There’s this funny misconception about aging that has infiltrated basically every nook and cranny of our consciousness. I mean, it is pervasive. I see posts all the time in different groups I am in, women who are paralyzed with fear because “I’m already THIRTY and I’m still single!” or “I’m 27 and I still have no idea what I am doing with my life!”
Yes, I know- it’s weird to me, too. But in all fairness, most of us have been conditioned to believe that there is a formula of sorts to follow- a path we should take, reaching certain milestones along the way: 18, graduate high school, attend college. By 24 or 25, nail down a career, maybe settle down with someone. 27-29, we are thinking about marriage, children, all that jazz. Our 30’s are devoted to what? Saving, buying a house, raising kids, building our empire, investing in…whatever people invest in, I don’t know.
I don’t know because I didn’t do ANY of this shit. I did graduate from high school, albeit in a somewhat roundabout fashion. I basically dropped out somewhere along my sophomore year (laws were less restrictive then, and I had way too little supervision, quite frankly) and went back towards the end of my senior year to adult school, plus took the GED for high school credit. I am proud to say I got the highest score on my GED that they had ever had at that time, and I was 100% stoned out of my mind when I took it. So that was surprising. I didn’t get to walk with my class, but that was okay since I didn’t technically have a particular “class” to walk with. I spent nine months at one school and maybe four at another, so I didn’t exactly form life-long friendships. I have never been invited to a reunion, which is kind of sad, though.
Immediately after high school, I enrolled in community college, went twice, then sold all my books back for beer money and dropped out. At 24, I was one of the only one of my friends with a kid (she was two) and the thought of a career never entered my mind. By 29, the only thing I was thinking about was the fact that I was making really poor life choices and maybe I needed to figure out how to be less gross. What I’m trying to say is that I made some impressively bad decisions, followed absolutely no kind of path at all- unless you consider the equivalent of running blindfolded and naked through a forest a “path”, and you know what?
I still turned out pretty great. Yeah, I suffered a bit more than average, and yes, most of it was ultimately at my own hand. Sure, I had moments where I felt woefully behind, and definitely heard my share of “spinster” and “cat lady” jokes. But in all honesty, I have had a freaking incredible life. Even the shitty parts. My life has not been boring. I have LIVED it. Every stupid thing I did, every bad relationship, every relapse and stumble and heartache, gave me something invaluable: Wisdom.
At 44 years old, I have weathered a lot of stuff, and that stuff made me smart. But I didn’t just go through stuff and do nothing with the pain- as many of you know, I got help. I went to rehab (twice), I devoted myself to recovery and did ALL the stepwork. I might not be in recovery anymore, but I still learned so much about myself and how I wanted to show up in the world because of it. I went to therapy- I STILL go to therapy and probably always will. I learned about meditation, about diet and exercise, parenting and running a household like a responsible adult. Learning how to run your own life well is honestly a lot of fun.
There have been many times when my friends have sought me out for advice, and I love nothing more than getting to mull over an issue with them. Perhaps I am not the one to come to if you want sugar-coated bullshit, but if you want the truth, I will try to find a nice way to give it to you. Honestly? I really enjoy getting to share my hard-earned knowledge with someone who is ready to hear it. Not only does it make me feel like maybe I am helping, but it also makes me feel grateful for the things I have learned along the way.
When someone asks how they can get their boyfriend into recovery, I can tell them point blank “YOU can’t. Only he can do that for himself. Don’t take that shit on, because if you start now, you are going to get mighty resentful real quick.”
Yesterday, a girl I do not know posted something anonymously saying she was sure her boyfriend was up to no good- he basically slept with his phone in his pocket and never let it out of his sight. She went on to say he’d cheated in the past, etc., etc. Everyone who answered her seemed to be giving her tips on how to play detective, how to find out what was up.
She hadn’t even tried talking to him about it honestly.
Lord have mercy. I told her to think about the bigger picture! This was her one precious life! Is this how she wanted to spend it, sneaking around, trying to gather information on a person she didn’t even trust? How would that benefit her in the long run? In my opinion, even confronting someone you don’t trust is a waste of time because you aren’t going to believe anything they tell you. At that point, it’s really already over. Yeah, with lots of work from both sides, you might have something salvageable. Maybe. But is “salvageable” really the way we want to describe our love lives? Ehh…I don’t know about you, but that’s not the stuff for me.
Wanna know how I arrived at this conclusion? Scroll back through my blogs to the very beginning, I’m sure you’ll find something. But if you can’t, I’ll just tell you- I lived it. I was that girl. And it sucked, it hurt, it drove me insane. I lived through it, I learned from it, and I am healed now. It took a long time.
Here’s the thing- I would not trade the experience I’ve gained for anything. My life was a colossal mess. Sometimes it was so bad, it hurt so much, that I didn’t think I could survive it. I didn’t follow the rules. I messed up a lot. I’ve still never been married or bought a house or even finished college. But I’m happy, and I’m secure, and I know myself. Once upon a time, the thought of relying on myself terrified me. Not anymore. The idea that I can depend on myself today is empowering and reassuring.
At 44, I like myself more than I ever have. I think this might be the very best part of my life so far. I am truly grateful for everything that shaped me into the woman I am today. And that really is the best part of all.