Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today in lowbrow gym reading, I perused myself some Glamour. (I claim, by the way, to read the New Yorker at the gym. Once in a while I do. But let’s be real: when there’s a lighter option available, I am not above taking it).

This issue featured Katie Couric conducting a serious interview with Whoopi Goldberg. Okay fine it was really, really unserious. Among her puffy questions was one about what she knows now that she wished she had known in her twenties.

Being Whoopi and being awesome, she replied that she wished she knew that being twenty-something is not, in fact, all that different than being fifty-something.

Which, if you’re not Whoopi, may be more or less true. But regardless it reminded me of a conversation I had last night with one of my best friends, R.

R is starting law school in the fall, which means she’s moving back to New York. She is currently contemplating a decision: whether to go back to her bright-but-expensive-and-ideally-located Brooklyn apartment, or move in, for a few months at least, to her parents bright-but-free-and-ideally-located Brooklyn house.

It’s a decision that is not dissimilar to one several friends of mine have faced in recent years. And all of them have said some version of what she said to me: that it’s not one she expected to be making at the age of twenty-seven.

“It’s crazy,” she said, “to think about what I expected my life to look like at this point when we were in high school, versus what it actually is.”

True story. And I agreed completely.

The thing is that I’m not really sure how I pictured this point in my life as a teenager. I don’t think I thought that I’d be fully settled and have a family: growing up in New York I’m pretty sure I believed that a woman’s child-bearing years commenced around thirty-five. (Which actually makes no sense because my mother  had me when she was twenty-nine; apparently then, as now, I preferred not to think about that.)

But I do think I anticipated that things would be brighter, more focused and more secure than they were then, and probably than they are, in fact, now: I pictured myself better-looking, happier, with a steady boyfriend and a stronger sense of stability and purpose.

I hope I’m better looking. I’m pretty sure I’m happier. But as for the boyfriend and the purpose, well, not so much.

I’m not torn up about this. Everything is relative, and while I may not have achieved the kind of glorious success that I probably aspired to have by this point, it turns out that I’m in a pretty similar place to most people I know who are my age.

Like R. Last night she and I talked about how unpredictable life is: how, just as ten years ago we couldn’t have known where we’d be, at this point we really have no clue what the next part of our lives will bring.

Which, in theory, I know to be true: I have no idea where life, love or geography will wind up taking me. But it’s a lot easier to know something intellectually than it is to believe it emotionally. And somehow, if I’m honest with  myself, I do manage to hold on to a blind and naive faith that in the next five years I absolutely will find a husband and a livelihood and become a mother.

Maybe my twenties aren’t exactly what I thought they’d be. But–foolish though it may be–I’m not gonna let that awareness stop me from looking forward to my thirties: when I’m sure that I’ll really, truly be better looking. And happier. That I’ll have a committed relationship. And, definitely, a steady job.


Filed under Love Life

6 responses to “Looking Back, Looking Forward

  1. Christy

    I made a reference about my twenty somethingness in a meeting yesterday at work and was laughed out of the room. I said I was confused about where I was going and doing after grad school. My colleague responded with–I’m 45, and I have no idea, boxes and packing tape always on stand-by. I felt a little comfort in that, but still wondered if there was a way to avoid it. I guess what changes with age is your level of anxiety? I’m not sure. Thanks for writing this 🙂

    • Hilarious. According to my father what develops with age is perspective, and more awareness of what the future may hold. Which clearly I have not accomplished yet. Maybe by fifty?

  2. There is something about reaching your later twenties that makes you start reflecting, and I’ve come across so many older people who say “you’re still young, you have time to figure it all out.” But does anyone ever really figure it out? There’s only so much you can control. Fate will always take over! Thanks for the great post!

    • Thanks for the comment! Yeah, clearly we have no control. And perhaps as we get older we will more fully realize this…but right now it is still terrifying!

  3. Creative Writers at UNM

    as someone who is no longer –ahem– 20-something. I’ll say that NO you never figure it out. Life is a process. Or maybe I should say “Living” is a process. ugh. all I can say is that I wish I were as self aware at your age as you are, Elizabeth.

    • Aw, thanks Jenn. Though I must say, I astonish myself with my refusal to let that self-awareness get in the way of some hopeless, misguided idealism. But hey, a girl’s gotta get up in the morning, right? 🙂

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