I wrote this post last night (obviously), posted it, unposted it, reposted it, and unposted it again, although not quite enough the second time, because apparently it was still on my FB feed for a while and anyway, embarrassing social media gaffe that I generally try very hard to avoid.
The story is that I wrote this talking to and about my generation and our savior complex, and then my dear husband read it very personally and was kind of worried about me, and I didn’t want it to come off like a very deeply individually personal thing at all, but talking to my generation. So I unposted it, then edited it a tiny bit and reposted it, then woke up around 5am remembering that if read a certain way, basically directly contradicted my conclusion in this post, so I unposted it again. But if I can say that first, then I’m going to go ahead and post it. Anyway.
I also want to say that I think contentment in things like this is a choice, and I am hereby choosing it. On my thirtieth birthday. So there.
In 111 minutes I will turn thirty years old.
When I was younger, during my Salinger/Kerouac/Ghitas/Nietzsche days, I used to look at thirty as kind of this beacon of hope. I kind of thought that whatever youthful tumult I was experiencing, whatever blacks and whites that were resolving into greys, whatever floorboards were dropping out from under my feet as concerned faith, morals, etc… even at the time I would sit there and shake my head (over my cigar, ha ha) at how cliché it was to be thinking all of these things, and I would think about when I would be thirty years old.
I figured that by the time I was thirty, and it filled me with equal parts terrified dread and relieved expectation, I would be more or less “settled” in some way. Or, maybe, in all ways, at least the important ones. I figured by then, the faith questions would be figured out. I would be whatever it was I was “going to be” when I grew up. I’d probably have a family.
Maybe I was hopelessly naïve then and drastically oversimplified people that were older than I was, as most young people do. I didn’t think thirty-year-olds were automatons or anything, I just figured they’d have their feet on the ground by then, and frankly, in and around my college years, I was supremely jealous of people with their feet on the ground.
Maybe the people that were my mom’s age-ish (I didn’t know many thirty-year-olds) when I was twenty, I don’t know, again maybe this is naïve, but I feel like maybe there was a little more stability then. And even more so fifty or so years ago, for people that were thirty.
Thing is, I feel like I could probably count on one hand the number of my peers that are fully satisfied with our jobs. I happen to be a part of a peer group that has a very different perspective on things like spouses and families than it seems like the rest of the country does, but I’d say probably the same low level of satisfaction exists in marriages for the majority of people of my age group in this country.
Look. My life is ridiculous. I could do anything in high school. I could do anything in college. I got to go to college. I never, literally never, felt limited by my gender. I met people who would be chauvinists along the way, but I kind of pitied them for being dinosaurs and went on with whatever I wanted to achieve regardless. And of course I was in the most privileged ethnic/socio-economic demo there is. I could have studied anything. I studied in Spain, for crying out loud. I have traveled the world. I have had like fifty different jobs. I have jumped out and done ministry things and had the most overwhelming support.
Growing up, I feel like we were all promised infinity. There was a whole American Dream/something/thing that kept telling us we could be and do anything. And the thing is, we’re not infinite. Even disregarding the limitations put on us by talent or ability; even out of the things I COULD be, I can’t be all of them. But I feel like we’re all trying to be all of them. Or we’re all not happy until we’re all of them.
We hop from job to job. All this has been said before – consumer culture, micro-attention span, yada yada. I’m not saying anything new. I’m just saying, and this is the most twisted bass-ackwards grass-is-greener nonsense, but sometimes I think about women in like the 1900’s who were what they were what they were because they were and I maybe a tiny bit envy that certainty. I know it’s hopelessly ignorant of me to envy their lifestyle, a pointless exercise in any case, and I don’t, but the certainty. I don’t know.
I took a class in college called Cultural Geography. It sounded like the driest of dry classes and I have no idea why I signed up for it, but it ended up being one of the most profoundly interesting classes I ever took. A big part it was about a “folk” mentality vs. a more modern, consumerist mentality. It was stuff like how massive studies found people in places like rural, west Texas towns to be exponentially more content and happy with their lives than people living in, like, Aspen Colorado or Manhattan or San Francisco.
In that particular case, the difference was: the people in west Texas loved their home because it was their home. Not for what it gave them, but they loved it because it was theirs. They were also much more likely not just to stay married to their spouse, but to be content and fulfilled in their marriages. They loved their spouse because it was their spouse, not for what the spouse offered or gave. They loved it because they decided to. They loved it basically because they never sat around asking themselves if they loved it. They never asked if they were happy or if they were satisfied. They just were.
The people in Aspen had moved to Aspen because Aspen promised them the world. Status, comfort, entertainment, meaning, and the truth is, no place can give you that, so they were sorely disappointed, and constantly looking for the status, the comfort, the entertainment, the meaning, in something else that was like an Aspen, and thinking how maybe they’d be happier elsewhere.
The folks in the boondocks were just home.
I’m almost thirty (87 minutes) and I thought I’d know what I wanted to be by now, and I don’t.
That’s okay. It is. But I don’t know. I read this article a long time ago and I have no idea where or who it was (bad writer) but it talked about the idea of adolescence, and how it’s a relatively recent invention in and of itself, but how it went from being, like, a few years during the awkward middle-school-age to basically spanning from nine years old-ish well into people’s twenties.
I kind of look around me and wonder a little bit if it’s just something that, for my generation, is never quite going to end. The finding yourself (barf-o-rama).
There are obviously people who are exceptions to this, but I still see my peers looking around, all the time. What if there’s something better? Someone better? Somewhere better?
I know working moms who want to stay at home but also want to work, I know staying-at-home moms who want to work but also want to stay at home. We were told we could be super-mom and super CEO. We want a paycheck, we want a house, but we want TRUTH and meaning above all else. We want options, but we want contentment. We want deep relationships, but we want freedom and Our Own Independence. We want to be and do everything.
I was told I could do “anything I put my mind to!” I was told to “reach for the stars!” Now, and maybe this is my own neurotic mess and I shouldn’t try to pawn it off on my whole generation, but now it’s basically like nothing I could ever do could live up to the potential that was identified, the resources that were poured into my still-forming little person, the education that was magnificent enough from K-12 but now is an incessant stream of day-and-night information and limitless access to more…
Do we land? On the ground? How? When?
I’ve fantasized about moving to coastal Ireland and buying a book shop, with an apartment above it. Waking up, making tea, boiling an egg, going downstairs, selling books, reading books. Saying hello to my neighbors when they come in. Making more tea. Dane could build precious little cottage homes. Closing up the shop, going for a pint, walking upstairs, going to bed. I could do that. I could just pick a small life and live it out.
It’s heavy, though, this responsibility. And that’s what it is. These opportunities, these resources that were given to us as youths, for which I am of course unendingly grateful… it all amounts really to responsibility.
With great power comes great responsibility. To whom much has been given, much will be expected. Honestly. What was I NOT given?
If y’all could figure this out for me in the next 75 minutes, that’d be swell.
I hope this doesn’t sound incredibly arrogant, but being an educated, wealthy American girl with the friends, connections, experiences and information that I have collected over my lifetime feels kind of like being a superhero. I think this might have something to do with the recent obsession with superheroes. A person who has all this ability, and they have to figure out who they are within that, and what they’re going to do with it. I’m not sure that my particular background outfitted me for rounding up gangsters and socking them in the jaw and delivering them to the cops. There’s no equal and opposite, genetically mutated nemesis monster knocking on my front door. What there IS, is about five unique “causes” PER DAY that are brought to my attention in various ways, a great many of which are overwhelmingly heartbreaking and worthy.
Am I overthinking this? Yes. I desperately wish for some Pai Mei or Nick Fury or Mr. Miyagi or whomever to show up and just say: “Abbey. Do this.” I would work so hard, I really would. I try really hard to work hard at what I am doing, until I know that I know that I know that I’m in the place I was made for. I also try really hard to NOT think of it in that way at all, like my one true destiny purpose in life…
Fostering is right. But is it the only right? I’ve always imagined that parenting would be bringing kids into my life’s work & modeling for them a life lived with intentionality, service, purpose – not my whole purpose in & of itself.
58 minutes. I’m going to bed.
Don’t worry, by tomorrow I’m sure I’ll be ready to party.