I have been thinking about my decision to not have children. It is something I have thought about with varying frequency and intensity over the past two decades, but I'm a few months from my 37th birthday and it is only now starting to sink in as a reality.
To offer some context as to why that is happening, I should point out that I am, by nature, a planner and my life story is the plan I spend the most time on. I decided in high school, that whatever I did or did not do, I would get to 80 years of age with no regrets. A lofty ambition to be sure, but it has enforced a specific sort of discipline in my life choices i.e. "Will this little adventure be a great story in the old folks home that brings laughter and knowing sighs to your peers or will this be something you don't talk about because you wish it had gone another way." As you can imagine, that particular barometer has led to certain decisions that have lead my father to declare with conviction, "The fact that you are still alive is purely accidental." Happily it has also provided great protection from all the bromides about what makes a life a life worth living. While some cliches may be true, some are total crap. So in this vein, I realized early that I had a strong ambivalence about having children and decided two things: 1. I would only have children if I felt deeply called to and 2. That I would need to make the decision definitively by the age of 35 due to maternal risks and a general figure your shit out in a timely basis ethic.
Then last weekend I attended a recently resurrected tradition called non-family Thanksgiving with friends from college. Of the attendees, myself and my partner and one other set were the only ones without children. All of the children of my peer group are now in the walking/talking stage and therefore constitute their own small people society whenever their parents hold get-togethers. I hope for their sake, that we are able to maintain non-family Thanksgiving, because I'm sure it will provide an excellent extended social network to all of those children that they otherwise wouldn't have, but I digress. There were several moments during the afternoon as I watched the milieu of children, all of whom I have known with some level of frequency since they were born, that I recognized the impact on me, that none of the stories of these little people's lives were descended from me. I began to observe that I knew the location of some children, but not others. I smiled at some interactions, but was oblivious to most of them as I talked to the adults.
It began to sink in that not only did I have favorites, but that I was deciding, to some extent unconsciously, that some of them meant more to me than others. I suppose this is to be expected, but it still struck me as odd that I was picking which little people to invest in, as if they were mine for the picking. They are not. They are whole individuals with whole stories that literally have nothing to do with me. I will be at most the crazy friend that showed up at their parents parties who never had kids but no one talks about why.
And that is what has me thinking so much about this. With the benefit/horror of the world wide web, you can now find every nightmarish thought humanity has ever conjured about any given topic with a quick search. It is enough to make one feel ambivalent about being human and specifically the desirability of our continued survival. But life, LIFE. Life is amazing and it is so overwhelmingly apparent that life is being created moment by moment when you watch a gaggle of children interact and impact each other. And I will not be creating life, by choice. It is to some extent just another choice, but really it is the odd choice. Who chooses to not create LIFE if given the opportunity? I did and even after all of this time and discernment about that decision, which I feel strongly is the right decision for me, I can't really answer why I choose not to create life.