If you had asked me at 16 what my life would look like at 26, I would have rattled off some apple pie like vision involving a dashing husband, a couple of kids and a golden retriever named Sandy. I feel quite certain that the iconic ‘picket fence’ reference would have also made it into the mix. While my life at said age of 26 currently involves none of those things, I do, however, have a dashing boyfriend, a couple of plants and a pomeranian named Cooper...but still no fence of any kind.
Am I thoroughly disappointed that my life has not panned out as I envisioned? As who envisioned? Not me. Not really. At 16, I simply regurgitated what seemed like an appropriate response to such a question. I wasn’t really aware of my options. A typical ten-year post high school timeline unfolds as follows: college, job, marriage, honeymoon phase, babies. I don’t even know why I bothered to cite such a redundancy since I know full well that you all know exactly what I mean. This is what I knew of the future. This is what I was led to expect
Now, for some, this timeline is perfect. You may be reading this right now while wiping the pureed peas from the corner of your precious baby’s mouth and thinking “my life has unfolded exactly the way I wanted it to.” In this case, congratulations, you are one hell of a multi-tasker. Reading and feeding a baby at the same time.
For others of us, marriage and children and a house and two cars may be on the back burner. In my case, they’re not on the stove at all...haven’t even put them in a pot yet...don’t know if I have a pot...the right size pot, I mean...does anyone have a good recipe?...let’s just order take out.
I answered the phone in the grocery store the other day, and my friend says to me: “Katie Fisher is pregnant and if I have to go to another baby shower I’ll shoot myself, Tiffany. I can’t take it.”
“Don’t want to have to buy another gift? I hate shopping too, but baby shoes are so cute! Just go for the shoes. It will be a shopping pleasure.”
“No, I’m sick and tired of everyone moving forward with their lives except me.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you want a baby right now? Because the last time I checked you had badass career goals, an active social life and a list of travel destinations a country mile long. But if you want a baby, by all means, abandon all forms of contraception because I’d love an excuse to go to Chuck E. Cheese on the reg.”
"Momentary lapse of judgement. I'm back to reality now."
"Momentary lapse of judgement. I'm back to reality now."
We use adult milestones to track our progress in life like a fucking grade school progress report. But the reality is, you don’t get four gold stars for getting married under the age of thirty. You do however, get four gold stars if you marry someone who brings out the best in you and nurtures your personal growth and supports you in all you do regardless of your age. You also get four gold stars for recognizing that marriage is not a priority for you after all. Hell, you get as many gold stars as you want. They can also be silver...or green...or fucking dinosaurs for all I care...and I do mean that literally...you can track your progress in life with stickers of dinosaurs engaged in sexual intercourse, because you create your own reality. No one is signing your report card. I’m wrapping this metaphor up as we speak, which is difficult because it is so funny to me.
So how do I know when my life is progressing nicely if there is no standard to follow? What’s good and what’s bad? Good is good because it’s not this, which is bad...unless...
You decide what your values are and what makes you happy. This is all that matters. But you have to....absolutely have to...oh yes, you must... please understand that it is imperative that you be completely and totally honest with yourself. Oh please, please, pleeeasee just be gut-wrenchingly and brutally honest with yourself.
Sound scary? It is! I promise you that. It’s scary as fuck to be honest about what you truly want in life because then you can’t ignore it; you have to do something about it. No more living undercover.
I have a dear friend. An oh so dear friend. Have you been thankful for your dear friends today? Take a moment to be thankful for your dearest dear friends. But this dear friend of mine is going through something special. She’s been living as someone else for the last few years. She came into this world with big dreams, which is perfect, because they match her big personality. But for the sake of being realistic, she buried them deep down inside herself. In fact, she hid them so well that even she couldn’t find them anymore.
So many of us do this. Day after day, we live a lie.
Now my friend has uncovered her own secret. She has now realized that she is in the wrong profession and ultimately the wrong life. Is she elated? You might think that discovering who you are and where you want to go would be like discovering buried treasure! Fucking solid gold!
But no. No, she is quite terrified. Because once you discover these secret desires, you are faced with the daunting task of fulfilling them. And then there’s the sadness. You’re so sad that you lost sight of yourself in the first place.
“We begin to excavate our buried dreams. This is a tricky process. Some of our dreams are very volatile, and the mere act of brushing them off sends an enormous surge of energy bolting through our denial system. Such grief! Such loss! Such pain!....We mourn the self we abandoned. We greet this self as we might greet a lover at the end of a long costly war.” With our pants down. Disregard that last statement. (pg 22)
She goes on to discuss how the dream recovery process leads us to mourn the “nice” self we’ve made do with. The safe self. The self our parents want us to be. The self that will always have a job, even if it’s a job we despise. The self who dreams of the weekend on Monday afternoon. The self that is empty and unfulfilled. The self that is too afraid to demand more from life. The self that pleads:
“you don’t have the talent! the intelligence! or the looks for this!”
“you don’t have a degree in this field!”“everyone will think you’re crazy!”
“you’re too old to start something new!”
But here’s the deal: you can start anywhere, anytime. This ain’t Jumanji. You don’t have to play through this career or this marriage or this (insert unfulfilling life situation) all the while hoping you make it out alive. You can say, “I quit this game. I don’t care for these aggressive monkeys.” The freedom is yours to start over whenever you want. You just have to be badass enough, which I trust you are.
Part of the transition is recognizing that the sadness and fear that Cameron describes are a normal part of rediscovering your real and true dreams. If you can push through these emotions, there are many rewards
waiting for you on the other side.
“Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth. Without this creative moistening, we may remain barren. We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightening illuminates.” And AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” plays in the background...(pg 22)
“But everyone my age is married! Shouldn’t I be too? I don’t want to die alone”
If everyone else was jumping off a bridge would you do it too? And die alone? You’re in your 20s. But hey, if you want to live in a forced intimate relationship and sleep next to someone you married out of fear, then by all means, let’s ring those wedding bells.
“My parents will be disappointed if ditch law school to become a writer.”
Your parents will be even more disappointed if you become a shitty lawyer with a drinking problem, which is what you’ll probably be if your passions are elsewhere. Now try and argue with that.
“I make good money at my job and I’m afraid that I’ll go broke pursuing my passions.”
Two words: Ebenezer Scrooge. Jk, that’s valid. Don’t be irresponsible and throw caution to the wind (financially speaking); just define your values and remember that income is never static. Walt Disney went bankrupt before going on to create his SUPERFUN empire. You may have some tough times, but doing what you love will make up for the year you ate cereal for dinner every night.
One of the most tragic things to me is a person who does not follow their dreams off the beaten pathway of life. There is no appropriate age or place to start living your life the way you honestly want to. You may wish that you’d done this sooner. Regret for the past is a foolish reason not to take advantage of the future. There is no turning back...going forward is all we have.
The moral of this story is where can I buy stickers of dinosaurs having sex?
Now, go live your dreams or someone else will.