When I was 26 years old, I thought 46 was ancient. That 20-year span of life seemed like eons back then – more than enough time to live life to the fullest before I turned into an old hag.
Now that I’m 46, I don’t have enough time to be an old hag. In fact, the last 20 years seems to have flown by like some kind of runaway train, and just when we thought we’d be on Easy Street, life is more hectic than ever.
What happened? Did we take a wrong turn? Will we ever reach our destination?
Obviously, when I was in my 20s, I was naïve. I knew that we’d have to work hard for the next 20 years to establish careers, buy a house, raise children, and save for college and retirement. But I thought by the time we reached our 40s, our life would look like one of those trendy wine commercials with handsome middle-aged post-yuppies lounging in Adirondack chairs at their lake house after 18 holes of golf, secure in the knowledge that they’re saving far more than they spend.
The eldest child, smartly garbed in a J. Crew sweater which compliments his sun kissed hair and excellent orthodontic work, asks to borrow the keys to the imported European car, which was purchased new with cash. With a chuckle, they toss him the keys. After all, the college acceptance letters are rolling in and he’s becoming a fine upstanding young man — it’s time to let him spread his wings and fly. They nibble overpriced smoked Gouda and toast to their beautiful life.
“California Chardonnay from XYZ Vinyards . . . because you’ve earned it.”
Fade to black.
Unfortunately, my life at 40-something is nothing like a chardonnay commercial. Maybe an ad for laundry detergent, or antacids, or Hamburger Helper, but definitely not fine wine.
Although we have two plastic Adirondack chairs my husband picked up at the grocery for $9.99 each while buying dog food, we don’t own a lake house. We faithfully contribute to our college and retirement funds, but have not attained the kind of financial security that enables one to casually nibble expensive specialty cheese after 18 holes of golf. Despite the fact that every molecule of our energy, attention, and financial planning goes into raising our kids to become independent, we aren’t ready to lend our eldest the keys to our dirty white minivan, much less an expensive foreign import.
To the contrary, our days are filled with work, running the kids to and from school and activities, monitoring homework, checking grades, paying bills, incessant errands, endless laundry, and throwing dinner together at the last minute. Rather than golf, our free time these days is largely spent collapsing. Collapsing onto the couch to zone out into a mindless television show, or onto the bed to sleep so we can wake up and do it all over again the next day.
On weekends, we treat ourselves to pizza and TWO movie rentals. Now that’s livin’.
What have we done wrong? Does life get any easier? When can we sit back and enjoy what we’ve worked so hard for? Will we ever casually nibble expensive specialty cheese after 18 holes of golf?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I figure, if we can manage to make it through this gauntlet of child rearing without losing our minds and our neglected friends, we will reach our destination one of these days.
We may never find Easy Street, but as long as we keep going, we’ll find our own way. The ride may have ups and downs and twists and turns, and we may get lost every once in a while, but sometimes it’s the detours that make the trip interesting.
No matter how we get there, when we finally arrive, there will surely be a chair for us to sit – not collapse, but sit – in and relax. It may not be an Adirondack chair overlooking a lake, it may just be a lawn chair overlooking the back yard sprinkler. The point is – someday, we will be able to stop and smell the proverbial roses, or dandelions as the case may be.
No one ever said life was easy, but when you consider the richness of the journey, it’s easy to see why we took this trip in the first place.