Sacrifice— Amanda Galemmo 

For a long time, she had fully believed true love was the complete sacrifice of oneself for the sake of the unit. But her beliefs were inaccurate; she had never truly devoted herself to someone in that way until she had, and when she did, she hated it. The idea of finding her sense of purpose in her commitment to another, to their emotions, to their every whim… this turned out to be a false hope.

She was quite naïve when she was young. She had met her husband when she was 20. He was an embarrassing number of years older, but that wasn’t really an issue, and she had wanted so badly to prove that she was an adult. Once she graduated school, they moved in together quickly, and her budding artistic career eventually became an afterthought. For a little over two years, she put her nose to the pavement. Every gallery opening within a 36 mile radius was graced with her presence and she took any and every shitty job put in front of her. But he hated the hours and wanted her to settle down, so she soon found herself married and needing real money.

So she took an easy job with lax hours as a project manager. The company emphasized its work/life split, and she imagined a thoughtless day of emails and meetings followed by evenings filled with painting and contemplation. In reality, she did have thoughtless days at the office, but they led to thoughtless nights spent watching terrible television for seasons and seasons at a time. But even though she never got her idealized life of a moonlighting artist, the fights about her not being home enough or over who she’d spoken to in the day had stopped. She had managed to forge a tentative peace with him, and found a routine that felt like happiness. In fact, her changing of focus proved to be so necessary to the preservation of her union that for a while she didn’t even give it a second thought. Even when a door she had struggled to open for years did so, she denied the opportunity for the sake of love.

Soon, she’d regret this decision, but ultimately she had no one to blame but herself. When her partner had expressed displeasure with her flirtation with the job, she did not have enough of a backbone to stand up for what she wanted. For her, comfort was more important than taking a chance on herself.

Her partner offered enormous comfort, special in the way that domesticity is special. Someone to wake up next to, someone to depend on. But however much can one depend on someone who did not want her to pursue what she thought would make her happy? He had asked her to forsake herself for the sake of love, but the love didn’t even prove itself to be worthy of the sacrifice. And so she found herself younger than she thought she’d be with a family, wondering what she had done wrong along the way to lead her to this position.

Before him, she had been a woman dedicated to her job, putting in absurd hours for the sake of her own professional improvement. Of course, she had made mistakes on her own that kept her back from being on the top, but she had frankly worked her ass off and eventually earned an apprenticeship with an artist she deeply admired  that would have changed her entire professional life. But ultimately it was her that made the mistake to deny the offer, and, again, she really had no one but herself to blame.

So, she resolved to care for her family, for her little unit, to give her child the best life she could. She resolved to be a constant presence in the child’s life. If she could not find happiness for herself, she’d resolved that her child would not be so unlucky, so foolish. This was now her purpose, and her fulfillment of it, no matter how much she hated to admit it, it gave her happiness. And in a lot of ways, I think that was enough.

Amanda Galemmo is a writer and software engineer living in San Diego.