Monday, February 20, 2017
“Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?” You say this while your friends are circled up, each holding out one fist. As you say it, you go around the circle hitting your fist against their fists. When you finish, you wait patiently while the person whose fist you landed on decides how many pieces they would like. “Eight,” they say. Then you continue around the circle, pounding your fist against those of your friends, one at a time. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and you are not It.” You repeat this until there is one person left. That person is It. I need my career choices to circle up so we can play Bubblegum, Bubblegum. Maybe then I’d figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life.
I grew up understanding we become something. We become an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a nurse. Often, we become something through the institution of higher learning. We attend school for many years, take an ungodly amount of exams, chat up professors we think are cute, eat more pizza than any human should ever consume, and get wasted with our friends on a regular basis. At the end of this time, we receive a piece of paper that says now we are officially this thing, this thing being an attorney, an architect, or perhaps a super smart chick on history or financial affairs. We never feel that. We never feel we are really this thing. “How could that even be?” we ask ourselves. “I’m still just me.” We walk around thinking someone important is going to find us out. “I’m still sleeping on the twin bed I slept on in elementary school, for God’s sake.” But, no. You are officially now a grown up. And you are this Thing.
I wish someone had told me this process really doesn’t change as you age. I’m fifty-three. I guess I could call myself a professor. Technically, that’s what I am. If I am to confess, though, I still wonder how that happened when all I was doing was doing the things I love – reading, talking, going to school. And do I have to be a professor forever? Can I change my mind? Can I do something else instead? If I do choose to do something else, how do I choose what that something else is?
Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish.
I can’t say the younger generations have it any easier. As a mother of four Millennials, I see the struggle. Despite the fact that younger generations change jobs more often than did their parents, there is still the question, “What do I do?” Something has to be first. Something has to be now. If anything, I feel the younger generations are at least under no illusion that this choice will be a forever decision. They are prepared for the fact that they will be making this decision over and over again.
I have counseled so many students regarding majors or degrees. They stand in front of me seeking my professional advice. I’d like to become one of those students and stand in front of myself for some of that advice. What should I do with my life? I should know this. I studied for this exam.
Inevitably, during the process of choosing It, we would all get restless, eager to get back to the game. In the end, this was the reality. Nobody cared. Nobody cared who was It. We just wanted to play the game. If we decided we didn’t like the game or were tired of it and wanted to play a different game instead, Tag morphed into Cartoon Tag morphed into Swinging Statue morphed into Hide and Seek. The ultimate goal was to have fun, to laugh and smile and run and be so tired at the end of the day that you could barely make it through bath time before falling asleep.
And in that I may have my answer. Just pick something. And run and laugh and smile and be so tired at the end of the day that bed is a welcome relief. If, at any point, I decide I am tired of that game or am ready to have fun with something else, allow it space to morph into whatever it is that comes next.
Now. To choose that thing that comes first.
Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
I’ve dated my ex. I’ve dated other people a couple of times, as well. When I was with someone else, I felt like I was cheating despite the paper that assured me I was divorced. I wondered when this “having the time of my life” thing was supposed to kick in. Maybe that was for women whose husbands had been creeps. Maybe that was for women whose husbands had cheated or hit them or gambled away the family money. I was grieving a loss. I didn’t especially feel like beer and karaoke. I didn’t feel like random meetings with men I didn’t know. Dating sites are great for some but truly not my thing. I decided after listening to so many others tell me how I was supposed to be doing this single thing to listen, for a second, to myself. And my Self told me I needed time to heal.
And so I did.
I allowed myself room. I allowed myself room to feel. I allowed myself room to come to a place of understanding that what I had done really was the best thing for both my ex and myself. I had to get used to people I loved judging me. I had to get used to people I loved hating me for destroying something that had been good for them. I had to get used to people I loved cutting me completely out of their lives. For the first time, I made a decision that was good for me and for me alone. That was inconvenient for some. It was confusing for them. They wanted to go on with life as it had always been.
I did a hard thing. While I healed from doing that hard thing, I was attacked and badgered and thrown to the dogs.
I thought the paper would make me feel divorced. The paper, as it happens, is just ink on a page. Truly feeling divorced has come from months of tears, from quiet spaces at the end of the day, from the heartache of allowing my children space to do their own healing, from a cold bed on a winter’s night, from remembering how much I care for the man who was my husband and from saying yes to coffee when I should have said no. Truly feeling divorced was not a fifteen-minute session that ended thirty years with the sound of a gavel. Truly feeling divorced was a year-long journey spent on knees in prayer.
Looking back to that glass on that shelf in that shop, am I having yet the time of my life? No. But, neither do I feel the need to prove anything to anyone, including myself, on the degree of happiness in my life or the correctness of the choices that I made. I have never hated him. I never wished him ill. I still care deeply and want for him good things. This is a difficult concept for many to get. I am at a place, now, though, where I realize it is not my job to explain. It is not my job to prove or soothe or act a certain way. It is not my job to live up to the standards imposed on me by anyone I know. I am at a point where I realize I suddenly feel single and, for the first time in a year, can call myself divorced.