Compromise to Survive

I felt the overwhelming need to write for myself because, after making the decision to go back to school to pursue a postgraduate certification, I have been doing nothing else but academic writing and I am so done with it. I undertook this with two intentions, the first to advance my career opportunities at work (obviously); the second reason is because I am at a point in my life where I feel that I really have to keep my mind as occupied as possible to avoid the mental assaults that tend to come with existential thoughts and idle time. I therefore took on a French and Latin American culture club with twenty second graders; school; English Spelling Bee; Spanish Spelling Bee; Saturday school for at-risk students; two third-grade girls I tutor after school three times a week. All this on top of raising two boys every other week when they are with me and not their dad, a full-time job, plus the leisure activities I have so desperately been trying to hold on to so that I can sporadically remember who I truly am, deep down inside. Writing should not have to take so much effort, but in my desperate need to keep busy, I am trading off the things that make me the most happy. And I keep telling myself there will be an opportunity for all those things later on: the reading for pleasure, the writing, the drawing, the learning a new language, but the future is fickle. I am also working at maintaining an active social life, because surrounding yourself with people is great nourishment for the soul. My spirit needs the solace and comfort that come with the company of loyal friends. My introverted side sometimes feels exhausted and just wants to go under the covers and sleep the time away, but again, there is always a bargain to make with oneself when  seeking to take pleasure in the good things.

My oldest wants to be an actor. He told me this one day when he was very small, after watching a movie. He said he wanted to be in movies, too. We tried sports, music, and other things as after-school activities. I want him to be whatever he wants to be,  but I also want him to have a Plan B, so I keep telling him an education is very important. There was a casting call at the local community theater and I told him about it. He got the part. Rehearsals were very time-consuming. After dropping him off at 7, I would wait for him at the closest Starbucks or McDonald’s with my youngest. We would do homework together, then he would entertain himself on my IPad while I worked the hours away doing my own school assignments on my laptop. Some nights my oldest wasn’t done with rehearsals until after ten at night. On a particularly hectic evening, I remember feeling so tired I suddenly stared blankly at the monitor and thought to myself: “I’m not going to make it.” But at least my mind was occupied, and not wandering off into the abyss. Compromise.

One night I got to the theater at around 10:15. My youngest fell asleep in the backseat and I just sat in the car thinking my thespian son would be coming out soon. He did not emerge until eleven at night. I called the director and left a firm voicemail, telling her that my son is only eleven years old, he had school at 7:40 the next morning, and that was his priority. After I got done leaving the message, I turned to him, and saw a look of embarrassment on his face. He told me that I had been too harsh in my tone. I tried to reason with him, telling him he is still a child and school is more important than community theater. I then asked him why they couldn’t rehearse at an earlier time, and he responded that the director had to work. I told him that it made no sense to me that he was working around adult people’s schedules, and not the other way around. He was still upset by the time we got home.

My mind was in turmoil. How would I be able to support my son’s aspirations while at the same time setting my foot down as a parent? And then it dawned on me: compromise. I went to my son, and told him that I would never make an issue of the late nights again. I explained that this would be a learning opportunity for him. He would still be expected to get up early and get to school on time and do well in his classes, “because when you really want something, you will see that those things that are worthwhile take hard work and compromise, no matter how much you enjoy them.” After listening to my message, the play’s director sent me a text message and basically told me that my son was expected to adhere to the longer hours because they were only a few nights away from opening night, and then asked if this would be a problem. I responded with an apology for coming across as negative, and told her that there was no problem. “I know this experience will teach my son about resilience”.

And so I sit here and write just as I have finished the first course of my new education program, and as my son’s play is nearing the end of its run. Everytime I pick him up from the theater he comes out looking happy.  He walked out with a small daffodil in his hand, a gift from the actor playing the main role. He has forged meaningful relationships with his castmates, all adults, and as he said goodbye to one of them just as we drove off, I noticed a look of nostalgia on his face. He told me he is looking forward to auditioning for future plays; I promised him we would make something to give to the cast and crew on the last night of the show. We will make it work, both he and I, it’s just all about making concessions and letting things fall into place.

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