Waiting for my real life to begin
I was listening to this interview with my heroine, Caitlin Moran, who is fabulousness incarnate and if you haven’t read all her books, stalked her on the internet stopping just short of paying an obscene amount for online access to the London Times, and sighed in jealousy over the hilarity of her tweets, then you haven’t lived. Do it now.
This interview was with NPR, and it was about her book “How to Be a Woman”. Brilliant book. Read that.
At one point, toward the end of the interview, I think, Caitlin talks about how she went through so much of her life thinking that at some point she would wake up – slim, smooth, stylish – slip on a dress, drink half a cup of coffee and waltz out the door to do some fabulous thing with her life looking perfect in every way. Most importantly, she talks about how she realized, somewhere just before she turned thirty, that she was waiting for that moment – that perfect moment where she would look like a magazine cover and everything would come easy – for her real life to begin.
Until that point, she wasn’t a woman. She was failing somehow. And then she says she realized that she was never going to have ten minutes of her life that were like that and she got on with being a person and things are sort of normal and sometimes crappy and hard but also at least she has some agency and knows that she’s living her life. She talks about how she meets women in their forties and fifties though, who are still waiting for things to be perfect – waiting in fact to be perfect – before they start living.
Intellectually, this is a concept I’ve been aware of for a while. In high school, I had “Life is not a rehearsal” written on the back of my door. I was aware that this was my life. But I don’t really live like I’m aware of that.
It’s very similar to how I’m aware that eating Sour Patch Kids in my pj’s while writing a blog at 10:30 am is not a good life choice, but subconsciously I think that I still have ten and a half months before I turn thirty to lose sixty pounds, take up marathon running and become wildly enthusiastic about green smoothies.
That’s enough time right?
Because I think subconsciously, I’ve assumed that things will be fucked up until I turn thirty, and then I will have everything figured out. I will be fit, healthy, motivated, stable, financially organized, and ready to be a Mom. And when I’m a Mom, it won’t matter so much about me and I can stop spending all of my time and energy being so unproductively introspective. I will be thirty, selfless and organized: it will come naturally and my children will grow up to be perfect.
The intellect knows better, but there is some greater force than my intellect at play here.
I am a Feminist. Capital F. I love men and women and equality and healthy relationships based on respect and mutually beneficial sharing of ideas and love. I think people, in general, should have equal rights, so that we can all get on with being awesome.
Moran knows what’s what though. She explains it all. She explains why I’m so wrapped up in worrying about the size of my jeans versus my accomplishments and experiences. It’s basically the whole book.
She sums up this idea about how we focus on all the wrong things so well:
“As it turned out, almost every notion I had on my 13th birthday about my future turned out to be a total waste of my time. When i thought of myself as an adult, all I could imagine was someone thing, and smooth, and calm, to whom things…happened. Some kind of souped-up princess with a credit card. I didn’t have any notion about self-development, or following my interests, or learning big life lessons, or, most important, finding out what I was good at and trying to earn a living from it. I presumed that these were all things that some grown-ups would come along and basically tell me what to do about at some point, and that I shouldn’t really worry about them. i didn’t worry about what I was going to do.
“What I did worry about, and thought I should work hard at, was what I should be, instead. I thought all my efforts should be concentrated on being fabulous, rather than doing fabulous things.
“I presumed that once I’d cracked being thin, beautiful, stylishly dressed, poised, and gracious, everything else would fall into place. That my real life’s work was not a career – by myself. That if I worked on being pleasing, the world would adore and then reward me.”
This is so important to me to remember, because while I’m worrying about the Sour Patch Kids (which I do understand are not a healthy, nourishing thing to eat), I’m not focusing on the work I need to get done today so that I can go for a hike tonight. And if I were to focus my energies on the things I want to “do”, rather than what I want to “be”, I may actually become the person I want to be while I’m doing what I want to do. Because all of the things I want to do involve being active and engaged and curious and productive and appreciative.
And after all, we learn best by doing, right?