Here’s a life lesson I just learned a little late: Sometimes all your planning and achieving and compromising doesn’t matter at all. Sometimes it makes no difference.
I moved to Boston five days ago so my fiancé could start his new post-doctoral position in a stem-cell lab at Harvard. He’s a neuroscientist, with the grand goal of using stem cells to create human neurons in a petri dish in order to cure psychiatric disease.
This move was huge for us, not just because it’s an important step for his career, and now suddenly my father gets to say his future son in law works at Harvard (every Jewish father’s dream), but mainly because I really, really didn’t want to go.
We were living in San Francisco, my career as an on-camera news host was beginning to take off, and it seemed to me that moving to Boston for my man was going to stall my future in its tracks, make my dead feminist heroes roll over in their graves, and be unimaginably cold and dreary.
We fought for a year and half.
“Do you love me enough to support my life path?” he would ask me.
“Do you love me enough to support mine?” I’d respond.
It was a game of chicken, steeped in gender politics and childhood dreams and resentment.
We’d been together ten years already and suddenly the future of our lives seemed forked. Someone was going to have to give in. And because he is curing fucking brain diseases and I’m a writer who can basically work from anywhere, I lost. “You’ll find something there,” he said. I didn’t want to just find something, to just make it work, I wanted to do something great! But I also value our partnership and his dreams and our love, so I agreed to come to Boston — to at least give it a shot.
In my mind, Boston had become a hellhole, full of sleet and wind and frat boys spilling beer, devoid of opportunity for writers or actors or news hosts. You can imagine what the road trip here was like, with me grinding my teeth through the southwest, feeling that I’d given in on my principles, that I would no longer be the star of my own life, that’s I’d lost control of my narrative, that this was now about him and his dreams.
But if you know anything about Boston, you already know the next part. It’s great here. Culture and opportunity abounds for me. I’m shocked!
I’m not too delusional to admit it: I was wrong. Boston was a stand-in for my fear that I will never follow through with my dreams, that I’ll let the naïve and ambitious little girl I once was down. That I’ll settle.
He can see in my eyes that I love it here. And so far, he’s refrained from saying “I told you so,” because he is so goddamned relieved that I came with him, that I didn’t blow up our life out of fear, that we’re still in this together. We signed a lease. We found the Car Talk garage to fix our Honda. Life here is pretty grand.
Until NIH funding for science got cut by the sequester.
The whole time we were planning this move, the one thing we took for granted was Harvard has money for research. The government values cutting-edge research. He has done everything right along every step the path toward becoming a scientist — studied for years, gotten his pHD at the one of the best neuroscience programs in America, published multiple papers in big journals. He’s got a vision for the future of his investigation — and it’s tenable! And exciting!
But it requires millions of dollars. And on March 1, when the GOP failed to agree to minor tax hikes for the rich and allowed a series of senseless cuts to go into effect, that money was put in jeopardy.
Maybe it’ll be saved. Maybe the sequester will be overturned. Maybe NIH will get funding again, at least back to the level of the Clinton White House.
But maybe not. And maybe all my hemming and hawing that the love of my life was asking me to loosen my control on my future will pale in comparison to the government, in one thoughtless and avoidable swoop, taking away all his agency.
Don’t worry, my friends say, it’s out of your control.
Don’t worry my love, I tell him it’s out of your control.
But I am worried. And I’m looking for someone to blame.
My only idea is to run for office on a “pro-science, anti-GOP, pro-tax, anti-bullshit” platform. Maybe I’ll Kickstarter my campaign. Since Obama admitted he did a few drugs once and he still got elected, I think my vetting will go OK. But where do I begin?