I have no kids, and no car to drive them around in. The things I am most grateful for are the things I did not choose.
I got my drivers’ license at age 16 like many of my peers, and tooled around the burbs (dangerously!) in my dad’s massive Oldsmobile. But I lived in a high-density low-income Toronto neighbourhood. For most of us owning a car wasn’t even on the radar. The subway was our magic spaceship to downtown, and the Greyhound our ticket to away. I didn’t know anyone who owned a car until I graduated from high school, and that friend had cerebral palsy, so it seemed like a reasonable decision. I suppose at the time I probably expected that some day I’d own a car—but because I loved to ride my bike and kept on loving my bike, and because I lived in cities with decent transit so I could save my money for travel instead of car expenses, it never crossed my mind to buy one. Living car-free was never a conscious choice, just an obvious one.
Only now can I say this sincerely: not owning a car has been the greatest blessing of my life. This circumstance (not a choice) has given me health, wealth, fun, and freedom. I have never not gotten anywhere I wanted to go, for lack of a car — and I’ve had so many adventures I would never have experienced from inside a metal box. Recently someone actually offered to give me a car — a nice, fuel-efficient one! — and for the first time in my life I had the luxury of choosing to decline. For now and for the foreseeable future, this choice I never made serves me well. May my car-free good fortune continue.
It’s the same thing with kids. I never chose not to have children, not ever (though you could argue that I did choose, with every box of condoms). There were times — whole excruciating decades! — when my bio clock ticked so loudly I couldn’t hear myself think. There were times I couldn’t look at a baby without my chest tightening. I was paralyzed by indecision, and by fear of regret. People assured me over and over again that having children was the most worthy — in fact, the only — thing worth living for. I have no doubt that if I had turned onto that path, I would be immeasurably grateful right now for my children. I like kids and i would have made a good mother. I do not doubt, and I do not judge. I never made a choice not to have a child, but my circumstances simply didn’t run that way. Now that I have passed through the sphincter of menopause I feel grateful every day for the choice I did not make. I love my life, and sometimes I am genuinely astounded to observe a complete absence of the regret I was warned over and over that I might feel. If you know a young woman who is feeling crushed by the weight of indecision regarding children, please, tell her this: any choice you make, or do not make, is the right one. To live in faith is to live without regret.
I never chose to not own a car. I never chose to not have a child. I am grateful for this life I never chose.