A friend called me this week who was feeling pretty low — more than a little worried about where he is in his life and what may come next. He’s made some really big decisions recently (a new job,a big move) so I understand how difficult this situation is for him. I wish there was something I could do or say to help, but I’m not sure there is.
For me, and for a lot of my friends, life seemed pretty simple when we were kids. Many of our moms stayed home, made dinner from scratch, and kept life both fun and orderly. Many of our dads always had the same jobs and got home at 5:30. Many of us were lucky enough to graduate from high school with our kindergarten friends. Maybe we had bumps in our roads, but they were pretty small bumps. I’m not saying everyone reading this is from easy street, but I know most of the seven or eight people who read this blog, and I can say that our street was pretty easy.
But we’re the grown ups now. And from this side of things, it seems a little more complicated. I’ve already done plenty of writing about the tightrope routine of a two-job household, and what I think about being a working mom. It’s not any easier for families where one person works. The person who’s employed takes on a ridiculous amount of responsibility, sometimes at the cost of happiness and sanity. The person who’s not working can feel the weight of that responsibility and worry about it, but can’t do much to help.
At around 40, we’re still just getting started. Most of us have at least 20 or 25 years of work ahead, and we have to figure out how we’ll ever retire. Maybe we’ll have to change jobs a few times more, which is the stress-equivalent of a tsunami in my opinion. Maybe we’ll move. Maybe there’s college to pay for — God help us. We might have parents who need help. We might have children who won’t leave the nest. And that doesn’t even tackle potential health crises or unforeseeable emergencies.
It’s a wonder that anyone sleeps at night. Or at all. (And I assume our parents didn’t sleep either – they just didn’t tell us.)
We’re often waiting for the magical day in the future when things will settle down. Or waiting for confirmation that we’re doing the right thing — making the right choices. Sadly, I’m not sure that day is coming.
Life is complicated, difficult, and bumpier than we thought. But here’s an important reminder: it’s also filled with small delights. I actually love being a grown up. I still like not having homework. I like having my own house. I love being a mom. I suspect that I’ll really like being an old person, when I plan on drinking wine with lunch and eating pie for breakfast. We should all try to remember to appreciate small but great things that happen all the time: a good book, a sunny day, a funny joke, a milkshake, a ticklish kid. Because bumpy or not: this is it. We don’t get a practice life, only this one.