Monday, August 17, 2009

On Milestones

[I'm feeling philosophical, so skip this post if you're not interested.]

I know I'm at that age where everyone seems to be growing up all of a sudden, but it seems like there is a spate of serious growing-up activity going on this summer. People who I went to high school with are getting married in droves. Two of my favourite people are having their first baby any moment now-the first of anyone in my group of friends-and my eldest cousin is also pregnant with her first. Other friends are getting engaged, shacking up, and buying their first houses. And it feels...odd. What happened? When did we become our parents?

Me, on the other hand, I seem to be moving backward down the growing-up ladder of events. Was married, am no longer (in the practical, if not the legal sense). Was part of a couple, am no longer. (Single for the first time since I was sixteen years old--now that's a learning curve!) Was living on my own, am now once again living with my parents. Was part of the working world, am again a destitute student. Was to have been celebrating my first anniversary next week, will probably just get quite drunk. Was thisclose to buying a house, am now putting that on hold for quite a few more years. I've done, and then undone, so many of those milestone activities that everyone else seems to be doing. (Insert caveat here: this doesn't seem to apply to my PhD friends. There's something different going on there, which I think the penury of extended student-hood has something to do with.) So where does that leave me, in the world of growing up?

In pretty good stead, actually. I don't seem to be someone who can quite do things right the first time around. I didn't choose the right profession the first (or even second) time around; I'm on my third career (it was prefaced by teaching, and then publishing), and I seem to have gotten it right this time. I didn't choose the right neighbourhood for my first Toronto apartment-it was great while I worked in Don Mills, but I'd much prefer the Annex. I didn't choose the right university the first time around, although I fixed that with the second, third, and fourth (well, fourth with reservations. My current school is the lesser of two evils in the city in which I want to live and work, so I've got to deal with it, flaws and all). I've twice chosen partners who didn't work out in the long-term, although I don't regret my relationships with them for a second.

So doing everything I've done, and then undoing it, puts me in the position I've been in so many times before: I get a do-over. I get another chance at finding the right partner. I get another chance at finding the right job. I get another chance at finding the right place to live. I get another chance at finding the right life. And those "rights" might only be right for a little while, or they might be right for the rest of my life. If I've learned anything in the last five years--those five years being the most life-filled, exciting, scary, changeable, seminal years of my 27 and a bit--I've learned that change is good. And important. And necessary. Because it gives me yet another chance to reassess, move my life in the direction that I want it to go, and push me towards improving those aspects of myself that need improving. Which are many-potential suitors be warned.

So although I'm back at the beginning in terms of hitting those life milestones that society seems to think are necessary to claim the title of grown-up--engagement, marriage, house, kids--I've learned enough to know at least one thing that will forever be true: there's no such thing as a grown-up. We are all imperfect, uncertain, searching, and provisional, no matter how old, parental, responsible, or committed we are. And that's maybe the most comforting thought I can think of right now. We're all stuck in this messy boat together.


Marilyn said...

Amen to the last bit in your last paragraph!