One of my closest friends is in her 60’s. She and I have a lot in common in the way we think and in the way we see the world. She challenges me and grounds me and helps me to be my best self. More than any of this, though, I just love spending time with her.
The other day I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if Linda and I were the same age? If we could be in our 30’s together—or even in our 20’s (why not?)—and had all of that time to be friends? But almost as soon as I had that thought, I realized that even if it were possible, it wouldn’t work.
Even setting aside the differences in upbringing and cultural influences had she been born 30 years later or had I been born 30 years earlier, there is no guarantee that we would be friends at different stages in our lives. If 37-year-old Linda met 37-year-old me, would we even like each other? Would we have had any connection to one another at all? It occurred to me that maybe we’re friends at the exact ages that we could be friends, and it wouldn’t work any other way.
I started walking, so I’m told, when I was ten months old. I wrote my first novel when I was in eighth grade. I nearly left high school my senior year because I was in such a hurry to get on with things. Back then, I defined “things” as either being a circus clown or a long-haul trucker, and then whatever those things led to. Instead, I compromised and finished high school and went to college, where I overloaded my schedule and completed my four-year undergraduate degree in three years. I’ve always been in a rush to move ahead and to learn my lessons as quickly and efficiently as possible.
This was pretty much fine during school when there were clear milestones to reach, but as an adult I have trouble judging whether I’m ahead or not. Even though I’ve accomplished a good amount and learned innumerable lessons in my 37 years, I always feel behind.
But then the other day while I was meditating I had a “eureka!” moment. I know that while I’m meditating I’m supposed to just let the thoughts drift away like clouds or balloons or milkweed seeds, but this one hooked me. It’s this:
I’m in the right place right now. I know exactly what I need to know in this moment and at this age, and it couldn’t be any other way.
Although I get irritated that I didn’t learn some of my lessons at a younger age, that I’m not further ahead intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually than I am, I’m following just the course I need to be following.
Each lesson builds on the last, and maybe I couldn’t have known some of these things at a younger age. If I had fast-tracked those lessons and avoided some of the embarrassment and bad parts of learning them, I couldn’t be where I am now: mother to my specific, individual children, wife to my spouse, friends with amazing people like Linda.
Here is the only place I could possibly be at this moment. My only job is to live fully in this moment so that I’m ready for what the next moment brings.
Some pertinent thoughts from The Faces, who were wearing exactly the clothes and hair styles that they should have been wearing at that moment:
This post written in response to The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years.
8 Replies to “On Being Where I Am”
Thank you, Charity, for such a rich blog post. There are so many ways I could respond but think I’ll start with what it feels like for me to have friends of differing ages. I assumed as I entered cronedom that I would somehow magically possess E. F. Hutton qualities (am I dating myself here?), and when I spoke the world would come to a standstill, a hush would fall over the land, and everyone would hang on my every word. The truth is, the older I’ve gotten the more I realize how little I have to say, which hasn’t stopped me from saying stuff anyway. I try not to repeat myself when I realize no one is listening, but that will likely change as I grow older.
When I was 37 I didn’t imagine myself developing friendships with women young enough to be my daughter, but in the last 10 years I’ve grown 2 such friendships. And they might be surprised to know that I don’t feel any difference in age between us. I don’t see myself as mother substitute or mentor or wise old crone, but as their equal, at least on the inside. Granted, I’ve experienced more years of life than they have and have the gray hair, sagging neck, and wrinkles to show for it, but each of them have lived (and continue to live) extraordinary, intentional lives. One thing we all have in common is that we are all doing our best to show up every day, the best we can, to do whatever it is we do with kindness and love.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve developed a few friendships with people 20 or more years older than myself. I love to listen to them tell their stories (and often retell them). I hope I can glean a few tidbits to help me do a better job of aging, or at least prepare myself if I am so lucky to get really old. Some of these friendships began a little more one-sided since I was a volunteer who agreed to visit these elders on a regular basis, and over time they developed into true friendship, but ones where they do most of the talking. I’ve learned that, like me, their feelings and thoughts haven’t aged. They talk about love and romance and their heartbreaks. They wonder what, if anything, comes after death. And they wonder why they are still here. They’re talking about the same things that my 30 somethings are talking about, although the way they talk about it is very different, and the young women are not asking why they’re “still” here.
I’d like to write more, but I’d also like a nap so I’m fresh for my meeting tonight. In this moment, the nap prevails.
Thank you for your comment, Linda!
At one point in my 20’s, I started a writing group in which the member closest in age to me was my dad’s age, and the oldest was nearly 80. I recall feeling aware of our age differences, but only as a sort of background knowledge, not something that made a big deal in our friendships. I did feel a little out of my league sometimes with the amount of writing experience they brought to the group, but mostly the age difference came out in cultural references we didn’t share (incidentally, I remember the E.F.Hutton commercials. And just last night I sang the entire theme song to The Patty Duke Show, but that one’s more the work of Nick at Nite than it is a sign of my age). All of my adult life, I’ve been friends with people several decades older than I am, but age always seems almost irrelevant, as though the friendships themselves transcend the ages of the friends.
I was struck recently by the realization that even people in their 80’s still feel the sting of embarrassment from things they did or said in their teens. Maybe people really are more similar to one another than we are different, regardless of our ages.
Enjoyed this post. Good point how we are different people through ageing.