after working for a while – it is an opportunity to learn new stuff and formalize knowledge, yes, but it’s also a way to plant yourself and re-orient your career. Like the HS/college relationship, most MBA students don’t go back to their previous job.

The baby is providing us with another one of these moments – in the form of ‘OMG everything will change!’ rhetoric, but also things like when we say it’s not clear I (or baby mama) would want to back to our jobs after the baby comes. ‘You just might feel different,’ is what people tell us. What my partner tells me. What I tell myself. This is sometimes cringe-worthy, since the biggest effect of children on our friends is that they suddenly stop doing fun stuff with us. But it’s also enticing. An inflection point! Let’s not waste it!

I look out with eager anticipation at the ability to be deliberative about my life. I know, I know, deliberative with a newborn means no sleep and lots of routine baby-monitoring. That’s not so much ‘deliberative’ as it is a potential cause of death. At least in rats. In a matter of weeks. Even with this caveat, we don’t want to waste a good inflection point. We’re looking at houses, and figuring out our careers, all at the same time. If we do come out the other side of this inflection point without having changed anything, I have to admit I may feel a little disappointed.

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2 Responses to “This will change everything”

  1. Kim November 17, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Despite the serious nature of this post, it was a standout. These points in our lives for which you finally gave me a name invoke such excitement, anxiety and uncertainty. For someone as indecisive as I am, there is the eternally lingering, “Did I make the right choice?” What I’m learning as I navigate these inflection points is that I’ll probably never know if I did. Or that there were several “right” choices. I can feel good about the resulting experiences, but will always wonder about the paths I didn’t pursue. One truth persists (albeit cliche): when I make the choices based on those whom I love, any regrets about what I may have compromised dim over time. And hopefully, the sense of *possibility* outweighs the sense of dread! Yes, your life and Erica’s will change. But you two have sense strong senses of self and of each other, and your acute awareness and love of debate and analysis will never let you lose that! I’d even venture to suggest that one of the best things about a new little person joining you is seeing an added dimension to your partner. Enjoy!

  2. Peter November 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    And hopefully, the sense of *possibility* outweighs the sense of dread!

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Kim, I think this really gets at it – the sense of possibility. The interesting and absurd thing is that I think we underestimate the sense of possibility more often than not when we are in the automatic mode. But either sense of dread or feeling overwhelmed by big changes, etc. keep us (me) from acting. This is all part of my ongoing career angst as much as the baby.

    I like that love looms large as a way to navigate. I’m seriously grooving on that.

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