When I was eighteen, having achieved (as all teens do) the sum of all wisdom, I proclaimed that thirty was ‘old.’ Consequently my mid-life, ‘change of life,’ ‘what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life?’ crises came early. At thirty, I was staying home, ‘momming’ full-time. That year, now over two decades ago, found me staring in the mirror, wondering what my life was supposed to be about. Gazing back at me was a sometimes frazzled, sometimes bedazzled woman who, by her own admission, had reached and somehow passed the zenith of opportunities promised as the late 1970s and early 1980s found late Boomers meandering through their college years.
Idealistic (at eighteen, who isn’t?) and clueless, I ‘went to university’ (I’m not British but I do love that phrase), certain that my dreams, whatever they were, would come true. I had watched “Cinderella” (the Rogers & Hammerstein version no less) often enough and I was girly enough that I longed for a ‘prince,’ but the bra-burning women’s rights movement (the 1960s – 70s version) had convinced me that I could be more than a wife and mother. I expected a career, a home, a husband and children, exotic vacations and neighborhood engagement – in short, the girl version of the American Dream. In those early, pre-thirty years, what I wanted was what everyone wants: good friends, love, laughter, and a secure assurance that I mattered – and that my life, the ‘capital L’ kind, would be significant.
My college roommate became my closest confidante, late-night partner in all manner of shenanigans and staunchest ally. The best of friends, we loved, laughed, cried and cussed our way through those irreplaceable ‘growing up’ years. Both of us drank too much, stayed out too late, and far too often studied too little. My repeating mantra over our irreplaceable antics echoed down our dorm hall – “someday, I’m going to write a book.” Many of our never-to-be-forgotten moments deserved preservation, and I vowed to leave a record, though I never penned a single word. As we moved headlong toward graduation, both of us learned to be teachers. Both of us met (and married) our very own versions of Prince Charming. Both of us forged ahead toward our ‘capital L’ lives – homes, husbands, children, meaningful work, the occasional vacation and the ubiquitous neighborhood watch groups. (Crime never sleeps and all that.) What we thought we wanted, we have mostly obtained. American dreams – the girl kind – do come true. At eighteen, life loomed large, and largely unexplored. College and marriage and homeownership and children consumed my twenties, and by thirty, my own life, far from being over the youthful hill as my eighteen-year-old self expected – well, let’s just say it hasn’t been what I expected, more than I ever dreamed.
Today, I stumble over my age when I have to say it out loud. My high school and college years are decades behind me. As I often tell my high school students, I was where they are in the Dark Ages, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I am that old. We have built a cozy nest – mostly empty these days, though we can still ruffle each others’ feathers with relative ease and familiar comfort. I’ve never given up learning, because, oh! it’s good. So I keep teaching. And seeking the wisdom I only thought I had at eighteen.
What I’ve gained, and am gaining still: Good friends and the dawning awareness that wherever I am, friends await if I will just be one. Love – the “exceedingly abundantly more than I could ever ask for or imagine” kind. Laughter – the howling, gasping-for-breath-until-your-belly-aches kind, the quiet chuckle, occasional guffaw, derisive snort and the helpless giggle. As for ‘mattering’ (like that really matters, after all), I do. Significant? Oh, yes. Dreadfully, wonderfully, eternally so. Life, it turns out, changes. And these life changes, common to us all and uniquely mine, provide the chapters of this blog, just in case someday, I write a book…