How to Be...32

Not long ago I subscribed to the idea that life had a tried and true timeline looking a little something like this: LINDSAY'S-PRECONCEIVED-NOTIONS-ABOUT-WHAT-LIFE-LOOKS -LIKE -TIMELINE: 

0-18: Grow the heck up.

18-22: Go to college.

22-26: Get a job.  Sow some oats.  Get a new job.  Sow more oats.

26-28: Start thinking about marrying your boyfriend/girlfriend.  Hear the faint footsteps of your 30’s fast approaching.

28-30: Be proposed to or get dumped.  For the former, get married. For the latter, head to Match. com and look out for feelings of complete unworthiness and desperation regarding your romantic future.  Sow some more oats in preparation for “settling down.”

30-32:  Spend this time “enjoying” your new spouse.  Buy a house or a condo.  Get a dog or a cat.  Buy life insurance or at least think about it.  Begin to buy a shit ton of pregnancy books in preparation for going off birth control and getting pregnant or start looking at freezing some eggs “just in case.”

32-36: Pop out some babies. Rifle through your old diary for baby names.  Veronica and Lucy top the list but are now too popular.  End up going with the first thing you and spouse can agree on after birth of baby.  Make a will.  Start putting more money in your 401K or at least start one.

36-40: Raise your children, celebrate your ten year anniversary at your job with a day off and Costco cake.  Move to the suburbs if you haven’t already.

40-50: Deal with pre-adolescent and adolescent children in your house.  Join a wine of the month club or find numerous reasons to leave your house full of mean, hormonally-ridden children.  Entertain the idea of a mid-life crisis.

50-60: Do it. Have that mid-life crisis.  Find a fast car, fast woman or tennis-pro named Brad.  Realize it didn’t fix a damn thing and return to the life you had realizing it’s not so bad.

60-70: Walk your children down the aisle, pay for a super lavish reception and crappy food and at the end of the night wonder where the time went.  Begin bugging them for grandchildren.  Decide that the winters are just too darn long and move to Florida.

70-80: Find a lovely retirement community and perfect your golf swing and bocce ball game.  Maybe take up water aerobics. Give your grandchildren noisy toys and fistfuls of Smarties and then send them back to your children.  Laugh over a gin and tonic on your patio that overlooks the golf-course about how sweet revenge is.

Think about your life.  What you’ve learned, what you’d do differently.  Visit your kids.  Wear black socks with sandals or big purple hats.  Say whatever the hell is on your mind whenever you want.

90--?: Take one last breath and go from there.

I turned 32 recently.  Looking at my preconceived notion of life’s little expectations on that timeline I scan the section for my age.   I see that the only expectation I’ve fulfilled thus far is the dog part and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that’s more of a commitment than I expected or can even handle sometimes.

I wonder what’s wrong with me that this remains so firmly lodged in my head--this idea that at 32 I must be doing something wrong because my life looks very different compared to my best friend with her house and her husband and her two adorable children.  To my married/committed/no children friends with their houses or hip apartments, seemingly settled into their lives while I continue to flap and flounder around my life in a strange combination of terror and exhilaration.

I try to remind myself that there’s nothing wrong with my life even if it defies a lot of “should be’s” I thought were expected.  Battling these “should be’s” is simultaneously more difficult and more liberating each year.  But somewhere along the line I realized that what’s supposed to happen will, and wrenching something into place that’s not meant to be only results in disaster.

So as terrifying as it is, this year, at 32, I let go of all those ideas that so long polluted my mind--that I’m somehow behind in life as a single woman shifting attention entirely to career and the realization of life-long dreams even though that means my pre-existing life timeline kinda crumbles.  I realize that I’m glad it has--that being held to expectations that don’t fit into my dreams, abilities or desires makes me sincerely unhappy and I suspect that's true for a lot of other people as well.  That it’s okay not to go to college, to enter the workforce at 17, to learn a trade instead of earn a degree, to not get married, to not have children or wait until age 40 to start.  To work a number of different jobs instead of staying in one just for the benefits.  To ignore the siren’s call of security and not be afraid of leaping when life allows.  And to remember that lives shouldn’t be carbon copies of each other, that everyone’s is different because people are different.   And finally to choose to defy what society defines as a  productive, effective or right-looking life because at 32, after years of struggling with this idea, it’s time to stand in my own truth and not anyone else’s.

Welcome, 32.  I think it's gonna be a damn good year.