Or, holy crap, I'm so totally old, omigod! (faker)
I remember 10 years ago today, or at least this week, laying in my bed in my dorm room. I was on the phone with my boyfriend, who was so totally going to be the love of my life, talking about how much had changed in the last ten years. We'd known each other for the last eight of those years, and had dated for the last three. I distinctly remember our conversation, about how we were crossing the first decade of our lives that we were likely to remember everything.
Boyfriend said, "We changed so much from 10 to 20, but it was mostly outside. I think the next ten years will serve to change us inside infinitely more."
I was incredulous. I got his point, like, we grew hair in places we didn't want hair to grow, and we became fully reproductive human beings and all that, but how could he discount the emotional maturity from 10 to 20? My dad died in those last ten years, my uncles, my grampa, my world was rocked, again and again and again. I was always an introspective person, but from ten to twenty, I'd gone lightyears in intelligence, in existential angst, in general maturity, and like, who doesn't?
Boyfriend said, "Yeah, you have been through a lot. I still think there is more to come. We'll talk about this in 10 years, and I think you'll agree with me."
As it turns out, Boyfriend and I broke up a mere 9 months later. He was my first love, and the tumult that followed our break-up was what truly set in motion his premonition of change for the third decade of my life. We broke up because we moved to Ireland together and we learned how different we were. I wanted to go to pubs (gasp! go to pubs in Ireland?), get sloppy drunk with my new friends, and climb trees with them where we passed bottles of whisky back and forth all night. Boyfriend, apparently, wanted friends who only exhibited the utmost in self-control, and did not climb trees. We were a bad match.
I've always had a very strong sense of self. When I was dating Boyfriend, I truly thought I was THE SHIT. After I broke up with him, I figured out that I was not as superior as I thought I was, but that I was still completely in charge of my own happiness, my life, my direction.
I realized that pretentiousness was my enemy. I redefined what a fool is: a fool is not the person who is having fun, living a joyful life and is occasionally "acting the fool," but is instead the 21 year old kid who sits in the corner of a party, thinking he/she is better than everyone else. That is not living a joyful life, it is unnecessarily burdening oneself with the job of judgement upon others. I learned how not to hold life away from me, but instead to embrace it. I started climbing trees a lot more. And drinking a lot more whisky, but that's kind of beside the point.
I broke up with Boyfriend with extreme bitterness that he had held me back, and had made me repress parts of me that were extroverted, loud and funny. I'd lost almost all of my friends from high school, or didn't make them in the first place. As an aside, I was told a couple years ago at my 10-year high school reunion, "I had no idea you were such a fun person!"
Needless to say, I went crazy. I partied. I feel no guilt about this. To borrow from a quote from South Park, "There's a time and place for everything, and that's college." I cut loose and had FUN. I met outstanding people from all over the world, many of whom I still keep in touch with and love enormously. The next year, my senior year in college, turns out to be one of the happiest of my life.
But I also developed a bad habit, which formed how the decade developed: I didn't want to force any commitments. Especially with boys. Since Boyfriend, I have dated, and while my love life was steady (at least until The Kid), I refused to make ultimatums, I refused to date anyone seriously ever since.
Fast forward a couple of years. I moved back to Ireland. I settled down a lot, studied toward a masters degree. But I still wouldn't "date" anyone. I broke up with the nicest, cutest, sweetest Irish boy ever because he wanted to date seriously. I prefered the non-commital types. I wanted to give the milk out for free, because the cow wasn't for sale in the first place.
And then I got knocked up.
Things begin to change enormously from this point on. I learned responsibility for one's choices, as I made the single most important choice of my life, to have The Kid. I quit my master's program. I moved home to Denver, a place that I cried about returning to a mere year prior.
I can't stress this enough: I learned that we choose our own directions, and that we own those choices. Even if you regret it, you own it. Even if you feel like you are a spinning out of control, you still own the spinning.
And now, on to Motherhood. I've learned things I never knew about myself. I learned what unconditional love means. I learned that my body is a very accomodating hotel and restaurant (tm, Mr. Lady). I learned about the instinctual love and protection-urge that comes with having a baby.
On the other end of the spectrum, I learned that a crying infant gives you rage, rage that is so completely and totally unadmittable, but is also so totally there, and must be dealt with. I learned what sleep deprivation is. I had to deal with the shame of having a kid who has bipolar fits and rages in public, and how to not just want to dig a hole and hide from the judgemental stares of strangers.
I've learned that I'm capable. And how to ignore those strangers, because who are they but the parenting version of the pretentious party-goer? Fools.
So, Boyfriend of Ten Years Ago, you were totally right. When I look with my mind's eye at the girl in the dorm room ten years ago, I think again to the lightyears I've grown in these ten years. I'm still growing hair in places I don't want to hair to grow (I had to pluck a nasty hag-hair off of my chin recently, you are welcome for the TMI), I have truly become a fully reproductive human being, having reproduced and all. But emotional maturity? Most definitely yes. I no longer have that 20's-ish existential angst. Instead, realization. Purpose. Drive.
So, happy birthday to me. My best friend called me this morning and told me that 30 is the new 21. And I said, I agree, except that we're smarter than to do questionable shots of apple pucker mixed with goldschlager.