Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teeter Totter

An older woman married to a younger man will inevitably watch him ascend to the top of his career while she is on the downhill side.

We’re not there yet — but it’s closer than I like to think about.

Since 1992, when I quit my job as a reporter at The Hartford Courant and lit out for Montana, Michael and I have traded “turns” in our professional lives. He followed me to Montana, giving up a job he loved for adventure in a place he’d never been with a woman he’d known for less than a year.

Next it was his turn. Four years in Arkansas. Then mine. Back to Montana.

During all those moves, our professional lives felt in sync. It helped that we had begun our journalism careers at roughly the same time, despite our age difference. When one of us had a reason to move (job offer, grad school, whim), the other found work. We were journalists, we were teachers; we were two train cars coupled and rolling along the same career track at the same pace.

Then Michael moved from journalism to creative writing — first the doing and then the teaching. I cheered him on, knowing it was his turn to pick where we would live next so he could do a thing he loved more than journalism. Maryland beckoned.

He moved. I followed, but it took me five months. I worried about giving up the security of a teaching job where I was on the cusp of tenure. In other words, my see-saw was still on the way up, and I was afraid it would plummet with a thunk in Maryland, tossing me either into an early retirement or a netherworld of scraping by on freelance work and adjunct teaching.

Worried for naught. A job found me, or I it. Full time. Teaching. Fine pay. Rewarding work. So far, so good. See-saw back on the upswing.

Well, here’s the honest thing. I love knowing that Michael’s headed for good things over many productive years. But I hate knowing that my up-up-and-away will slow before his, and that our trajectories, synchronized for so long, will start moving at different speeds.

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