I started reading a post this week on Reddit about when was the moment that you realised that you finally didn’t care what others thought anymore? What was the age, where as a woman, you finally went: “that’s it, I don’t care what others think or do, I am me!”
Reading the comments, I noted that for many it was around 30 / 40 years of age. Their 20s were spent agonising over who says what, wears what, drives what and that ever elusive acceptance. The 20s are lost in a morass of self-loathing and self-pity. Many respondents also claim that a lot of the final acceptance came when they found themselves alone, in their late 20s having to sort life out, and that living alone helped with the process. Especially the disentanglement of parental acceptance.
In my 20s I was raising 2 children. I had no time for self-pity or self-loathing as I was dealing with nappies, running a household and balancing a new marriage/relationship with the fact that we had kids before we tied the knot. Not the most auspicious start to any relationship. Added to that we had been kicked out of the parental homes because we were a disgrace.
I got to my 30s and the kids were older and suddenly I had this need to stretch my wings. I wanted a career and not just to be a mother, I wanted to be a person in my own right. I was 30 and living like a 20-year old and failing miserably. It created strain on my primary relationship and I still carry some guilt for that. I wanted what it felt like my peers all had – a career, a life of travel, freedom and the ability to choose who they wanted to be with.
Now I am in my 40s, and I still wonder if I have grown up. Seriously. The Reddit responses were all about how the ability to live alone, to make decisions and to not seek acceptance were signs of maturity, of not giving a fuck! I have many days when all I seek is acceptance. When I want to be a part of something, when I want to have what it feels like my peers have. I am alone now, with a few partners, but I mean that my family do not live with me anymore. I am single, and my time and resources are my own.
When I was 30 my peers were travelling, building careers and doing all the stuff I desperately wanted to. I was handling a household and teenagers and dealing with familial politics. Now I am 40, and my peers are settling down with babies and very young children. They are building those family styled lives and they have the resources to do so. I didn’t at 20 or 30 (we battled) and now at 40 I have no assets. But my time and resources are mine, and very finite.
It’s a case of feeling like there is no foundation anymore. Am I grown up or am I still seeking approval like a 20-year old who has not yet figured out that it is okay to just be themselves? I had a dream the other evening which weirded me out. In it I was asked what my foundation was? What had I built my life on?
Had you asked me that question two weeks ago I would have said my family. Now, I am not so certain. I haven’t spoken to either one of my offspring for 2 weeks. (Yes they are in their 20s and very self-absorbed as 20-year olds are). I have to deal with a passive-aggressive parent, a sister who will not take necessary steps and all the associated “but you left” sagas. I feel adrift as the one thing I thought was constant has proven to be anything but.
Caveat: I do not begrudge my offspring this period in their lives. They need it in order to mature a little further.
What I am questioning is my own maturity, my own level of “I don’t give a fuck”!. Some days I don’t care – actually it worked for a few months at the start of the year and then it all fell to pieces. I am wondering if that is because I still need some maturity, that the last 5 years alone is still not quite enough, and that there are life lessons I missed at appropriate ages because I was doing other things. Maybe my “I don’t care” moment will happen later?
For now though, this is making me not sleep and stress. I need to channel that into something else.