I remember that show. I was in my early teens when I watched, mesmerized by the lives of Michael & Hope, the super attractive couple with an adorable baby girl. Then there was Nancy and Elliot, separated and fighting while juggling their small children. And finally Gary the sexy single professor chasing skirts. I viewed with a mix of anticipation (maybe someday I'll have a hot husband running his own advertising agency and an adorable baby girl!) and terror, (am I really going to be that old?)
It was a television show but I felt it was really the official guide to Adulthood, akin to "What To Expect When You're a Grownup." As it turns out, if I remember correctly, it wasn't that far off.
My life has had a similar cast of characters. Most of my friends have taken their wedding vows, experienced the joy of bringing a baby into the world and struggled with the balance of career and parenthood. In our early thirties we held on to some of our more youthful habits (bar hopping, expensive vacations and lazy Sunday brunches.) As 30 rolled into 37, our lives became filled with pediatric doctors visits, promotions and career angst. I still had a few single friends who would occasionally tear me away to join their world on a Saturday night, but now, at the end of this decade, I have fully grown into a certified grown-up.
My thirties were good. Over those ten years I gave birth to three beautiful boys. I spent four years in California exploring San Francisco and Sonoma. I made new friends, while other friendships faded away, left to Facebook memories and occasional text messages. My remaining grandparents passed away and I watched my parents retire and embrace their new roles as grandma and grandpa. I have seen more divorces than all the bridesmaid dresses I have worn combined. I ran my first half marathon. I quit working. I started working. I quit working and started working... trying to achieve the perfect balance of motherhood and self.
And here I am a few days shy of my 40th birthday looking back, remembering how I had watched Hope, Michael, Nancy, Elliot and Gary so many years ago, thinking 30 was so far away, so... old. Part of me wishes there would have been a spin-off series, fortysomething, so I may have continued to watch the lives of my television role models. What happened to Michael and Hope, did they attend parent-teacher conferences together? Stay married, Overcome depression? Did Ellen's cancer come back? How did these thirtysomethings turn fortysomethings approach aging? Where is my road map, my What-To-Expect-When-Approaching-Middle-Age?
Perhaps it is best to leave it all to the imagination and admit that I have no idea what the next ten years will bring. Yes there are some things I can anticipate. Baseball games, growing pains, driver's education and high school graduations. Aging. Yes I will continue to age. My skin will continue to wrinkle, gravity to assert it's will, and a certain beauty will fade. I would be a liar if I said these things did not scare me, did not make me a little sad. Watching my babies turn into young men and eventually leave the nest we put so much energy in building, scares me. My own parents approaching their seventies, scares me. Looking older scares me.
And though there is fear and sadness as I leave behind the thirties, there is a certain joy in knowing I have in fact matured. So many people say that as the get older they feel "comfortable in their own skin" or that they are confident in themselves and have given up the insecurities of their youth. I can't go that far, though I wish I could. Rather I can say that at forty I am finally able to start confronting some demons. I am more open and willing to face and own my shortcomings and better able to identify my strengths. Though still a far cry from "self-confident" each day I feel myself getting a bit stronger.
I find myself wondering how I got so stuck in my twenties and thirties. I have been so stubborn in my pessimistic view of myself and the world. Perhaps it is true that with age comes wisdom and I'm finally starting to wise-up. For the first time in my life I feel that I am really capable of change, and while I don't know what the future will bring I, know that I can make my own happiness.
Yes I realize that this would probably make for a very boring television series, free of youthful angst drama. But guess what? I'm totally okay with that.
Happy fortysomething to me.