“I think you can’t imagine. Why anyone would choose a different life from the one you’ve got. Why anyone might want something other than a big house with a big lawn, a fancy car, a job in an office. Why anyone would choose anything different than what you’d choose.” – Mia to Elena in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I LOVE this book! The characters are rich and believable, the story line is thought-provoking, and the writing isn’t too dense to read before bed.
Also, as a pregnant woman with an almost two year old son, the novel’s investigation of motherhood was poignant as I’ve transitioned into being a mother myself. Almost two years into my motherhood journey, I’m still processing what this beautiful, yet difficult, new role means to me.
But it is the two characters Mia and Elena that I’d like to dig into a bit. Mia: The struggling artist, single-mother, who is always on the move. Elena: The local journalist, married mother, who is born-raised-and-residing in the same town.
Elena has it all based on mainstream society’s standards: “A big house with a big lawn, a fancy car, a job in an office.” She has an altruistic streak that could be genuinely helpful to others, but too often is simply patronizing. She struggles to understand Mia’s almost gypsy lifestyle because it is so different from her own.
“It terrifies you. That you missed out on something. That you gave up something you didn’t know you wanted.” A sharp, pitying smile pinched the corners of her lips. “What was it? Was it a boy? Was it a vocation? Or was it a whole life?” – Mia to Elena in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Yet, Mia’s transient lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as it might seem to some at first, nor is it as stable as her teenage daughter needs it to be. Born from an initial need to be on the run, Mia could have settled herself and her daughter down years ago. Ironically, because of her refusal to stay in one place for long, she too has given up “a whole life” she may have wanted, one with deep connection to other people. You cannot fly and plant roots at the same time.
But isn’t that a conflicting desire so many of us struggle with at some point in our lives? In our 20s, wanting to party, but wanting a soulmate, too. In our 30s, wanting a family, but also wanting the once-taken-for-granted freedom to sleep in, fly solo, and so on. In our 40s or 50s, when that mid-life crisis hits so many people.
I see myself in both Mia and Elena and I suspect I am not alone in that. I want stability and community for myself and my family. Yet, I battle wanderlust and fear being swallowed by the priorities of suburbia.
What do I mean by that? Well, that I fear not having enough time to play with my children, read, go for walks, write, travel, volunteer, dance, visit with friends and family, attend church, and LIVE because I am working more hours to pay for some house or car or credit card that was so “important” to have.
Or because I “need” to weed or go get some new plants for the front porch or whatever goofy thing seems like a priority that day because the neighbor recently has, or the magazine I glanced through said it’s that time of year for X, Y, and Z.
Maybe part of being an adjusted adult is finding that tricky balance between the longing to fly and plant roots, between creating stability and allowing the freedom to truly live.
Do you also struggle with this? Have any advice on finding balance? I’d be grateful for your comments below – and I’m sure some other readers will be, too!