Monday, October 17, 2005

The overall creepiness of getting older

I just reconnected with an old high school friend, and I have to tell you-- I don't feel 30. What's up with that? In my mind, I'm still young, edgy, and hardcore. In reality, I've gotten soft in a few places and flabby in others, and I've become far too concerned with playing the mom/teacher/adult part that all my edges have rounded out considerably. Personally, I think that aging is a fabulous thing, but getting old just bites. I love the fact that at 30 I know so much more and get so much more than I did a decade ago, and I love that at 40 I'll know even more, and that by 70 I'll be a regular ol' babbling encyclopedia of old lady wisdom. But losing that individuality, that edge, that funk that made you who you were when you were first realizing exactly who "you" is, well that just stinks.

I wonder sometimes what would happen if I just up and decided to reclaim it. Can you really get it back once you've let it go? What if tomorrow, I went to the school where I teach wearing funky cords, a babydoll shirt that says something far more cool than I can think of right now, and a pair of Doc Martens-- what would happen? What would my co-workers think? Would they think I was faking edgy, when in reality I think I've been faking Donna Reed for the last 8 years? Would the students think Ms. Christy had completely lost her mind and was doing the cheesy 30-year-old pretending to be 18 thing? And how, exactly, does one do edgy at 30 without looking absolutely ridiculous? Please comment and tell me, because I hate feeling that I've landed in some kind of schoolmarmy box.

Here's the conundrum: Little brainy girl is timid and weird. Around 11th grade, little girl decides she's tired of trying to please everyone else and develops her own style. Not quite grunge, not quite punk, not quite preppy, not quite hardcore-- this porridge was just right. She finds other oddball friends who each have their own style, and around each other they are happy, accepted, and unafraid of weird. Little girl goes off to college and continues with unique style, which develops and grows into something even more delightful. At 20, girl finds out she's pregnant with a little boy, and starts to wonder what this means. Over the next 5 years, girl starts to conform more and more to what she thinks a mother is supposed to be, and in the course of this transition, she loses who she was--so much so that girl makes a lot of stupid choices, having forgotten who she is and what she believes. Girl gets carted all over an emotional rollercoaster for a few years by people and groups with whom she's become involved during her destruction-of-identity period, and by the time it's all over, girl genuinely does not know who she is anymore. She looks back at what she was about to become, before everything derailed, and knows she can't rewind time and start over (much as she would like to sometimes). But she wonders if there's any way to bring a little of the old, unique, unafraid her back into the older, wife-and-mom blob of mellowness she's become.

Can I get an amen from the thirty-somethings in the house?

I LOVE my children, and they are my world! My family is the most important thing in my life, next to my relationship with God, and I would never want to sacrifice my family for selfish reasons. Few things annoy me more than parents who abandon their children while trying to find themselves and live their own lives, but I wonder-- must they be mutually exclusive? Can I really bring a little zing back into my life without it making me a bad mother, wife, or Christian?

When I was edgy before, I was not living a lifestyle that I'd like to live now. Maybe that's why I find it so hard-- I feel I have to turn my back on EVERYTHING I was then in order to be who I want to be now-- someone who is wholesome, loving, and pure of heart. But then I'm only half a person, leaving years of my life stuffed into a closet. Surely there's a better answer. I just haven't found it yet.

So, friends who know me in real life-- if you one day see me wearing argyle knee socks, velvet blazers, leather pants, or some combination thereof, rest assured that I haven't lost my mind. I'm just going through that bizarre re-adolescence that most thirty-somethings I know at some point have to face. Bear with me.


Stacey said...

I think you can get older, and still keep that edge. I think we just let ourselves lose it. You're only as old as you think you are.

The Thinking Southerner said...

"I think we just let ourselves lose it. "

Exactly. Now I just need to figure out how to un-lose it. :-)

Stacey said...

when you figure it out... let me know :) Actually, i think that having kids has helped me in some ways. My wife however has been plagued by just the opposite. She is much more caustious than she used to be. I have a hard time getting her to ride bigger coasters, whereas before she used to ride them all. For me, though, having kids has helped me to find my "inner child", and I am seeing things that I used to never see. I am more adventureous, and willing to try new things.

The Thinking Southerner said...

Now, see-- that's exactly what happened to me. I had kids, became overly cautious, and somehow felt more pressure than ever to be something that I'm not sure if I am. When you do your own thing as a single person, people just think you're weird. When you do your own thing as a mother, people have an opinion about what you may or may not be doing to or for your kids.