Boats Against the Current

The final line of The Great Gatsby is one of the most beautiful sentences in American literature (in my humble opinion, anyway) and it frequently quoted for that reason. Here it is:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

It’s evocative, of course, because it’s so true and so sad. We’re all a product of our pasts and there’s only so much we can do to outrun it.

I was thinking about this last night. Not this exact thing, but a similar thing. I was fretting about summer camps–my oldest got invited to an exclusive “leadership camp” but it’s a THOUSAND DOLLARS for a week long trip, and she wants to go–and I felt so helpless. All the money we have now has to go to the next legal battle, or to bills, or to things we need that we don’t have, like, I don’t know, enough dining room chairs to allow us to sit around the table at the same time. But if I can get those things, it’s another thing behind it, it’s summer camp. Or it’s braces. Or it’s something else.

I got this vision in my head of the ocean. I was swimming towards a diving platform in the ocean, and once I got there I could rest. But as soon as I got close enough to touch it, the current shifted and pulled it out of my hand and I had to start swimming again.


It’s not just the money, it’s like each area of my life is a different ocean, and I’m switching back and forth between them, swimming against the current, trying to keep my head above water long enough to keep swimming, fighting as hard as I can to reach the diving platform so I can rest.

Some of these fights are harder than others, some waves are stronger, and each ebbs and flows, but it’s always a fight.

I’m fighting hard on the money front.

I’m fighting hard for each of children too. The oldest one has that camp situation, needs more enrichment, is having depression and anxiety issues. The middle one lacks the work ethic she needs to optimize her skills and talents, and shares her father’s unpleasant sense of entitlement and lack of empathy. The baby is small for his age because he was early, and is behind on some of his milestones, so I’m terrified and fighting on that too, all the time.

I thought of my sister, who was just passed over for partner at her law firm, due largely to them penalizing her for taking maternity leave last year. She’s been working for pay since she was 14 years old, including work study in college and law school, and she’s getting tired. It’s been more than have her life now that she wakes up every morning and busts her ass, and she was due that payoff this year and had it snatched away from her. She’s swimming against the current, too.

I wish I had an upbeat way to end this, but I don’t. I’m sad and beaten down today. I’m tired–my body still won’t sleep, still won’t give me the rest that I need–and I’m frustrated with myself, because I’m not doing as well with these fights as I’d like.

Anyone with ideas on how to do better with this fight, please let me know. I’m so tired.



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