In my 20s I sat at a bar with my best friend and felt like I was waiting for my life to start. We were on the cusp of getting ready for graduation and we could feel opportunity in the air, yet we weren’t sure exactly which path to follow.
I Knew What My Life Path Would Be in My 20s
We knew we needed to get jobs. We agreed we wanted to get married sooner than later, make babies, and decorate a house. I mean, we were both single but we had some vision of what the future held.
After you complete high school or college, the world opens up. It can be an incredibly fun and optimistic time, but it can also be terrifying; crippling even.
Back then I felt as though everyone was looking at me to figure my life out really quickly, almost as soon as I had that diploma in my hand. After all, I was in my 20s, I had a college degree. The days of depending on my parents financially were long gone and life had suddenly gotten very real.
Student loan bills came due, there were expectations of needing a more serious relationship. I had to show up for work on time regardless of how many glasses of wine I had sucked back with my friends the night before. The rent needed to be paid, the car needed fixing and life was moving along really quickly.
In my 20s there was always a sense of “What’s next?”
After getting a job, meeting the man I married, buying our house and having the kids, I felt as if I’d checked all these life accomplishment boxes. Not only had my life started, I was smack dab in the middle of so much change and chaos, I didn’t have time to think about what the next stage would be.
The Path Ahead in My 40s is Far Murkier
Marriage and parenthood forces you to simply breathe through it all and try and get to the next moment. It absolutely never occurred to me that I’d feel the same way I did in my twenties again in my mid forties.
But, I kind of do.
I have so much: Wonderful kids, a dream job, a home that will be paid off in a decade. All of these realizations come with a side angst as I watch my kids grow more independent and drift towards their new life and away from me.
And, suddenly I feel like I’m in unfamiliar territory. I’m often alone. My kids don’t need me to cook for them and I’m not needed to drive them places like I once was.
I know that I still have so much life to live but I can honestly tell you I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself. I feel like I’ve been thrown out of a train that has been going at mach speed and I’m expected to just slow down and find a new route all on my own. In a sense, I’m waiting for the second part of my life to start. The difference between now and then is that at least in my 20s I had some sort of broad plan, some sort of vision. I knew I wanted to work hard. I knew I wanted a family. I knew I wanted a red house.
Now, I’m just not sure what I want and I’m confused about that. Oh sure, people tell you to enjoy this time; the years where you are still young and can travel. The years where your kids are gone and you have freedom and don’t have to follow their schedule.
The thing is change is difficult–even when it’s good. I liked the life where my kids needed me.
And the truth is, I liked my life very much. I liked having my kids depend on me. I liked being in with them on a Friday night. I liked the Saturday basketball games and the fact that they needed me more than they do now. I liked who I was then. I’m not ready to let go of it all yet.
I like who I am now, but this new person: the middle-aged woman who has more time, more chances, and who often feels like she should be further along in life, is trying to find her footing despite the fact there’s no road map.
Do I sit tight and wait to be a grandmother? Do I go to Paris? Should I write a book, take up salsa dancing, or learn a new language? Should I finally get that certification to be a fitness instructor, I’ve been thinking about since I was 18?
And the challenge for me is I could do all of these things or none of them. It’s up to me. And the likelihood is that if I don’t do them now, I never will.
And maybe mid-life feels like we are starting all over again, and can be scary because for so long, other people dictated how we spent our days. They were the reason we worked hard or stayed at home or cancelled a girls’ night because our kids were sick. Things used to be clear, now they are murky.
Maybe if I just give myself some time to adjust to this new phase, things will fall into place as they should, just as they did in my 20s when I knew a lot less about everything.
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