For me, it almost becomes a study in human nature. I expect the responses and if I were in their shoes I'm sure I would do the same thing. As a sort of an "outsider," though, I get an unusual perspective and this allows me to not be surprised by the reactions of others as much as it allows me to study and analyze them.
It's just the geek in me, I suppose.
Here's how the Q&A usually goes:
Them: "So Jessie, how many kids do you have?"
Them: "Did you say...'None?!'"
Me: "Yep," I say nonchalantly with a smile.
Them: "But...uh....what are you...like...in your thirties?!"
Me: "Yes, I'm 36."
Them: "Oh, you don't like kids?"
Me: "No, I like kids."
Them: "So...uh...why don't you have any?"
Me: "I just never found myself in a place in my life where I felt I was responsible enough to care for another human being."
Them: "Oh. Are you married?"
Them: "So are you with anyone?"
Me: "Nope, just me."
Awkward silence. Crickets chirping in the background....
This is how I imagine they think I must feel.
Or, one could just say, that I am perfectly content being the captain and crew of my own ship for the time being. If that changes, then that's just dandy, but I'm just not into trolling the shores desperately searching for a crew. Shiver me timbers, you know?
I honestly don't know what the answer is. I just know that I feel like I'm not in any hurry at all to have kids. If it ends up being "too late," that's ok by me. If something changes in my life that I do get to have a child then that would be fine, too. The way I see it, I have many more basic things to worry myself over at the moment--changing careers, building my home, becoming financially stable. A lot would have to come together for me to justify caring for another human being in any capacity. Struggling is difficult enough when you're on your own, but being in this situation with a family--well, that would be truly devastating.
Perhaps it is my lack of a sense of urgency that is unsettling to many people. I hear this a lot: "Aren't you afraid to die alone?" Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everyone dies alone. There's no great leap into the clouds, hand-in-hand. Even the people who I have been close to when they died passed away when no one was in the room. Honestly, even if we were there, I'm not sure if they would have even known. For the animals I have had to put down, I am not sure if their death was any "easier" being close to someone who cared about them. Death is an ugly, difficult thing. Unfortunately there's just no getting around that part, but what we can change is everything we do with our lives up until that point.
We're born alone. We die alone. It is what we do in between that really matters.
If my "in between" doesn't include reproducing, I'm not sure that it means that my life was incomplete. I know there is a lot of joy that people derive from their families, but there is a lot of heartache as well. I have friends with kids and friends without kids and I cannot honestly say that one group has a better life than the other, in either case. There are both happy and unhappy people in both groups. What I see, that separates the "full lives" from the others, is their willingness to LIVE their lives, no matter who they are with. The ones that embrace their lives, that do what they can to experience the things that they love, seem to be the happiest people I know. The ones that don't make excuses, that love themselves, that purposefully seek out ways to have fun--just plain old fun--are the ones that have the fullest lives.
I'm not sure what the future holds for me. I used to think I could plan out the path ahead of me but now I know it is futile. All I can do is do my best each day, be thankful for what I have, and hope for the best.
Oh, and have fun. Have lots...of...fun!