Life is marked by steady symbolic poles built with memories. The memories of the first 10 years of my life are sprinkled with some of the hardest and most tender experiences yet known to me. They consist of those bike ride evenings with my younger brother and sister before I became “too cool” to hang out with them — adolescence hitting me like it smacked my predecessors before me.
My childhood also marked the times when I visited our neighbors across the street, building our relationship slowly with twinkles of trust and light. They saw me walk to the bus stop for elementary school every morning, and they saw me leave the house we grew up in forever as I made my way to my first day in university. They have since passed.. before I had the opportunity to invite them to my wedding just a couple short years later.
The early years also staged some of the hardest times of my life, when our home life wasn’t always good, and the roughness left bruises and tears still stained in the muscle memory of my heart today. Into my teens, the next decade up, I marched into more uncertainty as my brainwork began to shift from “child” to “not yet adult,” marking my very first crush/love, and more confusion when it came to autonomy and independence.
Adolescence wasn’t fun. It had its fun moments, but I wouldn’t give anything to have to redo that part of my life.
My 20s’ was what I now dub as “the stage of desperation.” There is a term I once read, that read something like this: “If you meet an asshole in the morning, s/he is the asshole. If you keep meeting assholes all day, you are the asshole.” The 20s for me is this entire phrase. After breaking friends as quickly as I made them, I went through female friendships like waterfalls. They were my cascade friends. They came quickly, we connected quickly, and then I also very quickly gave them my life story, how needy I am, how much I want a best friend, and how THEY can help, and how much I love love love them. And shortly after that, they disengaged. Too much, too fast, too soon. My 20s marked the time in my life when my emotions were like a roller coaster – I loved too hard, I loved too fast, I loved too soon, I gave too much, I required too much, I asked too little, and I lost too much, too soon, too big. Up and down and all around. I flood lighted people with my personal business, and they left out of overwhelming confusion and disconnection. I blamed the world, and often myself, that I am too much to handle, and they are not enough for me. I was a constant victim.
I am glad to be out of 20s. Trust should not be a floodgate. Trust should be earned through twinkles of light, quiet actions of love, and the slow, steady connection of friendships that get built through years of mutual experiences… sometimes quiet, always steady, mostly good. Trust is when you know what your friend is having for lunch and their favorite coffee. Trust wasn’t when I spent two hours during a first or third coffee lunch date with a new friend telling them my life story and how hurt I was when my mother yelled at me over the kitchen table when I was nine years old.
I am turning 35 this year. I still lose friends, but not as often as I once did. I am managing to keep the small group of friends who I have learned to build and earn trust with… giving small pieces of myself over time, receiving small pieces of them over time in return.
When I turned 30, I thought to myself, “Well, that was 3 decades so far of crazy life experiences… many of which I care not to ever repeat again. Now time for the next half of my life. I know stuff now. I know stuff, so this should be easy. I’ve done my time, I’m good to go. 30s and on is what will be the ultimate time of my life.”
The 30s should be easy. I hear from so many of my older women friends how it was the 40s that they really truly became themselves. I thought, “Psshh… why wait another decade when I can do it now? The 30s will be the time when I become truly myself!” I am a mother of 2 girls. The 30s so far has not been what I had promised it to be. The 30s marks the decade I truly come into my own skin. The wild ride of learning, stripping away the old, covering in with the new.. The first 5 years of the 30s have been spent in confusion, denial, and anger. I have learned to show empathy and compassion to those around me. I have learned to love the ones who did me wrong. But now is when I really finally get that in order to love someone else deeply, I have to first learn to love myself just as deep.
The 30s marks a time when I shed the dependence of my self worth by looking into the mirror of another. I no longer want to be tethered to a safety net of “someone” else. I want to fly free and be okay with the wings I have been born with — that I will land on my own. Sometimes my landing will be rough. Sometimes it will leave me bruised. Sometimes it will be smooth and effortless. But at least, when I land, it is my own skill, and not because someone had a string to my wings, helping me along.
Here’s to flying.