I am lucky to have older friends who reflect back to me that life in your twenties is not as life will be forever. Granted, that means that it won’t always be cool for you to split to Vegas on a random weekend, and do things that you wouldn’t dare tell even your friendly neighborhood hooker, but it also means that the bad dates, the entry level jobs in a field you love, crappy apartments, and growing pains won’t be forever either. I know this, but sometimes, I need to hear it.
Despite growing closer to the age where I (Jesus, please, God, hopefully) come out of the awkwardness of my twenties, there are still times when I feel not quite as grown up as when I, say, choose to pay my bills early rather than jaunt off on the aforementioned spontaneous trip to Vegas. For the most part these times coincides with discussing the foremost in bench marks of adulthood; solidifying your career, getting married, having kids.
I have been all marriage minded lately, as my best friend is getting married, and I am trying to cram what was, for every other woman alive apparently, a lifetime of learning about weddings into the next six months, so that she will not be disappointed that she chose me as her maid of honor. (The “honor” part is questionable.) We were talking about her wedding over the weekend when she mentioned that someone we went to high school with is married with kids.
La: Omg, he is?!
La: This shows you how ridiculous I am… every time I hear about someone we went to school with being married with kids I’m like, “OMG WHAT?! WE’RE SO YOUNG?! I’M NOT READY?!” But then when I talk to people about your wedding I’m all like, “ZOMG it’s about fucking time! It’s been soooooo long! We’re getting old!”
We laughed at me being absurd and at her being hypocrite for also being freaked out at the alarming number of wedding and baby shower invites flying around despite being half married herself. Then, we moved on to other even more ridiculous topics, as we tend to do. But later I started wondering why exactly I am always so shocked. Certainly I am not naïve enough to still be thinking like we are all 16 and too young to be having kids (which is when many of the people I know started). And I don’t even believe (as I did when I was younger and had far more issues) that I will never be ready for marriage and motherhood. I acknowledge that at 27, there are other things I’d like to accomplish first, some moves I’d like to make career-wise and hypothesize that maybe I will start considering both institutions more seriously in a few years when I am more ready for them.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, I have no idea what constitutes the metaphorical "ready". At what point do you feel ready for whatever comes after being a ridiculous twenty-something? A magic age? A certain salary? A particular job title? A general feeling that it’s not gonna get any better so you may as well sit down in whatever chair you’re standing in front of when the music cuts off?
Seriously. I have questions.
This is what my life looks like now; I am 27. I live in a city I don’t love, not because there is anything wrong with the city, but because I am disconnected from my friends and family. Despite the fact that when I was younger I wanted nothing more than to leave my hometown, now I ache at the fact that I missed so much of my little brother growing up. That my daddy is getting older and we don’t see each other nearly enough. That I am not there to cook for my aunts as they did all my childhood and take them to doctors’ appointments and on grocery store runs. But, I am not entirely sure all the time that I want to live there. Mostly because I have inherited my grandmother’s wandering spirit, and I’m dying to see the world. I work two jobs (one (kinda) in the field I went to school for, one not) while I’m young and spry because I don’t want to be paying off student loans for the rest of my life, as I am impatient with debt, much like everything else. And moreover, I am beginning to recognize that I am coming to a crossroads in my career, and have some hard decisions to make. I’ve just put behind me a string of relationship failures, and the issues embodied therein. And now I am deciding what I want life to look like for the next 27 years.
I have no idea.
And more importantly, I have no idea how to make someone else fit seamlessly into all of that. Now or ever.
So, as I often do, I reached out to one of my friends who is older than me, married to a genuinely amazing guy, and mom to 2 awesome toddlers.
“How the hell do you do this?” I hollered over her speakerphone as she used both hands on her end to feed her youngest little human lunch.
“I honestly have no friggin’ idea. Miracles? Insanity? Jesus? Dual incomes? Which is a miracle from Jesus in and of itself.” We laugh, despite the fact that we both know this is real talk. “I’m not entirely sure. But our family works. We just try. We try to spend time with each of the kids, and as a family, and, if we’re lucky, try to act like a married couple once in awhile. We try to remember those individual dreams we had when we were just individuals, and we encourage each other to go for them. And recognize that sometimes those dreams change. And that’s ok too. And most importantly we try not to beat ourselves up when we fail at some of those things we try at, which WILL HAPPEN. But I know how you are with yourself about mistakes.”
“You guys are amazing.”
“Girl, we are not. I am not. I regularly am so exhausted I fall asleep mid-conversation. I make mistakes at work all the time because I want to be home with the kids. And when I’m home sometimes I CANNOT WAIT to get outta this house and away from my husband and children.”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to say that.”
“Of course I’m not! But it’s the truth. It’s hard. I won’t lie to you about that. But I think it works because WE work. We wake up every day committed to this thing. It helps that my husband is the type of man who always makes sure he has cash on him so he can order us a pizza for the nights his wife can’t possibly bring herself to cook a healthy meal for her family.”
“So you guys eat a lot of pizza then?”
“Shut up, La. Life is a moving target. You hit a bull’s eye when you can, and sometimes you’re happy to just hit the target at all. But you learn as you go. I am sitting here feeding this child organic carrots and kale. Do you think I knew anything about organic veggies and crap before I evacuated these children from my uterus? Hell no. I learned. And you will too, whatever happens.”
“I appreciate your vote of confidence.”
“More importantly, where is all this coming from? You have never been one to question this type of stuff.”
I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know how to say that despite myself knowing myself, surrounding myself with people who love me exactly how I am, that maybe I am feeling the pressure to do the things I am “supposed to” as I have never felt before. That knowing what I want and maybe even having an idea of how I want it when I was younger is not the same as actually being here, at this point in life, and actually living it, versus supposition about how it might be at some far away time in the future.
I don’t know how to say all of that stuff. So instead I say, “I’m not entirely sure, actually.”
“Well, don’t freak out about it. Give it thought, because that is your way, to think about things critically, sometimes way too much. But rest assured that whatever you decide is ok. And whatever choices you make, you can make them work. And more importantly, whatever choices you make YOU CAN CHANGE.”
I felt immediately better.
I’m happy that I don’t have friends who project the superwoman role and make me feel bad about not being sure of my footing. That there are people in my life who won’t sugarcoat the realities of anything for me, but will assure me I, just like everybody else, can figure it out for myself.
Which brings me to the only thing I know for sure about being what you want to be when you grow up; it helps to ask. For advice, for help, for support and encouragement.
‘Cause Lord knows, I so rarely know what the fuck I am doing out here.