The Waiting Game
Today’s American Dream guest essay (submissions always welcome) is courtesy of Jessica Balmer. And guess what? JESSICA ISN’T EVEN AMERICAN! Is your mind blown by the universality of this concept yet?
Get ready. Get set…
Often I feel that this point in my life is equivalent to standing at the edge of a precipice waiting to jump (in a good way, not an imminent death way), or milling about at the starting line, before getting into the blocks, or standing and stretching outside of the car before getting in and settling down for a long drive; the jump or race or drive representing my real life.
Photo by h.koppdelaney
Everything I’ve done so far seems preparatory for the real life that I will start living any day now. I did high school, undergrad, interning, working a bit, grad school, working a little more. In other words I’ve done a fair share of stuff a.k.a. living, but I think of said stuff as laying the ground work for the life that will start once I get a real career and a real home and start growing my family for real and traveling (more) and so on. The expression life is not a dress rehearsal comes to mind. Yes, life is not a dress rehearsal, but this part of my life is…or at least that’s what it feels like.
I’ve read accounts of people claiming that at age 60, 70, 90, they feel the same as they did at 15, 20, 25. They are acting at grown-up life, their skin forming a shell of maturity around the brain and heart and general being of the person they were in their youth. Perhaps this is what I’m tapping into.
I keep expecting a switch to flip and rocket me into feeling like a bona fide adult, where I’ll look around and meet the eyes of other adults and nod, knowingly. Yes, I’m an adult too, yes. Dinner parties, bills and work, you know. Yes. White wine and real estate, of course. I assume that that’s just how it happens.* My parents were kids. Then they were adults. I feel young, directionless, and semi-capable, but one day I will feel mature, on-course and fully capable, responsible in fact for the lives and/or careers of others. One day.
In the meantime, I feel like my life and the lives of my friends occupy this weird state of limbo, of not-real-life-ness. We’re getting ready, all of us, to start. The real stuff (kids, homes, etc.) is on the horizon, maybe a few years away. But I also think, and maybe know but deny, that that’s definitely not true and that this is life and it is real and we have more than started. That this is how adults/grown-ups/grandparents think and feel about their own lives and selves. Maybe there’s more of a sense of accomplishment, an acknowledgment of time passed and life lived and maturity/experience achieved for older folks, but it too is coupled with a feeling of youth and pretending and uncertainty.
We, my friends and I, have careers and bills and plans, and accomplishments; some have homes and others, on the periphery of my friendships, even have kids. But when I turn my gaze navel-wards, I don’t see my specific circumstance as being comparable—even though for all intents and purposes, and measured by all standards, it is.
Maybe it’s because I have no mapped plan for the future. I hear that people make five and ten year plans. That is something people do, right? Maybe if I envisioned my life at 30 and 35 I would have a blueprint that would make my life-measurement more tangible. Maybe with those plans I would start seeing my accomplishments as steps on a ladder, evidence of my stick-to-it-ive-ness, rather than flukes. Maybe I would grow into a more sturdy and mature person on all fronts, complete with home and kin and career and Chardonnay.
Maybe without a plan, events just seem to happen, by chance or coincidence rather than effort or exertion, and so don’t count (at least for me) as much or at all. Maybe that’s why I feel like everything up to this point has been composed of stuff-that-happened to me rather than a real life that’s been governed by me. Maybe these are the revelations that will set me on a path and inspire me to create a plan. Maybe all I need is a change of perspective. Maybe.
Or maybe I’ll just keep waiting for my switch to flip. And maybe that’s life.
* And clearly I assume that that’s how adults think and interact with other adults.
Jessica Balmer is a freelance writer and the Reviews Editor for Shameless magazine. Her writing has been published in Bitch, TROT, The London Free Press, VOICE, and the forthcoming anthology Becoming Feminists, among others. She has an MA in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research and a BA in Media, Information, and Technoculture & Women’s Studies from the University of Western Ontario. Her research interests include feminism(s) and/in pop culture, with a particular focus on women’s contributions to culture jamming. She blogs at You Discussed Me and is perpetually waiting to grow up.