Small town regret

We’re reading Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelly Rowley for the Motherese book club. I’m enjoying it. It’s a witty, introspective story about one woman’s (Quinn O’Malley) struggle to discover what matters most in life.

As I read, I’m struck by how easily I can relate to this protagonist, her moods and her anxieties. Quinn feels familiar and the connection enriches my reading experience. I nod my head while reading, I can relate in an obscure, yet important way to the context, and I relish her introspective (if somewhat naive) thinking.

As important and interesting her personal journey, this post is meant to be a departure from this kind of reflection, which I already discuss in detail here at Coffees & Commutes. Career, mother, wife, the struggle, it’s hard. I know it and go on and on about it. So today, in honour of the first day of this session of our virtual book club, I’m choosing to write about something a little different.


Let me set the stage. Life After Yes takes place in New York City. It features a cast of wealthy Ivy Leaguers setting out on their respective and exciting career journeys. They whisk each other off to Paris for marriage proposals, drink expensive bottles of wine and dine at the finest restaurants, attend endless parties, hire personal trainers, and summer at clubs. Scintillating stuff, n’est-ce pas? But, while the plot is structured in this setting,  the book flirts with the notion of regret, or at least the fear of it.

And so, before you assume that it’s a desire for the wildly extravagant that fuels my regret. My regret is, quite simply, never taking the opportunity to live in the big city—ANY big city.

I was born and raised in small town Canada. For the most part I’ve spent my entire life here. I went to university and college in Ottawa (which, if you don’t know, is far from being a big city). I lived on campus my first year, then moved home. I moved back into Ottawa for one year with my future husband. Though we were living in sin, it didn’t count as real sin because we lived in a residential community far from the downtown core.

I don’t know why I never took the opportunity to move around, to explore and live in a different place. I’ve always been a homebody, deeply connected to my family and community. But at the same time, I’ve harboured a secret desire for a more interesting life, one that would provide some of the excitement portrayed in Life After Yes. I never indulged at length in night time extravaganza, mid-morning treks to a favourite coffee shop or brunch spot, weekend walks to a local farmer’s market on foot. I’ve never sat in my window and watched the hustle and bustle of a busy street. I’ve owned my own car since I was 18 because I’ve always had to drive where I wanted to go. I’m a country girl (with a serious hankering for the city).

You might laugh, but my favourite movie of all time is You’ve Got Mail. In it, Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) is a New York City children’s book store owner. She’s charming, she has a darling apartment, she walks everywhere in the city and eats at interesting restaurants. Whenever I want to feel good and dream a little, I watch it. It has very little  to do with the story, and a lot to with the setting.

I want her life. I always imagined I would have it. But I was also in a hurry to grow up and life happened. I went to university young, I was married young, I stayed close to home. Life just rolled along. By the time I was 23 I was gainfully employed in my career of choice, married and owned my own house. I never gave myself the time to do it. I rushed that part of my youth away before I even knew this part of myself.

So while reading Life After Yes, which is set firmly in New York’s Upper East Side, I was reminded of this regret. I make up for it by travelling as often as I can. I’m committed to at least see the big cities. In August I’ll go to New York for a blogging conference and I’ll lap it all up. If you are there and can’t find me, you’ll know it’s because I’m exploring. I’ll tuck the memories away for a rainy day, and I’ll dream about the path not travelled.

If you could could go back to your life before marriage, children, career, is there anything you would change? Or are you exactly where you always thought you would be? Don’t forget to head over to Motherese to read and participate in more discussion about Life After Yes. 


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