With only a semester left in college, I left home to spend a summer in the Middle East.
Returning home, sun kissed and henna-haired, I longed to reunite with my boyfriend, to rest and prepare for my final semester.
My mother greeted me with warm hugs and a thousand questions.
She wanted to talk about dreams and plans, and I wanted to slide back into life as it was.
I had sailed for distant shores — experienced new foods and cultures and met friends who welcomed me with unparalleled hospitality. I had learned a few words of a foreign tongue and traveled to ancient ruins and pristine shores.
Now home, I felt grateful for the experience, but ready to settle back into life as I had been imagining it.
At the center of my thoughts, moving toward what I had always wanted: first marriage, and then, later, family life.
My mother envisioned something different, and she told me, frequently, in almost frantic terms. She wanted me to experience life on my own as an adult, to live and work on my own, with freedom to travel and achieve. Grad school, she offered? Or, perhaps: an apartment, job, and flexibility to try new things.
And then, my boyfriend arrived on a plane with a dozen red roses and a proposal.
This — I declared — is my dream. Yes, I said, to getting married young.
I felt the struggle but didn’t have words to discuss the battle I waged with my mother in those months leading up to the wedding.
Ship and harbor are powerful words to describe that struggle between wanting home and family life and wanting a career. It’s a useful paradigm because it describes a series of choices women must make throughout their lives in balancing the desire for work with the desire for family, the yearn to explore and achieve with the instinct to nurture and support others.