Thursday, January 17, 2008

You can't go home again

Nothing like a cold to make you feel like you've been run over by a truck. Repeatedly. I've put in a day and a half at the office this week, and tomorrow I'm off to drive down to NJ. Tomorrow, G-pa turns 86, and Saturday, a good friend from high school is getting married.

She's not the first friend my age to get married, but for some reason, this feels more like the beginning of a new chapter in my life than previous marriages. There've been a lot of articles written about my generation and how we're taking our sweet time growing up (combination of bad job market and too much pressure in high school and college are the usual reasons given) and creating a new life-stage, between adolescence and adult-hood. I'm entirely too lazy to look up any of these articles, but I've read several over the last 3 years--had to do something while I was looking for jobs and living in my mom's basement (wait a minute…that's what all those articles were about...)--and I'm also too lazy to look up and see what they were proposing to call this new life stage. The first time I read one, it said "tweens," meaning between teenager and adult, but that’s since been co-opted by the pre-teen set.

So anyway. I don't really feel like an adult yet. I have a steady, 9-5 job (in my desired career path, no less). I pay rent and bills. But I still feel like I'm playing at being a grown-up. My friends have jobs, or they’re grad students, or off in Japan teaching English. Yet a lot of them feel similarly—that we’re just play-acting, like pre-schoolers playing “house” or “school.”

And now I've got this good friend from my past who is getting married. Sure, she's still a grad student, so if not for the impending ceremonies, she'd still be in this quasi-state with the rest of us. But she's going off into this new stage of life and that's absolutely crazy to me. Even if I walked out of my apartment tomorrow and bumped into the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with...I'm not there yet.

The other, really jarring thing about this is that it made me realize something that actually happened months, if not a couple of years ago. I'm still good friends with several of my friends from high school, and there are more who I don't talk to as often, but I am still friendly with. And they are "my friends from home." But one by one, we've moved on. The friend who is getting married is still based where we grew up, but that's not going to last long. I'm not saying that we're suddenly going to stop talking to one another, or going to visit one another, or fall completely out of touch. But it did make me realize that not only is that "chapter of my life" over, but the one after that is over, too. (I'm going to blame the cliché on being fever-addled most of the week.)


essjay said...

You know, I don't see anything wrong with taking your time....I was 28 when I got married and, like you, I wasn't ready until then. I feel, especially as a woman, that I wanted to get my life on track and get a good job so that I would know that I could take care of myself and not have to rely on someone else...I needed to find my own happiness first.

I don't keep in touch with anyone from high school or college - I did a lot of growing up & moving happens and is just part of the ebb and flow of life. I had a few good friends before I moved to Iowa and I've even lost track of them. It isn't that I don't like them (and this will sound wrong) but they were "convenience"...people I worked with and who I talked about work with. It changed when I moved because we didn't have that major thing in common any more. We all move on but we leave a mark on those we were friends with, even if for just a short time.

And I'll stop babbling now! I hope you are feeling better Stiney!

Kate said...

I can identify 100% with what you wrote, Stiney. I'm in my late (sigh) 20s, I own my own home, I'm married, I've been teaching for 5 years, but I still don't feel like a true "grown up." The transition from college to the real world was definitely the toughest transition yet. Let me know if you think of a good word for this stage in our lives.

Also, just FYI, I once asked my dad when he truly felt like an adult, and he told me it was the day he dropped me off at college. He was serious. :)

Jen said...

Funny, isn't it, when you realize things are (or have?) up and changing on you? I remember realizing that same stage in my life--that I'd seemed to have moved on from my "young adulthood," but I was still single and not yet settled, exactly. It's an interesting stage--and ultimately, it was one of the times in my life that I remember the most fondly. :)

I can finally say, now, that I feel like an adult. :teehee: Maybe because my kids are going to start school? Maybe because we finally have a scary-big mortgage? I don't know what happened this year that changed it, but it's a funny thing when you realize that transition's come along too.

I love it when you wax philosophical! :)

SwankyKnitter said...

I have waited my whole life to feel like an adult. I think we all expect, when we are young, that we will feel differently when we are older. But honestly, I feel mostly the same on the inside as I did when I was younger. Yes, I have more experience and a little perspective, but not like I imagined being an "adult" would feel like. Sometimes I look at my 15 year old son and think, WHOA I have a kid!

Jane said...

I'm glad other people have said this too, since I can't do it from a first hand perspective, but I had a conversation with my mom once where I said, "I don't feel like I'm ever going to be a grown-up." My mom said, "But that's a good thing! I didn't grow up until I had to." Something always catalyzes change. Sometimes those things are huge and force you to do things you never thought you would have to/want to do. Sometimes those catalysts are little and just pave the way for further changes. I think how much effect an event or person has on you depends much more on you than on the event or person. That is, graduating from college was, for some of my friends, the end of something, for some it was the beginning of something, and for some, like me, it was just a day when I got a diploma and my family came to visit. As far as marriage is concerned, some of my friends have started in on that, too. It's something I recognize, and yet don't fully understand. I know what you mean by the feeling that they're play-acting. But I suspect someday I WILL be ready, and I'll meet someone "right" or "passable" and then it won't seem so strange. I think MOST grown ups don't always feel like grown ups.