As the sun begins to slowly, but very, very surely set on my 20s, I’m finding myself in an unfamiliar emotional state. Not atypical, I presume, for those about to jump into a new decade (in the interest of full disclosure, I can’t remember my 10th birthday and, for reasons better left unsaid, I’m also unable to remember my 20th so this emotional smorgasbord revolving around aging is new to me). But each day I draw nearer to this “momentous” day — this turning of a decade — a new sentiment surfaces. I think, “oh yeah, hey…I’m ready for this. Nothing’s going to change! Just another year. Aging to perfection like a fine wine. Or cheese. Or whiskey. Or whatever.” And then a few minutes pass and I think, “damn — I’ve been a 20-something for ten years — an age during which so much is acceptable. Errors are part of the learning curve. Flops, successes, failures, triumphs — it’s all part of the game. What excuse will I have to act like a child? To be selfish? To screw up? To not be as far along in life as I should? Did I really live in my twenties?!?”
As a human rather in touch with my emotions (albeit more often than not, unable to voice them), I’ve gone ahead and rolled the smaller, more impulsive feelings into some broader, more comprehensive ones. A solid mixture of anticipation, trepidation, hope, and extreme excitement, let’s, for lack of a better term, call my current state an emotional love child (I love me some love children).
The way I see it (assuming I don’t choke on a kale stem, take a bus to the face, or fall out of a tree), we get only ten decades to get it right (unless you’re Alice Sommer Herz, who just turned 110 — then you get at least 11). Ten decades to leave our mark — to live a life entirely. That may sound like an adequate amount of time, but after living out three of them, it now seems a bit fleeting. No pressure or anything…
I obviously can’t recount all of my steps over the past ten years (I’m not even sure I remember what I had for dinner last night), and, to be honest, if you asked me to provide, in any sort of detail, the happenings of the past decade, I know I’d leave out a million and a half significant moments. But I’ve learned a hell of a lot over these past 3,650 days. I only wish that I would’ve generated a similar list leading up to my 20s. Mostly for my own enjoyment, but also to act as a gauge — a tool of measurement to accurately illustrate just how much I’ve grown over the last ten years.
While it’s true that these lessons have been learned and relearned from a vast collection of experiences over the past 30 years, they’ve been exceptionally apparent throughout this journey through my 20s (or maybe I’m just more aware — let’s not read too much into it)…
I’ve learned to fail (with grace, most of the time). I’ve learned to explore. I’ve learned to be humble. I’ve learned to love with every centimeter of my body: wholly and unconditionally. I’ve learned to cry. I’ve learned to always give more than I receive (except when it’s a massage — always take more when it comes to a massage). I’ve learned to work hard, no matter what I’m working at. I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned to appreciate red wine. I’ve learned that my shortcomings aren’t so detrimental. I’ve learned true responsibility. I’ve learned that my dog is sometimes the best listener. I’ve learned to be patient (okay — just kidding — still working on this one). I’ve learned to be good to my body — to nourish it, to work it, to listen to it. I’ve learned to be kind, always (except to those that I don’t like). I’ve learned to accept change, to roll with the punches. I’ve learned to be one with the earth — to truly appreciate nature and the beauty and nourishment it provides us. I’ve learned that relationships — even the most perfect — take a lot of work. I’ve learned to live simply (while still supporting a healthy shopping habit). I’ve learned self control (or some variation of such). I’ve learned and embraced the importance of family. I’ve learned to compromise. I’ve learned to be alone. I’ve learned to accept the things that I cannot change (ie: not being able to eat pizza every night without packing on the pounds). I’ve learned to prioritize. I’ve learned to laugh at myself. I’ve learned the true meaning of dedication. I’ve learned how to deal with letdowns and disappointments. I’ve learned to smile at strangers. I’ve learned to cherish my friends (the good ones — you know who you are) even if life pulls us in different directions. I’ve learned the art of conversation. I’ve learned to love the kitchen. I’ve learned to be less afraid. I’ve learned to appreciate. I’ve learned to reflect (clearly).
This list is undoubtedly lacking a great many things I’ve absorbed over the past decade, but we all get the gist. And, as was the point of this little spew, I’m finally starting to wrap my head around just what’s going on here.
The last ten years have been nothing shy of life-altering. And I suppose that’s all part of growing up. The years change us, especially as they start piling up. Will we ever be who we think we’re supposed to be? Who we thought we’d be? I don’t know. I’m not even sure who that person is. Maybe we’re not meant to know. Maybe that’s what keeps us going — keeps us learning and growing and living. Maybe the urge to identify my emotional love child is simply an exercise in staying in touch with myself – in rendering a succinct line between where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Maybe it’s just to help me realize that over this past decade I’ve successfully set the foundation for the life I want to live. A foundation full of love and passion and support and dedication. A foundation that’s guaranteed to lift me back up, no matter how hard I fall.
So maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Maybe I’m looking for the wrong answers. Maybe my love child in an identity crisis is merely what it feels like to be living, plain and true — to be fully equipped to utilize the above lessons and start building up from this base. An indicator that I’m ready to move forward in a way that is no longer in the realm of “growing up,” but simply…growing. Maybe the internal turmoil around turning 30 isn’t, actually, around turning 30. And maybe (did I mention I’ve learned to be a bit more positive?), just maybe, it’s not any kind of turmoil at all, but rather an [unexpected] recognition of a kind of equilibrium.
You see I’ve never had such solid ground to stand on: never been so sure of where I am, of which direction I’m moving, of who I’m taking with me. I’ve never felt a world so balanced that I could move in any direction without losing my footing. A world where the focus is on refining, rather than building. I’m in no way saying that the heavy lifting has passed (I’ll write about that in decade nine), but simply realizing that I’m here — I’m where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be. Life has arrived in full effect. And now it’s time to live it fully, and without apprehension.
Because the way I see it, if I’m lucky, I’ve got seven, maybe eight more decades left. Seven or eight more chances to do everything right. Seven or eight more opportunities to take advantage of this world that I’ve built…to live, entirely.