The Forks of Life

My response to the prompt of “Fork.”

I. Intro

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

-Yogi Berra (sort of)

My wife and I have experienced enough major life decisions that we could fill a utensil drawer with all the forks in the road that we’ve taken. If I wrote about the significance of each fork in that metaphorical drawer, I could fill a book. But I’ll share some of the most significant ones.

II. The Marriage Fork.

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I was in my first year of grad school in a school near Chicago while my fiancé, a junior nursing student, was in Florida. Being 1000 miles away had it’s challenges, but the plan was for us to get married when she graduated from college and then come live with me in the Chicago area.

But visiting her during Spring Break as an engaged couple had its challenges. The biggest of which was that she was still attending an extremely strict and proudly fundamentalist college which did not allow for us to interact without a chaperone. We could not be alone together, touch, or have any sort of privacy.

In jest I threw out the idea of getting married a year early so we wouldn’t have to put up with this sort of thing when I visited her over the course of the next year. I said it in jest because I thought it was impossible. There was no way we could plan it in time. We’d need to run it past our parents, make sure the pastor was in agreement, and (and strangely enough) we had to get permission from her college. There were just too many hurdles to even seriously consider it.

But that night I couldn’t sleep. The idea found root in my brain and my body surged with adrenaline at the thought.

Is it really impossible? We could make it work, right? Are we crazy?

A fork appeared in the road, and we took it.

We were marred two and a half months later.

III. The Stork Fork.

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My wife and I have always been a couple that knew we wanted to have kids. We love kids and babies. We just didn’t know when we would have kids. My parents didn’t have me until after 8.5 years of marriage. I knew we didn’t want wait that long, but how soon was too soon? We spent the first year of our marriage over 1000 miles apart. Sure, we had been together for six years by this point, including our time dating and engagement, but were we really ready? And it’s not like it would be a guarantee that we could even have kids.

Babies started appearing more frequently on our Facebook timelines. We lived on a university campus with young families having babies all over the place. And for us, the desire of wanting kids started to weigh on us.

I babysat my boss’ young toddler from time to time. She was cute and spunky and fun. (She even taught me how to use an iPad.) One December evening my wife and I both babysat this little girl. As we did, the conversation of when we would try to have a kid came up again. We thought about our life. My wife had a good job. I was a student, and I would be able to find time to watch a baby. We lived on a campus filled young families and their babies, and plenty of college students willing to help babysit when needed. Maybe it was time.

A fork appeared in the road, and we took it.

Our first son was born nine and half months later.

IV. The Job Fork.

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Many of the forks in our drawer are from job transitions. As a nurse its hard to initially get the job you want. There is a definite culture of seniority, and there’s a sort of unwritten rule that you have to pay your dues as a recent grad in a job that is more difficult than it is rewarding. So after hundreds of applications, my wife started out working for a local nursing home. It was a physically, emotional, and mentally draining job. Thankfully, it wasn’t long until she found an administrative nursing job that better fit her skills. She started working there ASAP. But changes in the company management moved her to a different position temporarily, and by the time she was supposed to go back to her old position it was soon to be discontinued, leaving her without a job.

It was a scary time for us. Our bank account went from healthy to empty incredibly quickly as my wife desperately sought out a new job. Eventually she was hired at a rehab hospital in the city of Chicago, and we moved there about a month later.

Although finances were very stressful while we lived in Chicago, it stands out as one of my favorite times in my life. Living in the city was a blast and our second son was born during our time in Chicago. I was still taking a few classes for a counseling degree and my wife took the train every day to work at one the best rehab hospitals in the nation.

But my wife’s work schedule wasn’t as consistent as we had hoped. During the holiday season, many people try and stay out of the hospital. This drops the hospital census to the point that shifts are cut. For us to be financially stable, my wife needed all the hours she could get. So she started looking for new jobs and hastily took the first offer she was given. 

It was as an Assistant Director of a psych facility. It was a horrible job and work environment. She instantly regretted taking the job. But things took care of themselves as she was laid off before she had even worked there a month, making it so she couldn’t claim unemployment from them. 

Now we were in quite the conundrum. Our finances were now very unbalanced, and we wouldn’t be able to maintain this for very long at all. Then one day as we were discussing our situation my wife said, 

“What if I could get a job in labor and delivery and we moved?”

A fork appeared in the road, and we took it.

A couple months later we found ourselves in Omaha, Nebraska and Sarah was hired as a labor and delivery nurse. 

V. The Next Fork.

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We’ve now been in Omaha for almost a year and a half. Our boys are now three and a half and two. Since moving here we’ve experienced quite the range of unexpected joys, sorrows, disappointments, and challenges. 

My wife still feels the pressures of having the only income for our family, and I’ve searched for jobs and have come up empty time and time again. It’s been harder than we anticipated.

So now we are hoping for another fork in the road. But a very specific one.

Earlier this week my wife and I applied for a unique opportunity for us to both work together as partners. We’d be foster parents to 6-8 youth at a place called Boys Town, about 8 miles west of where we live now. It would require us to move, but we’d be provided with an income, a house, mentor support, among other things.

It would be a challenging, yet very rewarding opportunity for us. The thought of working together 24/7 is incredible and we’re very hopeful. Of course there is again an element of What are we doing?! Are we crazy? to all of this. We know it would be a big shift for our family, but it’s one that excites us. We hope they consider us, and so we are waiting as patiently as possible to hear back from them. 

We are hoping that this fork appears in the road, because we want to take it. 

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