So, my 30th birthday is about 6 weeks away and I’ve spent a lot of time wondering exactly how I got here. I don’t mean that in an existential way (although I do spend a lot of time thinking about that too). But this time, by here I mean having a family, living in Florida, working as a managing editor of a sociology journal…
When I think back to the eve of my 20th birthday, I would have pictured my 30 year old self still single, living abroad (maybe in Paris), working on my 3rd novel. I wouldn’t have even cared if any of my fictitious novels were published. I just craved the experience of it all and wanted to be accountable to no one but myself. My days would consist of waking up with the dawn, meandering down to my favorite cafe, feeding ducks by the river. Ok, that last part is a total lie because I hate ducks, but you get the point.
Fast forward a couple of years and in my alternate future plans, I was still single (are you noticing a theme here?), still traveling as much as possible, but working as a special agent for the FBI (or another federal agency). I was really serious about this one. I did all of my research and knew the pros and cons of each agency (I had contacts in several of them). I met all of the basic criteria and knew from speaking with several different recruiters that I was a strong candidate. I just needed to make the decision and move forward.
Free will is a funny thing, isn’t it? A single decision that you make can change your life so drastically. I have to say that I still remember the moment when I veered away from this almost reality of mine. I had just finished my Masters degree and I had to choose whether I stayed in graduate school to pursue a PhD or start moving full speed ahead towards federal law enforcement. The deciding factor for me was the defining characteristic I had listed above in my fantasy life #1 – I wanted complete control over my life. So, I shelved all of my applications and began learning about criminological theory and it’s practical applications.
Then, something else happened. Something very unexpected. I fell in love with my best friend. Talk about not seeing that one coming. I had gotten out of a long relationship earlier in the year and I was all about living the single life (finally!) for a good, long time. But, life happened. You know, I had always thought that I would eventually marry a brooding intellectual who drank red wine and wore horn-rimmed glasses and black turtlenecks. We would discuss critical theory during our morning runs and vacation on a yacht.
That image now seems completely absurd as I conjure up a picture of the Irishman in his Steelers t-shirt and jeans, drinking a pint of Guinness. As I ruefully shake my head over the image, I can’t help but think of him rolling on the floor playing with Parker or reading a book to him during bath time. Somehow, I can’t imagine my brooding intellectual getting spit up on his black turtleneck or putting Neitzche down long enough to read Curious George.
No, I’m not exactly sure how I got here, but who knew that here would be such an unexpectedly delightful place? It’s like finding a beautiful waterfall on your way to your final destination and then deciding to build your life there instead. It’s also interesting how we all make our “here” work for us. Even though I now have a husband, a child and a hord of small animals, I still live each day for myself, complete with indulgences and no regrets. The one thing I always swore is that I would always be the captain of my own ship. I don’t believe in sacrificing yourself for the sake of others because you only get once shot at making your own happiness. So, while I may have other passengers on my ship, some for long stays and some for short ones, I’m happy to report that I’m still in charge of my final destination, but I’m certainly open to noticing the waterfalls along the way.