Friday, February 22, 2013

Looking at Thirty

A week away from entering my third decade of life, I’ve been rather introspective as of late.  My twenties are nearly behind me.  In my youth, I watched the Gen-Xers with admiration and envy.  They made the twenties seem so cool--young and carefree, but adult enough to engage in meaningful relationships, conversations, and careers.  I couldn’t wait to grow out of my awkward teens, to live in a studio apartment, to go to my well-paid and fulfilling job, to sip cappuccinos while gazing out the window at a dynamic city skyline, and to go to wine and cheese tasting parties with my witty and insightful friends.

And while I maybe haven’t ended up where I imagined when I was a teenager, who actually does?  To be honest, the reality I’m living now is far more than I ever imagined.  And to be even more honest, in my imaginings, I didn’t ever picture myself living this long.  Living with depression from before an age of language, I couldn’t imagine bearing the heaviness of living past my mid-twenties.  I was content to hope for a couple good years of that independent and carefree lifestyle I coveted before I succumbed to darkness.

The past ten years have certainly been an epic journey for me.  I’ve gone from taking care of ponies and teaching little girls to ride back to the world of academia where my eyes are opened to fascinating perspectives of the world daily.  I’ve moved from the familiar but constricting community of my childhood in rural Michigan across the continent to one of the most diverse cities in the world.  San Francisco feels more like a place of belongingness and home than the hometown of my youth ever did.

My twenties were host to a period of the darkest despair I have ever known.  In my twenties, I lost loved ones, I’ve bid reluctant goodbyes, I lost my grasp on the moorings that grounded my sense of self.  I had my heart broken.  I lost the will to live, I tried to end my life.  More than once.  In a desperate attempt to realign the synapses of my psyche to something that wasn’t shot through with gaping holes of howling emptiness, I underwent electroshock therapies that instead of granting me the peace I yearned for ultimately wiped out huge chunks of my memory and has rendered my short-term memory spotty and unreliable at best.

Yet I’m still here, stronger than ever, having managed to scrabble inch by inch from the depths of hell.  And hard work shall be rewarded, no?

My twenties have also been witness to the greatest sense of inner peace and self-acceptance that I have ever known.  I’ve found purpose and passion.  I’ve found true love; I’ve married my best friend, vowed in front of those I love to spend the rest of my life with this good man who has seen me through my darkness, who held aloft a torch of light and love and walked with me step by step to the breaking dawn of a seemingly endless night.  I’ve found community and camaraderie in the brilliant scholars I’ve had the privilege to work alongside in my pursuit of graduate studies and community organization.  I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, and months in the land of my birth, rediscovering my heritage, making it my own, and making it feel like home.

My twenties saw my family  grow in all directions.  I’ve gained mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, and cousins, and I feel the blessings of their love shower down on me every day.  The growth and forging of these new relationships continues to be a source of wonder and gratitude.

With so much that has happened in the past ten years, I am somewhat at at loss as to where to go from here. My plans for the future never ventured this far.  And while I may have never daydreamed about my thirties as I did my twenties, there are things I do look forward to.

In this next decade, I will earn my doctorate from one of the best universities in the world.
I will publish my book.
I will become a mother.
I will welcome even more people into my family and will open my heart even more to give and receive love.

At thirty, I may not have caught that elusive perpetual bliss just yet, but I certainly know I’m pointed in the right direction.