On being 32
When I was 21-going-on-22 I had just changed my major from elementary education to English—a move that was really dumb when viewed through the lens of practicality. I was a second-semester junior who did not have an actual, desired job to attach to an English degree. I just knew that I couldn’t graduate with a piece of paper that gave people permission to hire me as a teacher. That decision, while unconventional, was one of the best I ever made.
Today, I’m 31-going-on-32. (Actually, I was 31-going-on-32 when I started writing this post, but now I’m 32-and-one-day because I’m a very efficient writer.) I feel a little bit like I’m a second-semester junior in Early Adulthood, like I’m in the final stages of a time in which people declare who they’re going to be for the next 30 years. There’s this not-so-subtle understanding that between the ages of 25 and 35 you are supposed to get married and/or have children and/or buy a house and/or blaze down a career path. By the time you reach 35, you should be well-established in at least one of these categories, if not more.
The older I get, the more low-grade shame I feel about not having a house or a spouse or a dog or a job, like I can’t get my act together and be a regular adult. I’m nearing the tail end of the fake timeline and I basically just changed my major again, for goodness sake. I traded a conventional job/career path for Hinterland.
But the thing is… I actually love my life just the way it is. And I really love the part of me that isn’t afraid to make unconventional decisions. That girl is calmly determined. She’s bold. She’s kind of awesome. And I let her come out for, like, two seconds every other week. Once she’s gone, Regular Me shuffles back in and finds it challenging not to cave under the weight of everyone else’s questions.
“What are you doing again?”
“How is that going to work out?”
“Are you sure about this?”
Regular Me answers them all with, “I guess I don’t really know?” while Awesome Me is dying inside, shouting, “No no no, wait! I know this one!!! Pick me!”
I’ve been talking about stewardship a lot lately, and I’m realizing that most of the things I talk about stewarding are external—a compost pile, sustainable packaging, the clothes in my closet, nearly every international crisis. Those things are important and I still want to participate by partying like a Puritan this year. But perhaps before I ride off into the sunset and try to steward the entire world, it would be wise to steward my actual self first—the Regular Me who often lacks the everyday confidence to steward the decisions Awesome Me has been making all along.
Maybe instead of checking off any of the official items on the Between 25 and 35 timeline, I’ll spend this year in pursuit of the answer to a question: What does it mean to steward my entire life well—not just the external, not just the internal—but both, together?
(Already, out of the corner of my eye, I can see Awesome Me jumping up and down with her hand in the air, just waiting to be called on.)