When I was younger, from the time I was a child and well into my twenties, I had a very clear image of what my life was going to look like. I could see the house and see the bookshelves, could smell the trees on my street and taste the food we would cook in my kitchen. The strength of this vision ebbed and flowed over the years, but it was always there, my manifest destiny. Even when I wanted something different, wanted desperately to make my life in whatever mysterious place I had fallen for at any given moment, this vision has always tethered me – no matter how romantic those cobblestoned Spanish streets or how alluring those smoky Greek cafes were, they could never be anything more than a faded photograph to show my daughter, a story to share long after I’d put away my last suitcase. Despite all my best efforts and my very biggest dreams, the place I belonged was with these familiar mountains, with these well-worn craftsman skylines, and these same old shady trees, guarding their age and their size like a secret you can only learn by letting their leaves whisper into your ears.
It wasn’t just the house I saw, though. I saw my husband, saw our sensible cars in the driveway. I saw smart and willful kids and saw my challenging if thankless career in education. I had a sense of all of it, right down to the family budget – just enough to live in line with our values, not so much that we ever felt like we could overdo it. And as I look around at my life now, look at the house and the job and the second child on the way, I realize that this is what I always thought my life should be, it’s what I always wanted even when I wished I could want something else.
And I also realize that even though I always thought this was what my life was meant to be, I never actually believed that this is what my life would become. Even in the midst of living it, I cannot believe that this is my house, my job, my child, my spouse.
I would like to think that this surreal feeling is tied up in a fundamental denial of my aging process, because no matter how many hairs on my head turn gray, I still feel like a twenty-two year old kid trying to figure out how to navigate my life without causing too much damage to myself or to others – there’s just no way I’m old enough have a house and a family and a job that actually matters. When I was a teenager, that’s what my twenties would be for. When I was in my twenties, that’s what my thirties would be for. And now that I’m in my thirties? Yeah, you guessed it.
Maybe when I’m forty-five I’ll finally feel like a grown up and embrace this beautiful life I’ve somehow stumbled upon. But I have a sneaking suspicion that age has nothing to do with it at all. This is not a fundamental denial of my natural (beautiful, graceful, miraculous) aging process, but a fundamental denial of my self-worth. This is not my beautiful house, because clearly I have not earned this. Clearly there’s been some mistake and I’m going to wake up tomorrow back in the life I deserve, in the life where I struggle and strain against the forces of world, the life where I hate my job and can never get ahead, the life where I’ll be alone forever in a rundown studio apartment writing stories no one will ever read and going to sleep with dreams of a life that seemed forever out of reach.
But this is my house, this is my life, this is my family I’ve worked so hard to provide for. And I’m so happy to be sharing it with all of you on this little blog that helps me to put my sacrifices into perspective so I can accept the good, beautiful, things that have come my way.