Tomorrow, let’s talk about slinkies.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Recently I read an article from Glamour posted by my friend, someone who makes life more beautiful, whom I both deeply respect and often look to for perspective. It was titled “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30,” and she included a comment that read something to the effect of, “After reading this, I don’t feel so bad about turning 30.” Before I clicked the link, I thought, “Okay. I’m pretty content with where I am in my life, with what I’ve seen, felt, and heard and the experiences I’ve gathered. Read on.”

My heart sunk a bit lower as I read each item from 1 to 30. Out of fifteen “should haves,” I could count mine on one hand, and the “should knows” seemed more like “things I’m in the process of learning.”

As I left the apartment I share with three people, in a t-shirt and jeans with damp hair, and walked the two minute commute to my job as a kindergarten English teacher (I have a huge amount of respect for patient kindergarten teachers. Most days I am just not one of them), to say I was feeling low, confused even, would be a first-class understatement. I wanted to head to the nearest Family Mart for a beer. My mind went to a place of self-doubt, of toxic comparison and self-analysis, and I stayed in this place for the better part of the morning as I thought about what I haven’t lived up to at my 29th year, according to this list. I don’t have any of my own furniture, unless my laptop counts, but I’ll be just as proud to display my grandma’s old wooden piano as I would if I’d bought it myself. Sure, I look forward to the day I can decorate a space that’s mine, but because I choose to spend my money less heavily on tangibles, does this mean I’m less of a grown up? Five years ago, I could have answered an enthusiastic YES to #3, but today, though I’ve got more clothing than I need, I wouldn’t call any of it “perfect” for either of the two theatrical occasions Glamour mentioned. (Perfectly ironic, especially after spending four years working in fashion. And I like it that way). I’ve got a purse I’m not ashamed to be seen with, but it was a birthday gift. Does this make me less polished because I didn’t buy it myself? My resume is updated, and integrity is crucial to me. But I’m a writer, and thus innocent until gild is proven. I thought I had a career I wanted, but then I changed my mind. Since then, I’ve been a secretary, a tutor, a server, a wine demonstrator, and a teacher. Does this make my experience less valid because it doesn’t follow a prescribed pattern? How do I feel about having kids? That I’m not ready yet, though I like to think I’m better-equipped emotionally should the time come unexpectedly than I was in my early to mid-twenties.

My friend could answer yes to many, maybe most, of the items on the list. The article left her feeling good. She and I have so much in common, from our upbringings and family dynamics, to our thoughts about humanity and identity. Today was a reminder that aside from all of our commonality, we’ve also walked completely separate roads and chosen different methods of self-fulfillment. And I love her more for it. Three other close friends of mine couldn’t be more different from each other, but they are all homeowners and married to fantastic men. While I admit it is sometimes hard for me to identify with their choices, and I can only assume is also true for them with mine, I do identify with their needs to follow what makes them truly happy. They inspire me. Does anything else actually matter?

Nothing is more completely okay, or perhaps necessary to our survival as a dynamic and mindful species than to continue to do so. Apart from our basic needs, everything else about us is distinct, and so should be our personal guidelines.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about slinkies.

  • Nikoline

    Thank you for being so real. You’re awesome.

  • Annie

    I love you.

  • Destiny

    I, too, saw this list, and I was surprised at the variety of responses it led to. Interesting to read your response, and I concur that your life (or anyone else’s for that matter) is not defined by how properly it fits with someone’s notion of “success.” I hope your spirit lifted as you embraced your own form of success. A form that fits your life even if it doesn’t fit others.

    • jlgabel

      Thanks, Destiny. Instead of letting my reactive emotions sit for a bit as I usually do, I wrote them out plainly and immediately. It felt good. I appreciate your words. And your approach to life.