I turned 27 this past December. At the end of the year, I will be 28.
And in 2015, I will be 30.
I know it sounds stupid, but the thought of turning 30 never really was one that I entertained myself with. I was always busy with the hopes and dreams that I had in my teens and early twenties, always thinking of where I would be by 30. It seemed like a magical age that I’d reach in what seemed like decades–at 17, 30 seemed like light years away. I had so many things that I wanted to do and see “when I grew up”…I’ll share a few with you:
*Graduate from college
*Have a fabulous career where I make lots of money and am happy
*Become a singer on the side and become famous
*Fall in love with someone who loves me for me
*Get married and stay married
*Travel the world
*Move to NYC and live a wonderfully trendy and fabulous life that everyone back in Cleveland would be envious of
*Write a novel and get it published and have it sell very successfully…and hopefully write a few more that have the same success
*Buy a beautiful house to live in with my husband and kids
*Be happy and content
High school Me, the end of sophomore year, 2002.
I guess I’ve attained a few of those things, but for the most part I have not. I’m not married. I don’t live in NYC. I rent a house with my beautiful and funny son. I’ve traveled to a few places, but certainly not the world–more or less the eastern half of the United States and a bit of Canada. I have never finished a single story I have written, so I very well haven’t had a novel published. I haven’t even finished my freshman year of college…or become a famous singer. I suppose I have a lot of time to achieve these goals and dreams, but all this dreaming of the future all these years reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite novels, Looking for Alaska:
“Jesus, I’m not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they’re gonna do. I’m just going to do it. Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia…You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”
Alaska was so right. You spend all of your teenage years dreaming about what you’re going to do after high school, and then you spend your college years thinking about what you are going to do after college…and then when plans don’t go the way you wanted them to, you think up a new future to try to strive toward, but you actually never achieve all the things you’ve planned. You spend so much time dreaming about what you are going to do/be when you grow up that when you actually grow up, all your expectations don’t get met the way you planned and your dream life is yanked out from under you. I think that usually you start to realize that life isn’t going to be everything you hoped when you are in your mid-twenties. You aren’t going to achieve all your dreams and holy shit, you’re an actual fucking adult. It’s weird to think of myself as an adult. I’ve never really thought about that until recently. I mean…I know that I’m an adult. I became a legal adult at 18. But in the actual physical/mental sense…it’s weird.
I guess I was forced to become an adult when I had Nicky at 19, but even though I worked full time to support him as a single mom, I wasn’t an actual real adult, in the sense of the word. I still lived at home, still relied on my parents for a ton of things. But one could also argue that living on your own doesn’t make you an adult either. I think it’s just the sum of the parts that you experience over time that become the whole…like the heartache and the growing pains and the separation anxiety and the ripping off of the metaphorical Band-Aid of Life and the new beginnings and the jobs you love and the jobs you hate and the friends you make and the ones you leave behind and falling in love and just every little thing that you go through that shapes you into who you are that makes you an adult. You are constantly always growing up. I think that becoming an adult is a life-long, ever-changing process–you are never fully “grown up”. You never fully stop experiencing life until the day you die.
I’ve also realized that I am growing older. I’m aging. I will one day die. It’s a scary thing to think of…it’s scary to think that this body that has carried me through 27 years of bumps and scrapes and fabulous memories is slowly falling apart. I looked in the mirror the other day and noticed that I am beginning to get fine lines under my eyes. I have a sunspot from my many years of disregarding the use of sunscreen as a youth…I always read about sun damage as a teenager and wasn’t worried because that happened to “old people”. Well, Stupid Teenage Lashawn, I am not old and I’ve had this stupid sunspot since I was 25. I’ve been trying to lighten it with over the counter stuff, but I think I will eventually get Fraxel to remove it. I’m starting to pay for the sins that I made out of ignorance as a teenager. I’m getting a few gray hairs. I get tired more easily than I did when I was 17. I’m beginning to realize that I am not invincible, I am not immortal. I don’t get a “do over”. There is no reset button. I can’t rewind back and try to change the things I did, the mistakes I made. I’m realizing that my parents are getting older. My dad will be 70 next year, my mom 50. They won’t be around forever. It’s terrifying to think of them growing old. I can’t imagine them dying, and I know that it is a reality that I will face in the next quarter century, possibly sooner. There’s nothing I can do to stop any of this from happening. I can’t press pause and slow life down. Time goes forward, constantly pressing onward, with or without me.
But even through all of the fears and where the hell am I going and what the hell am I doing, there is happiness. My son is growing up. We live on our own. I’ve fallen on my face and gotten back up again. I’ve had my heart broken by men who didn’t deserve it, and it made me stronger. I’ve felt incredibly lonely. I’ve been surrounded by my family. I have loved with all my heart and made friends with people who I truly care about. I have a job I enjoy. I am happy with my small successes. I am still hopeful that I will make some kind of positive impact on the world, even if it is just a small one.
But I still don’t know what I want or where exactly I’m going or what I intend to do with the rest of my life. I don’t have any of the answers. Ask me again when I’m 30. Maybe I’ll have an idea then.
“I rent a room and I fill the spaces with / Wood in places to make it feel like home / But all I feel’s alone / It might be a quarter life crisis / Or just the stirring in my soul / Either way I wonder sometimes / About the outcome / Of a still verdictless life
Am I living it right? / Am I living it right? / Am I living it right? / Why, why, Georgia, why?”
–“Why Georgia”, John Mayer