I’m grown. Hell, my kids think I’m downright old. I’ve got more than 20 years of experience in this adulthood gig. So one would think that I would have things figured out.
I don’t. I don’t exponentially.
Just like when I was in high-school, I’m a confused woman dealing with fluctuating hormones, my rapidly changing body, insecurities about if I’m “normal,” and questions about what and who I want to be when I grow up.
The fundamental difference is that most people didn’t expect me to have a handle on life when I was 16; but now it seems as if folks think I should know what in the hell I’m doing with myself. No one asks people in their 40’s and 50’s, “so what are your plans for the future.” I imagine it’s expected that we’ve figured that out and are comfortably on our way to coasting the rest of our lives. But what if you have worked hard your whole life to have built an impressive boat; however, now that it’s built you can’t set sail and cruise because you don’t even know in which direction you want to sail?
As I’ve talked with people, it seems that I’m not the only one feeling somewhat lost in an ocean with no compass (or maybe they are lying to me to make me feel better about myself). So, I’m wondering, why in the hell didn’t anyone tell us about this very real crisis that happens mid-life? Sure, I’d heard about the “plastic surgery, sports car, younger boyfriend/girlfriend” types of mid-life foolery. But I had never heard that one day (around the time that the kids are all but fiscally independent and mentally done with you, you’ve become accomplished in your career; you are starting to see signs (gray hair, bad knees) that you can’t fully defeat the aging process) you will start to question how you’ve spent the first part of your life and how you want to spend the second half. I didn’t expect that my old ass would be asking, “who am I?”
Perhaps it’s not so much that I am questioning who I am; but am surprised and having to come to grips with the answer. Perhaps at this point in your life, you come to the heavy realization that you have spent the majority of your life failing to even consider or acknowledge who it is that you are. Your voice was the softest of those directing your moves.
In the beginning of our lives, our parents determine a lot of who we are: our school, neighborhood, friends, social activity level, religion, opinions, values, behavior, etc. I was a Williamsburg, Virginia, democratic, Christian, dance-class taking, Dallas Cowboy fan, who thought that education was the most powerful tool for success before I was 10 (because that’s who my parents told me I was).
Society has its influence — informing us of how we should dress, when we should marry, where and how we should eat, and so on. Then our careers create an environment that causes us to frantically row and row — competing for the best assignments, promotions, raises and bonuses — without consciously thinking if we actually yearn for the destination that’s causing us to sail through such rough waters. Then, if you have children, your course is set. You are “mom” (and that about sums it up).
And then the kids who used to hold on to your leg to keep you from leaving them, now keep their doors closed, constantly wear headphones to block you out, and are embarrassed for anyone to see you. Your career has become boring – either because of lack of challenge or because you’ve reached the highest level possible. Yes, you are indeed coasting, but on still waters that somehow still cause you to feel seasick.
You are used to rowing, swimming, sailing after all. Most importantly, along your journey, you have come to know yourself—your likes and dislikes, what makes you happy and frustrates you, what you are passionate about, how you handle rough waters. Your greatest expertise is in yourself; and that’s powerful.
You suddenly can hear yourself, regardless of how loudly the wind is blowing. And you trust this voice implicitly. It resonates.
Although, you trust your newfound voice, it’s disconcerting because you are not used to listening to yourself and your voice may be telling you to do things that are completely off your previously charted course.
How do you, a woman who is at the age where you thought you’d be heading towards the shore and docking, now set sail anew on uncharted waters? You just do. You may not know your course, but you fully trust the captain; and that provides you with a strength that compensates for your diminished eye-sight, stiff knees, sore back and lack of energy. You’ve survived rough waters before, dodged sharks, whirlpools, dangerous reefs and icebergs – and that’s when you were following other’s maps. Now, you, though a little nervous, are drawing your own map, drafting your path a little more day-by-day, and in your gut, you know that you are going to be just fine. There are good things on the horizon.