It is my last day of being in my 30s.
Last night I dreamed I held a sleeping newborn baby in my arms. I don’t remember anything else about the dream: only the sleepy warmth of that baby, and that she was not mine, and the pleasure and pain of looking into her face, and the love on her mother’s face as I gently returned her and walked away.
I am not where I thought I would be.
Life rarely turns out how we expect it to. No one has the life they imagined at 20. Lives are far more complicated than we can possibly dream, good and bad.
And I realize there is a lot of good in my life. I have a home. I have a job, if not my dream job. I have a good parish, and at least some connections there–people to pray for, people who pray for me. I have some pretty amazing pets who are great little companions. I have objects and instruments–musical instruments, pens and pencils and paper, cooking and baking tools, bicycles–that bring me enjoyment. I have friends and family, even if I’m separated from them a lot of the time.
But I am not where I thought I would be.
Up until recently, some part of me still half expected to be dealt an abbreviated version of just about every little girl’s dream life: meeting someone, falling in love, building a home, having children. The usual path, with variations.
Now I feel like I’m passing a point of no return, into uncharted waters.
As always this time of year, I want to call Mom so much, and yet, it occurs to me that even if I could, she couldn’t really have Big Life advice for me anymore. By the time she was my age, she’d been married for what, sixteen years? She had a big family. She was a homemaker. She had plenty of concerns and challenges, but totally different. I have sailed beyond her reckoning.
Likewise, many of my siblings have families of their own, very different circumstances. They have entered a world I can’t completely understand.
I don’t know of anyone quite like me.
I guess what I worry about above all is that I’m not where I’m supposed to be. What if I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque? What if I got lost in the fog for awhile and then headed toward the wrong star?
What if I’m outside of God’s will somehow, and have been for years?
I know that’s not how it works. But I also don’t think there’s an actual vocation to the single life. So where does that leave me? What am I? Where am I going? How do I keep going without the graces that come with an actual state, like marriage or holy orders? And, on a more practical level, what’s going to become of me as I age, alone?
At some points in our lives, we can’t really ask “what does God want me to do with my life?” We have to be content with “what does God want me to do in this moment?” But a) it’s really hard not to look up sometimes, and b) the first question still matters, and sometimes, it crushes me.
In any case, 40 is coming at me like a storm across the waters. I can’t avoid it, and I don’t think any sort of Pollyanna grin can prevent it from tossing me around for a period. It’s going to hurt. I’m going to feel regrets and anger and confusion. I’m going to feel doubt and loneliness.
But it won’t last forever. There will be rough days, I’m sure, but this isn’t the end of the story.
I’m not where I thought I’d be. I’m not really sure where I’m going. I feel like I’m forging my own path, now more than ever, and there’s no map for where I’m headed. I’m not very good at accepting that unknowing. But who knows, maybe at 60 I’ll look back at 40 and laugh.