The thing about being young(er) is that you are so sure about the things that you know. I remember turning 25 and feeling like I had arrived. I was a grown up. I felt like I ought to be issued a special I.D. card or a badge or something. Official Adult. I knew everything.
Then during the years between 28 and 33 life just kicked me in the teeth and I was left battered and bleeding.
Lost. Alone. Unhappy.
I realize now that I had these ideas in my head that I was sure was reality. And I thought that my life would roll out before me like a red carpet. I flitted along waiting for my life to happen to me and I really believed that all I had to do was point myself in the right direction and wait for it all to appear.
Husband. Babies. White picket fence. That was the future that would come and in the meantime, I was young. I had plenty of time.
When I was 28 I had no doubt, not one, of what my future would be.
You can imagine my surprise when that didn't happen. And to have arrived at an age more than 40 and sort of slowly realized that it was never really what I wanted, anyway.
I'd like to say that turning 40 didn't bother me, but I would be lying. I used to say (when I was 28) that I would never mind getting older. I know now that it's easy to think those things when your face is still full of collagen. 40 was harder than I ever could have imagined before I actually got there.
I was happy, but I was in existential crisis, y'all.
So 40 came and went and I started to think about the next part of my life. I felt really confident in my ability to be a young woman. I didn't have a clue about how to be a middle aged one. And having learned - the hard way - that your life has to be built, not acquired, I was a little concerned about my ability to build forward.
Now 50 is looming on the (still out there, but still) horizon. The other day I thought about that and almost hyperventilated.
I always assumed that I'd have a husband and a Volvo and be raising children at this point in my life. But having reached 40 and failed to marry and/or have children, I realized that there aren't a lot of role models for girls like me. I'm on my own, out here, for the most part.
Thank God for Sex and the City or I'd be completely screwed.
So if my 20's and 30's were marked by what I thought I knew, my 40's - so far - have been marked by what I don't know.
And when you're me, not knowing is hard. And it's an ongoing struggle.
The good news is that my life has gotten better and better as I've gotten older, collagen loss notwithstanding. There is a lot to be said for age and wisdom and experience. I would never want anyone to think that I've gotten anything figured out because I don't. But I do know a few things now that I didn't know then.
I know that I don't know.
For the most part I know what I don't know.
I know how to quiet my mind. I know never to say what I will or won't do - because you don't know that until you're in it.
I know that judgment is a dangerous thing.
I know how important kindness is - for myself and others.
And although it seems pretty shallow, I'm glad the outside is holding up well, at least in the right light.
Image: Hymnal by Carl Christensen.