When I was in sixth grade, I thought being an adult meant you were done. Done with anything tough or complex in friendship, life, love—any of it. My best friend had recently been stolen by an evil girl, the boy I had been going with moved to another school and seemed to have lost my number, and I suddenly sucked at French. My parents, all four of them, in contrast seemed fine. Normal. Done.
Twenty years later, I get together with long time friends and we look at each other and can’t figure out how we got here. Whetherr we read “The Second Shift” and are now working it, weather we promised we’d never get divorced and just left our spouses, or if we swore to stave off panty hose and now carry two extra pair in an oversized leather purse. “This,” we say, “This is it?”
I think back to my time as a kid and my interpretation of my parents as having it easy. What’s clear now is that they just didn’t let me in on the underbelly of their lives: the custody negotiations, promotion pass-ups, potential bankruptcy, fights to stay in the same city with their children, or missed hours of sleep for the sake of a run or bike ride. My parents just did it all, and didn’t tell me about what if felt like when the all felt like too much.
Maybe they should have.
Sure, I appreciate their tenacity. I owe the same in me to them. But, if my mom had turned to me when I was twelve and said, “watch out, it doesn’t get any easier,” might I have been better off?
Life is about choices, constantly. I’ve given eight shows in five cities in six days and with each stop I meet yet another person who is trying to understand if they have made the right decision to be a teacher/ leave the peace corps/don a suit/have a child. It’s memory lane, accelerated. From out of the crowd comes a friend from kindergarten, summer camp, or college. All long displaced, but suddenly more real than my day-to-day life at home. We stare at each other and want to secretly steal part of each other’s lives.
In between all of these encounters, I am zipping around the country perusing every airline’s version of the sky mall magazine. I’m contemplating THE PERSONAL BETWEEN THE SHEETS BED FAN even though I don’t have the other person to warrant needing an independent bed cooling system. The 150 COUNTRY TRAVEL ADAPTER is a must. So, to, is the PORTABLE PET CHECK IN SCREEN AND WATER MONITOR. (This, surely, would make the reunions with my poodle smoother when I come home.) But when I get to the MARSHMALLOW SHOOTER, and when I think it might come in handy, I know something in the system has broken down.
Am I trying to prove to myself that I to can do it all without looking like I am doing anything? To whom is this message going out? My poodle over the portable screen? Maybe the beauty of growing older is being able to look at our friends, long lost or current and say, yeah, this is tough, but this is what makes it interesting. That clear, easy track I foresaw as adulthood never existed. Admitting to uncertainly encourages the same in others. I’m odd in that I like this clustering of thoughts and ambitions and realities. I seem to think that only when a friend and I can both say, “what the hell are we doing?”, that the real conversation starts.
Human life is not prescriptive. That might seem obvious. But I think I am only understanding it now. I think that had to do with making sweeping choices when I was young—job, house, marriage—because if I just set myself on a track I could keep going. But you can never really keep going, or at least I cannot without serious psychological drugs that I am unwilling to take. So instead I get this—a life up tumbling through the skies at 35,000 feet wondering is I should buy bamboo lawn furniture covers for lawn furniture I don’t event have. And then wondering who does do this, if I should, when I would know if I should, how to know, if knowing would be easier if I moved to Manhattan, if I would understand the world better if I had them, if I would understand myself better, if… and then I land back on the ground.