I’ve always been the free spirit of the family. The loud one, the silly one, the one who never really had it all together. My mom says I’m adventurous, my dad calls it independence, and my grandmother–well, she’s never really understood it. I marched to the beat of my own drum, I strayed from the pack, I didn’t fit into the mold.
While my parents and older sisters, cousins and aunts and uncles, grandparents and godparents, family friends and literally and every other person I’ve ever known went to huge schools in the SEC, I opted for a smaller, private university in a major city. Instead of marrying my high school sweetheart, I dated around. I opted for internships and experience over my MRS degree. I wanted life experience, wanted to make mistakes. I yearned to break the glass ceiling, to make something of myself, to stand on my own. I wanted to live. Wanted to thrive. Wanted to succeed. And for whatever reason, I thought that in order to do this–in order to be happy–I had to do it on my own.
I looked at my mother and my sisters, the ones who had gotten married young and had babies young and had…settled young–and I pitied them. “What a waste,” I used to think. “How sad for them. How sad they all must be.” I imagined they looked at my life and envied me. Envied my late nights and strange men and my I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. I wondered if they regretted their choices, spent their nights longing for a life of what could have been, for a life without monotony, for a life full of risk and uncertainty and not knowing what tomorrow might bring. I couldn’t fathom a life of marriage and mortgages and pre-school applications and college tuitions. It all seemed so awful, so boring, so normal. So I rebelled. I took a stand against everything the women in my life had ever done. I denounced their choices. Belittled their lives. Mocked their supposed happiness. I wanted to be careless and carefree, and I wanted to not care about anyone other than myself. I thought I was breaking the mold. I thought I was really showing everyone what they were missing out on. Now, I see, I’m the one who’s missing out. It’s not that I’m unhappy–it’s just that I could be happier.
Now, I look at my sisters and my friends and my mother, the ones who have settled down and the ones who have someone and the ones who have little someones, and I can’t help but feel overcome with jealousy. I want what they have. After the late nights at work, the later nights at bars, and the hungover mornings that come too soon, I’ve realized that happiness isn’t found at the bottom of a bottle. Happiness isn’t found next to a stranger in bed. Happiness isn’t found in dancing on tables or triple digit bar tabs or hangovers that nearly kill you. It’s not found in bottomless mimosa brunches or happy hours that continue until last call, and it’s not even found in a really good shot of tequila. It was at one point. It really, truly was. But it’s not anymore. And I don’t really know how to cope with that.
My entire life thus far has been one giant middle finger to everything my parents have ever stood for. The suburbs and the station wagons and the Sunday Schools–it’s all I’ve never wanted. Until now. Suddenly, everything I’ve been running from is now everything I truly ache for. It is everything I think about when I drift off to sleep, everything I dream about, everything I see when I envision true completion. I look at the faces of my nieces and nephews, how they light up when my sisters walk into rooms, how they giggle and smile and are full of such genuine happiness. I see the sonograms and the onesies and the hair bows and the baby dolls and the crooked smiles and, most importantly, the love. And I want it. I’m tired of being alone. I’m tired of being selfish. I’m tired of thinking that growing up means giving up.
Happiness, for me, is no longer dancing on table tops. It’s not drinking until I pass out. It’s not 3 a.m. phone calls, and it’s not passionless sex. I’m over it, done with it, can’t-turn-the-page-fast-enough ready for the next chapter. But I don’t know where this leaves me. I don’t know if this makes me an adult or if it just makes me a little more mature than I once was. I don’t know if this makes me someone who’s looking for love or someone who wants a baby or someone who’s just tired of being on her own. I don’t know if this means that I’ll one day become just like my mother–and I don’t even know if I want to be just like her. But I know that this, what I’ve been doing, it’s not me anymore. It’s not what I want. Maybe this is what growing up is. And for the first time ever, I’m okay with it.