Saturday, June 29, 2013

Where I'm at

Lately I've been noticing all these articles, all these articles about where women are at in their lives. Where they're at mentally and emotionally, how they feel about not having children, how they were terrified that they had waited too long to have children, how they mourned the loss of what their lives could have been...Some are articles in magazines, others are blogs. All have been well-written, all have presented the author's perspective in a factual, generally positive light. I'm wondering though, where's the article about the woman who isn't married and doesn't want to be? Who doesn't have children and doesn't want them? Who's life isn't where she expected it to be and likes it anyway?

I've identified with different parts of all these articles, but none of them really describes me. They usually lose me at the part about the kids. One lost me when she started talking about wearing her grandmother's ring at her own wedding. The parts that spoke to me though are so much more universal. These women spoke about knowing themselves and about being happy with who they are today.

So, as I'm about to exit my 30's in a few short months, I'll toss my literary contribution into the pool of essays about where I'm at in my life, in the middle of my life. And that's just it, I'm in the middle of my life. It's very likely that I have just as much life ahead of me as is behind me.

I can honestly say that today, I am the sum of all of my experiences. I've enjoyed exploring the idea of identity in the past and still do. The idea of being the sum of my experiences is something that came to me many years ago and is something I still believe today. When I first thought of it, 20 or so years ago, I didn't really have as many experiences as I would have liked you to believe, although they made me who I was then. Being much further from those formative years, those same experiences still shape me today. Oh, sure, I can't directly relate this or that back to a particular day or time or experience, the lines of influence are no longer so clear. But they are there.

That girl from so long ago imagined that her life at 39 would be much different than my life is today. That doesn't make my reality any less or more than I imagined. Back then, I imagined that I'd be married and have kids by 30 or 35. Back then, I didn't know that I had a choice. Back then, I imagined that I'd marry that or this boyfriend. Back then I had some really great relationships and some not so great ones. And you know what? I'm really glad that I never married any of those past boyfriends...or any of the more recent ones. And it's not because there was ever anything wrong with them (maybe there was, maybe there wasn't). It's because if I did, I'd be someone else today because I would have had different experiences. I wouldn't be me.

So here I am, 39, unmarried, and no kids. And happy. I can look back and see that my 20's were crazy with some good times and some hellish times. I lived on my own for the first time in my 20's. It turned out to be a good thing, but at first, it was one of the loneliest times of my life. I needed that though. I can see that now. I learned to be alone, to be single. I don't know that I ever was single before that. I can see that I was the most bold in my 20's, but also so afraid. I think my boldness was just to cover that up. I think leaving DC and moving to Boston is the greatest example of using boldness to cover fear.

That fear followed me into my 30's. Those years in my early 30's were among the lonely ones. Moving to a new city, not being caring to myself or to others. What I can see today is that I needed that too. I needed to move, to make a new start, to find a place that offered me the things I needed at just the right time so I would be ready to take advantage of them. Those things I needed were chaos, salary, fantastic health benefits, my family, and a desire (nay, a kick in the pants) to do something about finding myself again. I had to move here so that I could fall and have a big giant safety net.

I had to fall. Why don't those women talk about that? Why don't they talk about the low points? We all have them. I had to fall so that I could find out who I am. So that I could realize that I had fear, and that that fear underpinned a lot of my actions. The beautiful part isn't the falling. It's the journey back up. That's the part where all the really good stuff happens! That's the part where I got learn who my friends were and how make new ones. It's where I got to discover and re-discover all the things I like to do. It's where I learned that I love to challenge myself, that I love to explore, that I love to learn. Most importantly, I discovered that there are some things that I don't want in my life and that I don't have to mourn the loss of what I thought my life would look like.

As my 30's are coming to a close, I see that they are the best part of my life so far. The experiences in my 30's involve physical experiences as well as emotional and spiritual. I've learned to find peace and quiet in my own head when the world around me is in chaos. I've learned that I can do more than I ever thought and sometimes need to do nothing. I've learned that fear should never stop me, even though I sometimes still let it. I've realized many dreams in my 30's; seeing Mt. St. Helens for one, but also earning a master's degree, and going skydiving! I've learned to value exercise and a balanced life, even though I may not always practice either. I've learned to appreciate where I'm at and be OK with it not being perfect. I'm trying to be OK with grey areas in my life. I'm OK knowing that my fears have changed and evolved over time and that, now, they involve the future rather than the present. I'm OK with them because I know whatever comes, I can handle it.

I can see that I'm not where I thought I'd be in my life and that that has made all the difference. I've come to the middle of my life. That means that a good long portion is still ahead of me and I can't wait to discover what it's going to be. Unexpected or not, the first part has turned out pretty damn 40 is fast approaching, I welcome it and the joys, fears, challenges, and everything else that will come with it.

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