I think a lot about where I have ended up in life. This week I left my annual lady exam with pamphlets filled with information about freezing my eggs “In case you plan on getting pregnant in the next few years…” and wondering how the hell I got here.
My childhood was one long game of pretend about what kind of adult I would someday become. I begged for a briefcase for my birthday so I could fill it with pens and papers and be just like my dad. I made lists and drew important thoughts on post-it notes, and I sat in my pretend office and made big and important pretend decisions. I sat my brothers in makeshift desks and helped them read and write and read them stories and gave them stickers when they did a good job. I made them call me teacher. I was a super secret agent, a princess, a ballerina, sometimes all at the same time. I was a super chic metropolitan woman strutting with confidence through the big city. I was a farmer. I was a screen-writer and a famous actress.
I was in love. I fell in love over and over in every way that Ariel and Eric and Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did and then a million ways more. I was a wife and a mom–always a mom. Even when I was a sulking teenager who hated even the way my mother breathed, I knew the grown up me would try her damnedest to be just like her, and I was okay with that because I’d be an awesome mom.
I pretended these things because it was all filled with real possibility. It was practice. I was going to grow up and become an adult. I was going to fall in love and get married and have kids and have a job and I needed to be ready and prepared for it. So I imagined, wrote, dressed up and waited with baited breath to find out how the details would unfold.
Now here I am. I am an adult. I have reached the inevitable at the other end of childhood. I am not a super secret agent or a famous actress. I am not a mom or a teacher (anymore). I don’t have my own office (though I do currently work in one), and I wear too much flannel to be considered super chic in any category. I live in a big city, but my strut is more of a casual stroll because it’s Texas and it’s too hot for serious strutting and strutting really needs heels and I’m more of a flats girl. I have not ended up at any of the futures I imaged.
But still, here I am. A grown up and most days, adulting is great. I love it. I love where I am, a flannel wearing Texas girl in flats. I have gotten to take those imaginings of a hopeful young girl and try to make them real. I became a teacher. I taught my students to read and write and sometimes they even listened to me! I moved to a big city. I traveled. I started to write. I picked up my camera and became a music journalist and I saw the world from behind the stage. I climbed mountains and ate ice cream for dinner. I got to change my mind when teaching turned out to be a great job, but a terrible profession. Adults can change their minds and it’s great!
But for all the advantages that adulting brings, biology isn’t one of them and sometimes neither is love or knowing what to do after you tried all of our childhood plans. I am only 33. My friends try to tell me how young this still is, and they are a little bit right, but they also already have husbands and kids and so they are also a little bit wrong. I never thought I would be at this place at 33. I never thought I would be single with these pamphlets in my hand, because even though I have so much more adulthood to live, this moment feels big and scary and finite. I have a job after teaching, but I still don’t know if it’s what I want to be. In all my games of pretend, I never prepared for this scenario.
It is in this place that I find myself in the paradox of adulthood. Future is the cat in a box. I am alive and dead, fertile and barren, married and single. I am all of these things and it is scary as shit, this infinite unknown. It is tears on my cheeks and anxious knots in my stomach wondering which it will be. It is a mourning of possibilities that might never be true and being ready for the ones that might. It’s adulting. It’s growing up and becoming all of the things I imagined, but also growing up and and becoming all the infinite things I never dreamed of.
I wish so often that time would stop so that I don’t have to open the box. I don’t ever have to be fertile or barren, single or married and I can just be this moment. But life keeps moving, so I hold onto the truths I know, the truths outside my adulthood paradox box. I can’t control biology. I can’t control who does or doesn’t fall in love with me. I can’t control the curve balls life sometimes throws my way. But I can control how I face it all. Happiness doesn’t live inside the box. It lives here, outside, waiting to greet whatever comes bounding out. I can make decisions and live and enjoy and let box alone to do its thing.
In the meantime I will read and learn, explore and adventure, imagine, pretend and practice and continue to live as the boxes of my future are slowly opened and truths revealed. I will be there to greet them. I will no doubt try to put some of those futures back. I won’t like them, but eventually I will have to welcome them. All of them. I will take their hands, and we will set off, arm in arm, my futures and me, facing the great unknown together. Because that’s adulting.