I have learned so much about me and life in general in my grown-up years. I thought I had it all figured out and then – bam! – another Life Lesson hits me smack in the face. I wish I could get a re-do but since I can’t, I can try to take my life’s learnings and incorporate them into my daily grind. Because if I don’t, what’s the point?
The latest is this past weekend. I flew to Long Beach for the memorial gathering of my friend who just passed away from ovarian cancer. Over the course of five days, I hung out with people who are like my family. One afternoon, my best friends (who are married) Julie, Shane, two of their daughters and I drove to Huntington Beach and went to a Farmer’s Market. There were some very interesting people selling their fruits and veggies, organic herbs, various oils, and services that ranged from acupuncture to hypnotism and everything in between. I talked to one woman who was particularly fascinating, with her long flowing hair and skirt. A free spirt, she was. Well traveled, educated, and living a life that did not include windowless office cubicles and hours sitting in traffic every day (not that there is anything wrong with that!). I envied her. How come she got to travel the globe and live a life I envied and I didn’t?
Later that day, Julie and I talked about The Meaning of Life. She and her husband have recently made some super huge life changes, which include selling their house and most of their furniture and downsizing in a ginormous way. Not only did shedding all that “stuff” save them a lot of money, but it also saves them a ton of time taking care of it all.
“When you and Sherri got sick, I realized that I was living a life I didn’t want,” Julie said. “I want to travel and live. I do not want all the trappings anymore. I don’t think I ever did.” Julie and I are so similar in this respect (which is why we are best friends)– we both are on a quest to see the world, as much of it as possible RIGHT NOW. We want to create memories and strengthen relationships. How did I end up so off course for so long?
Expectations. That’s why.
Growing up, my parents (who I am not disparaging in any way– they are amazing people and I love them completely) had certain expectations for me. I would have a life (sort of) like theirs. College, marriage, kids and a mortgage. Two weeks of vacation (if I worked because, really, they thought I should be a stay at home mom)… And I did those things. I graduated, traveled a little, started my career, got married, adopted two children when I couldn’t maintain a pregnancy… And then I got cancer. Life changer. STOP. I hated everything about my life. I hated the mortgage, traffic, being chained to a desk in a windowless cubicle. I hated accumulating crap that didn’t matter and then buying bigger and bigger homes to house all that stuff I didn’t give a shit about. And on and on it went. A meaningless, purposeless life that I somehow fell into. I remember oftentimes wondering if this was it? I was supposed to be living this enviable life. A great job, a great income, cute daughters, a beautiful home, a husband, the occasional great vacation. It fucking sucked. I hated my husband, my job, the grind. All of it. How did I end up here? I often thought about it, scratching my head.
I really believe that if someone had asked me what I wanted to do, or at least if I felt free to explore and decide along the way, I would have consciously picked something else. Because, truly, nothing makes me happier than packing a suitcase (well, actually packing is my least favorite part of traveling) and getting out of town. I am a rule breaker. Kind of combative. And a free spirit. What would I have done? Been a tour guide? Grown coffee beans in Costa Rica or grapes in Napa Valley? Maybe I would have tried all kinds of things before choosing something. And picking that “something” would have been the really fun part.
So as I raise daughters, I am trying really super hard to embrace their inner amazingness and not shove my ideas of a great life down their throat. I totally hope they go to college because it will further their brain, give them more options, and make them more interesting people poised to conquer whatever it is that they feel like conquering. I hope they find love. I hope they discover their passion and are able to make a living doing that. I wish children on them because feeling that truly unconditional love is mind blowing. And I hope they become tax paying citizens who make a difference in the world around them. But if they flounder or pick something else, well so be it. They will discover life at their own pace and I hope to have the wisdom to shut up unless my opinion is asked for. Because by now, they both know how I feel about pretty much everything. At this point, I’m here to guide, love and stay out of their way. At least that’s the plan.