When I was little, like most children I was impatient for the day that I became “big”, a grown-up. I would dream about what my life would be like.
Now, like many adults, I have a tendency to bemoan my age, deny the passage of yet another birthday, and wish for my youth (well, maybe not too much youth- but perhaps my 20’s).
Earlier last year I was at a bar and a rather cute (actually very cute) guy started to chat to me. His friend then announced that it was this man’s birthday, so of course, I wished him happy birthday. He replied “thanks! How old do you think I am?”. To which I regretfully replied “Younger than me!”. The instant the words passed my lips I wished I had simply said “28”. Partly because the moment I uttered it the guy literally turned and walked away. But mostly, because saying it made me feel even older than I already did.
Truth be told, I felt out-of-place in the bar, even though there were people there who were older than I was, at the time I just felt old, like my life was over, my best years in the past and nothing but work and growing old alone to look forward to. As a very enlightening conversation with a close friend recently revealed, those thoughts began to define me. “Hi , I’m old and I’m single and I’m heartbroken- actually, I’m just broken.”
First of all, not exactly an endearing attitude. Second of all, 32 is not that old. Logically, I know that. But at the time I was still so heartbroken in my mind I was drawing up a timeline- ‘ok so if it takes me another year or so to get over this, then another year to find someone, then we have to be together for a couple of years before marriage, then another couple of years to enjoy our marriage before we think about children….I’m going to be 36 when I get married, and at least 38 before I have children- that’s just too late!! I don’t want to be an old bride! I don’t want to have children still living at home when I’m retiring! I don’t want to be an old mum- I want to be able to keep up with my kids…’, etc, etc, ad nauseam.
The fact is, I am a 32 year old, who happens to be living the life of a 20-something (I like to think 27/28!) only, when you think about it, kind of better. I mean, I have completed many things academically that the average 27/28 year old has not, I have had my heart absolutely obliterated and recovered, I have the financial security and years of experience in he workforce that most 27-28 year olds do not have, I have bought a house by myself, I can afford to go on some great overseas holidays -if I choose (but in 2011 I choose renovations)- which brings me to another point- I have no-one to answer to- sometimes not even my boss. Really, there is in fact, very little about my life that isn’t pretty great.
But that night in the bar, what I wanted was to be the 20 something that the man ended up spending the night chatting to, I wanted to be the 28 year old work colleague I was out with who is happily married and about to buy a lovely house in one of my dream suburbs with her husband. I wanted to be the woman who Mr X loves and is settling down with. I wanted to be anyone but me.
The grass is always greener.
My happily married friend jokes about living her life vicariously through me because though she loves her husband and her children, hearing about my atrocious dates is much more entertaining than discussing what vegetable her children were willing to “taste” that day. Yet, to me, to have a husband partner who I love and vice versa, is the Holy Grail.
We are never satisfied. Always striving to be better, to move to the next thing, believing that if we only had “such and such” we would be happy. By definition, what that means, however, is that we are never happy! The moment we get what we want, we then decide we want what the next person has.
Unless…we can learn to look to the future, to work towards the next phase, but remain grounded in the present, and take the time to enjoy what we have and what we have achieved. To be satisfied now, having the knowledge that very few things stay the same, and our circumstances will be different tomorrow sometimes worse, sometimes better, and that change is something we have little control over.
This year, I am learning to appreciate my life for what it is now and to try to worry less about what will or will not happen. The fact that I am ok- no, happy– with the way things are right now, does not preclude me from wanting all of the things I wanted before, and sometimes I will become impatient and I will get upset, but then I’ll go for a run, or walk the dogs, or flop myself down on my couch with my laptop, or remote, or book and ignore the dishes in the kitchen sink for the evening, because I know I can, and I know there is no-one here to grouch about it.