What’s the best term for friends who have become family? Friemilies? Famends?
Anyway, Julie is one of my those. We haven’t seen each other since before the pandemic, and this year she flew across the country with her eight-year-old son to be with us for her birthday. That night, we curled up on the couch with a couple of glasses of very nice wine and had some long overdue life chats.
“I used to feel that I was just managing a series of deficits,” Julie told me. “Financial deficits, emotional deficits, whatever. But as I reached my mid-forties, I realized that I’m not trying to close a gap anymore. I’m finally able to step forward. Now I’ve sorted my shit out, I can start.”
It was such a perfect encapsulation of how I feel that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Our culture famously worships youth and fails to value all the gifts of getting older. But for me, every decade of my life has been significantly better than the one before. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my 20s and live a single week in that confused, free, brave, scared, lost girl’s mind. In my 30s I did a lot of work—of all kinds. And now, like Julie, I feel as though I’ve graduated to something. I’ve finally learned some basic skills for making this whole life thing work.
“I can actually plan now,” Julie told me last night. “Not just run around tending to whichever of my deficits is most pressing in the moment. I finally got to zero, and now I can move forward.”
Life on earth is pretty complicated. It’s not the weirdest idea in the world that it might take forty-odd years to get the hang of it.
I’m someone who can easily fall for cultural stories about “wasted” years. When the culture talks about this, it generally means that we didn’t spend enough hours under fluorescent lights or achieve enough promotions. And by that definition, I absolutely wasted my youth; I did so very consciously. There was a lot of tumult. There was a lot fun and a lot of music. No regrets.
I don’t need the tumult to find meaning in my days anymore. I love my stretchy, soft body. I love being a clearer and steadier mother to my kid than I would have been a decade ago. I love living a life that feels emotionally predictable and loving and warm. I love feeling seen, and known, by everyone around me—including, finally, me. I love turning off my light at 9:30pm every night.
So yeah, the orientation program was great, but I’m happy to have finally made it to zero. It’s so peaceful here.