Photo by Kristy via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.
With my husband’s work contract about to expire in a couple months, he is once again applying for jobs. Jobs in his line of work are few and far between and we always have to end up moving when he gets one. The jobs he’s applied for this time around are in a variety of different cities. So things are very uncertain and we don’t know where we’ll end up.
I hate living like this. I didn’t know it was going to be like this when we got married. Because of his degrees and career ambition (not to mention my trouble coping in the workforce… but we didn’t fully understand the reasons for that back then like we do now), we agreed that he would be the primary breadwinner and we would go wherever he needed to for his career. I was perfectly happy with that, but even though he had warned me that we might have to move to a couple of different places while he did post-doctoral fellowships for the first few years, he thought he would land a tenure-track position after about five years and then we could settle down. Instead, his entire 12-year career thus far has turned out to be moving from one short-term contract to another and therefore one city to another. It’s not his fault. This is just the direction things have taken in the last decade in his line of work. It is a common problem, but one we did not anticipate.
People with autism tend to resist change and like (or need) routines and stability. I am no different. I feel like I can’t handle this life, and yet I have no choice. This is our life and we seem to have no real control over it. It is scary and very, very draining and disheartening.
I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster lately, alternating between dreaming of an ideal outcome where my husband lands a permanent position somewhere we’d really like to live, preferably near where we already have friends and family, and worrying that he’s going to end up unemployed again and we’re going to have to move back in with my parents, which, although I love them, is a nightmare scenario at our age. I’d like to be near family, but not be forced by poverty and hopelessness to actually live with them. The reality will likely end up being somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Another low-paid, short-term contact in a mediocre location.
But my dreams persist. There’s this one job my husband has applied for that’s in an idyllic location. Gorgeous scenery, mild winters, great culture. And my husband’s salary would be almost twice what he’s currently earning. I find myself picturing a life there. No, not just a life. A lifestyle. I see myself going for walks by the ocean, living in a house instead of an apartment, setting up a room to be my own private writer’s studio, shopping at farmer’s markets, experiencing the city’s culture, owning a car again and going on day trips in the surrounding countryside. And because of the mild winters, I wouldn’t practically become a recluse for five months of the year because of my cold-temperature-induced asthma like I do here. Plus, we’d at least be closer to some of our family and friends, if not in the same city as them.
My dreams aren’t entirely selfish though. I also dream of being able to help others. To be able to afford to give to the causes that tug at my heart. I know those who have no money can volunteer their time, but I have so little energy, such a low tolerance for busyness, and am so clumsy and inept, that I tend to be more of a liability than an asset when I try to volunteer. I can’t even serve soup without dumping it on someone. I’ve tried.
But then, why do I think I even have the right to dream about this, when I can’t even hold a job? I’m well aware that nothing comes for free in this life, and if you want something, you have to work for it, but every time I try to do that I crash and burn. Besides, if I did have a job or a career, I’d still have to leave it every time my husband had to move on, because that was our agreement. He’s often said that it’s fairly common for people in his line of work to end up having marital problems when their spouse has a career, because with the constant moving that has become the norm, there’s the struggle of one spouse having to sacrifice their career for the other’s career. He has met many fellow academics in that situation. That’s why he’s never minded one bit that I am the way I am, even if it does increase our financial struggles.
So anyway, I know I probably seem like some kind of entitled Real Housewife type, wanting my husband to provide all this for me. But I’m not really like that, deep down. I know I don’t deserve these things I desire. What I deserve is the life I current have: A tiny rented apartment (with no dishwasher or in-suite laundry facilities) in an ugly city with harsh winters, far from family and friends, and with no car to even allow me a change of scenery every once in a while. Or worse, living in my parents’ basement in their home in the middle of nowhere.
Right or wrong, I do still dream though. I’m sorry.