Saturdays are always stupid online. Nothing happens, as folks are mostly busy doing laundry, mowing lawns, shopping, or attending kids’ sporting activities.
I’ve scheduled a couple of social events with some moms and found a speculative-fiction discussion group to join. I’m sick and tired of living an isolated friendless life and will do more to find folks to really connect with. Literary Twitter has provided me with a few good pals, but I want real local friends. I’m done waiting to magically be befriended. I will start asking more people do go to stuff and I will override my many, many self-protection mechanisms that make me closed off and aloof because I want to avoid getting judged or hurt, and I will instead act as I am, warts and all, and people can take it or leave it.
I have also entered a weird cultural phase, in that I have decided I would indulge my longtime curiosity for things that are considered somewhat lowbrow. Think monster truck rallies and demolition derbies. Think country music. I still love everything else that I’ve always loved, highbrow or not (e.g., a variety of genres of popular music and much classical music; literary as well as speculative fiction; poetry; all visual art), but I will stop being a self-policing douche. I will no longer censor myself out of interesting experiences.
I’m 45 and healthy. That means I have another 20-25 years, maybe more, of good, active living. I am not ready to give up, to just coast through this sedentary, monotonous suburban life until I drop dead. So I’m getting out and moving, really moving. Might enter a race in the spring. We’ll see.
There are people around me who insist that life is basically over, that there are no more big milestones ahead and the only interesting things will be happening to our kids. Sometimes, I think these people are correct. But when I let myself believe this, I feel really low, I wonder what’s the point of living if there’s nothing to look forward to. So I refuse to believe that there’s nothing on the horizon. There are new experiences and new people and new connections. I hope there will be new career opportunities and new places to live. I am not dead yet.
I know that I occasionally write posts like this one. What is different now?
I have always felt I don’t have the right to perturb my husband and kids, who are happy where we are. This is what everyone expects, isn’t it? Mom, putting family first, always. Woman, putting the needs of others first, always. All the women I know do this; they often do it at the expense of their own ambitions and their own happiness.
But do we really owe our entire lives to our families? Until we die? Why does it not get to be our turn, again, at some point, to put ourselves first?
What precipitated this latest midlife examination is Eldest having gone to college. He’s moved out and doing great. He’s doing so great that he doesn’t really need us at all. We text with him, but he’s well adjusted, independent, and largely doing his own thing. On the one hand, I know this means we did a good job as parents and should be proud of ourselves and of him. On the other hand, so much time, money, and energy gets invested in the kids, and then they leave. If, after they leave, you have no life of your own, you will be in deep shit; I still have two at home, so not an empty nester, but I really did feel Eldest’s departure. Kids cannot be your whole life, at least not forever. And the sooner you realize — not intellectually, but deep down, emotionally — that kids are a big part of your life for a while, but that they are not and cannot be the sole purpose of your life, that they are their own people with their own paths, that they will go away and look forward and not back, just as you did — the better off you’re likely to be.
When the youngest starts college I will be 56. Perhaps still not too old to start a new third of life. But perhaps it’s best to start planting the seeds of meaningful connections with the world outside of family sooner rather than later.