The almost-30 checklist has been wreaking havoc on my mind, recently.
In this golden age of transition—moving through youthful ignorance to a more glorious space of self awareness and inner strength—I find myself fraught with confusion about the future. To be still in this moment and let this experience just be is at the top of the to-do list, but quickly I am catapulted back to reality.
My friends are getting married.
Every third person in my damned news feed is expecting a baby.
While I am overjoyed by the exciting news friends and family so eagerly share, I can’t help but think hard about our paths. White picket fences that surround the coveted dream of a perfect young adult life, falling gracefully within the confines of socially acceptable timelines create an image that is hard to ignore.
But it may not be for me.
Conversation over a business lunch early this week reminded me of how much I despise the chain of events that we are all expected to follow, without deviation. She and I both are on the edge of the fateful 3-0, own businesses, recently became pet parents, and have, at least in some fashion, owned a home.
We are fast-paced and go-getting without much time for ourselves, and passionate about the work we do for the greater good. After she showed me a picture of her fur baby, and I reciprocated one of my little guy, we laughed about how this step in our lives reaffirmed the decision not to bring life into this world.
I paused to ponder how true my statement was in response to hers, as I have gone back and forth on the baby train for as long as I can remember, and she noticed. An awkward silence was followed by a quick handshake and even quicker bolt out of the restaurant, as I gave more thought to the list of “things” we all are expected to check off in our lifetime.
Fall in love—that, of course, is the easiest of them all, right?—and plan a pricey celebration of a journey that has yet to begin.
Acquire a pet to prepare for, of course, the roller coaster that is starting a family. This step is optional, but comes highly recommended before diving headfirst into parenthood.
Create another human being, or care for one who would not otherwise be looked after.
Despite the cultural settings in which we were raised, extended family dynamics, the presence or lack of financial stability, or, most importantly, personal desires, the list remains. This is where my struggle begins.
Generation to generation, we are set up for life in a way that follows a clearly defined path. Enter list above. When there is a disruption to that prescribed path, at least in my experience, a degree of shame comes in like a flood.
Check off the fall in love/get married bullet point. Get divorced. Is that an oops, or an opportunity to change the journey? In my case it fell—with not a lot of clarity—under both categories. I gave up on my marriage early on, but also knew in the heart that I wasn’t meant to be in that relationship indefinitely.
But the damn list stuck.
The house was purchased, the optional pet acquisition took place, our lives were on the predetermined track that the majority of society seems to follow without hesitation. And then poof—a clear revert back to the beginning. Despite the growth that took place during those tumultuous years, I felt I was starting over completely, as opposed to starting from a higher, more stable point.
All because of that damn list.
I suppose my questioning comes into play as my now relationship moves in a direction that resembles everyone else’s list. We have had discussions about all the things we are supposed to be checking off as we grow up, together, but creating another life may or may not be an option for us—for reasons that I should not have to share with the world, but feel obligated to, regardless. Shame reigns down over me when I have the thought of sharing my decision to possibly not cross off the last bullet point.
It’s an obligation you have as a woman. Really? I don’t feel that way. And that’s okay.
The joy of parenthood is something that cannot be experienced in any other capacity. Really? I’m not sure I want to find out. And that’s okay.
It’s a selfish decision to not fulfill the mom role. Really? I can’t wrap my brain around that being selfish. And that’s okay.
If this world is ours to create and ultimately make better by what we are able to give back to it, why, then, is there a damn list? And why, then, do I feel such a heavy burden of guilt for deviating from it? To each his—ahem, her—own, as long as no harm is being done to ourselves or others, and as long as we satisfy the list.
Our lives become what we make of them, very simply. Our experiences drive us to a greater awareness of the one truth we all know—this is all temporary. Nothing remains constant in this experience, and we should start each day thankful for the opportunity to ebb and flow with it, not against it. But when our paths deviate from the norm, there shouldn’t be shame and there shouldn’t be hesitation. We must embrace what is best for us, regardless of the misunderstood reasoning behind whatever that may be, and experience it the best we can.
My heart sings so loud when I hear news of a close friend who is expecting their first child, or preparing to celebrate their commitment to another person for as long as their paths allow.
Why can the same not be afforded to me for considering the decision to stay this course?
My course—with my partner, my pet and my own damn list.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons