When did we go from wanting to be older to wanting to be younger?
I asked my sister and husband this question recently, and we came to the conclusion that this happens between the ages of 21 and 25. As a child, I was always eager to approach that next milestone… at 4 I began Kindergarten, at 7 I lost my first tooth, at 10 I began middle school, at 13 I began high school, at 15 I could get a learner’s permit, at 17 I moved out of my parents’ house, at 18 I could vote and get into clubs, and at 21 I could drink (legally). Single-digits through 21, there’s always something exciting to look forward to next. There’s always a milestone to meet, a skill to gain, something socially significant to acquire. Between the ages of 21 and 25, I earned my Bachelor’s degree, got married, earned my Master’s degree, got a real career, got divorced, partied, got married.
Then life seemed to slow down a bit. Maybe a lot. And you begin to wonder why you were in such a rush to reach all these awesome milestones.
I will be 35 years old soon, which means that I will be closer to 40 than 30. That’s incredibly scary sounding. It actually saddens me greatly. And a lot of people will say things like “Life begins at 40” but that makes aging no less intimidating. I’m at a point now where I am often realizing I can never do (insert something) again. It can be something I wasn’t even thrilled to be doing at the time, like having to ride a school bus or living in a college dorm. Sometimes it’s more meaningful, like going out with my husband without having to rely on someone to babysit or being pregnant and giving birth. The harsh reality of “never doing (insert something) again” is just that sometimes — harsh.
Why does any of this matter now? I suppose I have the back-to-school blues. The summer is this awesome time when my husband is home with us (he’s a high school teacher) and we do all kinds of things together. And then it’s over. Abruptly it seems. But this year brings something new – and horribly scary – that I will write more about this week: my daughter begins PreK. Yeah, I’m not ready to even address that yet.
And then there was last night. I was at an old friend’s birthday party and the other guests were all people from our distant past. People I have not interacted with in years. An ex-family member, an ex-roommate, my husband’s high school friends. You get the idea. I watched them tell the stories of our youth – late nights at Denny’s, college party fouls, drinking and clubbing and unapologetically making youthful mistakes. And everyone was laughing and bonding and all of a sudden I felt like Cinderella. I knew I’d walk out of there and at midnight this fantasy world of being in my early 20s again would end. And we’d return to not talking until some event in the distant future, and everyone will laugh again and tell stories again over crappy food and only slightly more sophisticated alcohol and I’ll be reminded of how close they all were 15 years ago… but also that 15 years ago was a very long time ago.
Side note: I am well aware of the fact that I have the most amazing life with the most incredible husband I ever could imagine having and the most beautiful children who I love beyond words. I promise I don’t need a reminder of how my current life was, and still is, my real-life fantasy.
So this strong realization of past, present, and future has me thinking constantly about time (cue Cher song). And it’s made me want to live in the present so much so that I have this insanely-strong and irrationally-unrealistic desire to make the most of every moment. It’s actually beginning to make me crazy because it’s a lot to expect of every moment of every day. And it brings with it a mommy/wife/work guilt. I constantly have to evaluate: Was I productive enough today? Did I spend enough time with the children? What did I teach them? Did I respond to every person who addressed me, both virtually and in real life? Did I do something creative? Did I connect in a genuine way with my husband? Did I exercise? Did I eat well? And the list continues indefinitely. That becomes an almost debilitating pressure to create these perfect moments that cannot realistically exist constantly and consistently. But then I remember that rewind buttons are for remote controls not life. And my kids are growing bigger and older (cue Fleetwood Mac song) and I cannot relive the days of them being infants and toddlers at home with me 24/7. And I cannot keep them small enough to carry on my back or young enough to teach them to write their names. And it sucks (cue The Verve song).
To end the rambling, I’m giving myself a gift in this blog post: I’m giving myself forgiveness. I forgive myself for being emotional about this. I cried at the party last night and it was embarrassing, but I’m not embarrassed. I’m real. I forgive myself for longing for a youth I once dreamed of escaping. I forgive myself for missing moments with my children for work or socializing with adults or for just being tired and zoning out. I forgive myself for wanting to keep my children babies forever sometimes, because there is so much beauty in all they do each day, all they learn, all they accomplish, and if I’m so busy dwelling on all that we’ve already done, I will never appreciate all they are doing today and will do tomorrow.
Carrie – You’re amazing. And I forgive you.
And in case I got too mushy, here are a few photos that will make you laugh. This first picture was taken the first time I ever hung out with Richard, Thanksgiving Weekend 1998 at Denny’s past midnight.
And this is our friend Rob, whose birthday party we attended last night, holding up a speeding ticket he got during our wedding weekend. Smiling. Because when you’re in your 20s, you smile about that. And it’s awesome.
Here’s a shot from last night. Rob and Richard are doing the “Dutch Dillon” (Predator reference), which I have probably seen hundreds of times since the day I went out with the two of them the first time in 1998 at Denny’s. Thank goodness they’ve gotten some guns in their older years.