Thinking about all the what-if’s is wasted energy. But if you are anything like me, you can’t help but wonder what your life would be like if you took a different path. If I’d have known even a little bit about what was coming next, would my choices be different? Would I be happier now? Would my kids be happier? What would our lives be like if we made just one different choice?
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
Making choices in 2019
In mid-2019, we decided to turn our lives upside-down. My husband took a job that required us to move. A full six months before the first case ever of COVID-19, we put our home of 18 years on the market, packed all our things in storage units and started looking for a house in an area we had never even visited.
In June of 2019, the new job started. In August, we sold our home and the kids and I moved in with my dad for what we planned to be just a few weeks. Sometime in October, I was sick of house hunting and uncertainty and settled for a house that was “good enough.” Finally, in mid-November, a moving truck pulled up outside our new home, the kids were enrolled in school and I was sure life would return to normal quickly.
On the day that I breathed a sigh of relief, the word pandemic was about something that happened 100 year ago. Virtual school was a choice in some areas of the country. Testing for an illness was if you were sure you had the flu or strep throat. That near-peaceful state lasted for three months. Three months in which my kids attended school, met new friends and explored their new community. But just barely.
In rolled March 2020, with shut downs and restrictions and quarantine. We spent way too many days in a house with no neighbors. We only knew a handful of people who lived within four hours of our new home. And in the 12 months since then, I’ve wondered what decisions I would have made if I had any idea how the world would change a handful of weeks after we made these life-altering decisions.
A different house
I like our house. We have upgraded from one bathroom for the six of us to three glorious bathrooms. We have a little extra space and much more recent construction than the late 1800s Ohio home we owned.
But our location? We are one house from the end of a lonely dead end road half way up a mountain. I can see the neighbor’s house if I stand on tip-toe at the kitchen window. If I would have known that school would be inside my house instead of in the school building for so long, I would have insisted on a house in a neighborhood. Ideally, there would be other kids in that neighborhood that my kids would ride bikes and build backyard forts with.
Now, we can go days without seeing anyone we aren’t related to. We have to drive to the park and the library. We have to make plans to play with friends instead of having the possibility of walking out the door and falling into a game of hide and seek.
A different town
Again, I like our little town. We’ve met great people and the kids are involved in fun activities. But to be honest, I’m just not a small town girl. I like the convenience of a city. I love knowing that there is a great coffee shop down the street, that the public library has an impressive collection and I can send my kids just outside the door to play with other kids.
On one hand, there are more parks, forests and hiking trails around us now than we have ever had access to before. And in a year of a pandemic, that escape into nature has been priceless. However, we rarely see other people. We have to drive to do anything. Even outside activities like the park and the pool require some planning and a car trip. And it’s certainly not convenient to run to the grocery store daily to see if they are restocked on fast-selling items.
Knowing a pandemic would change everything about the way school operates, I would have looked a little more closely at the speed of internet we could get and what community resources are available to kids who are struggling in school. A small school is great in a lot of way, but diverse resources is usually not a highlight of their abilities.
Stay where we were
There is also a possibility that I would have chose to stay right where we were. Maybe my choice would be to forego this adventure in favor of having family and friends near-by. I would have had babysitters who could help with school work. We could meet friends at the park for socially distanced playdates that got us all out of the house. I wouldn’t have to worry about how to negotiate a new grocery store, a new school, a new home and a new community along with all the upheaval of shutdowns and uncertainty.
It would have been less stressful for everyone if we were familiar with all the teachers because my kids had developed relationships with them over the past years. We would have already had open lines of communication and the teachers there knew and understood my kids and our family. I would have had help with school work only minutes away, and we certainly would have established a group of friends we were comfortable visiting.
It’s possible that I would have choose to have fewer minor stressors in my life each day by being where I was familiar and comfortable. I could have offered that security to the kids as well, knowing their entire lives were not in flux already.
Or I would keep it all the same
But the more I think about these possible decisions and paths, the more I realize, I probably would have make the same choice. Two short years ago, I would have no frame of reference of how difficult and stressful having young children during a pandemic would be. Until we lived it, I would never believe that the whole world would stop, and we would have to find a way to go on inside a very lonely bubble. The proverbial traveler from the future could have warned me, but I would have found it so unbelievable I probably would have laughed it off as science fiction. A great plot for a dystopian novel, but not something that actually happens.
I would have still grabbed for that adventure. Weighing my desire for the new against a tall tale about a world of masks and uncertainty and virtually schooling, the adventure still would have won. I could have never anticipated the emotional roller coaster or the stress of not knowing or the certainty that my kids are losing a year of their childhoods. I wouldn’t have understood enough to make a different decision. And maybe that’s for the best. Maybe we would miss our best adventures if we knew how hard they would end up being.
What decisions do you second guess now that the world has turned on its head? Do you think you would have done things differently?