Things I Wish I Knew at 20…

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Part of what led me to a marriage that wasn’t quite right, was my obsession with growing up, or more specifically, an obsession  with doing what was expected of me.  In retrospect, I wish I had really stopped this and spent more time enjoying my younger 20’s.  While I am still only 26 years old, there is so much I feel like I missed out on in the six years of this decade previous to my separation.  This link I found (mightygirl.com/2010/06/16/20-things-i-wish-i’d-known-at-20/) was really interesting and incredibly true.  My favorites include:

1. Consider the source. If you’re worried about someone who dislikes you, first ask yourself whether they’re an asshole. If you don’t like them, and they don’t like you, that’s not a problem. That’s a mutual understanding.

4. When in doubt, shut up. Silence is a smart negotiation tactic, the best option when you’re processing how to respond, and always more productive than lying about what you’re thinking.

7. Find an age-appropriate style. No one wants to see a 20 year old in beige slacks and a wool blazer. Buy trendy clothes, wear the slutty dress, do something ugly with your hair. Be part of your generation, so you can laugh at the photos later.

10. You look good. There’s no such thing as the hottest person in the room. Everyone is attracted to something different, so just take those odds and run with them.

14. Let your passion shape your profession. You know that thing your dad says? “If work wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t pay you to do it.” Please. There are professional rock stars, astronauts, puppy trainers, and bloggers.

15. Sex is personal. Don’t bother with one-night stands if they’re not your thing, and don’t judge people for enjoying them (or not). Waiting to sleep with someone doesn’t make you an uptight prude, and jumping into bed doesn’t make you a spontaneous adventure seeker.

20. Enjoy your body. Odds are you’re more beautiful now than you will be again.

I would also like to add my own sentiments:

*Keep a journal.  Eventually memories get fuzzy.  More than likely you may find yourself repeating previous mistakes (read: relationships).  You may experience a quarter-life crisis, or the terrible dirty thirty crisis.  Or find yourself romanticizing a past relationship (why did we ever break up?).  Nothing will remind you of who you are, where you came from and the reality of the past than your own voice lifted directly from that time.

*You don’t know yourself, and that’s okay.  You may think you know yourself, especially those first few years out of college living the “adult” life.  You don’t.  You will change.  A lot.  I’m 26 and I am still changing.  The difference with me today and me three years ago is, I know this and I am am okay with this.  Your 20’s are a time where life is before you like a grand buffet with any and all options to choose from.  Enjoy that moment and enjoy not knowing how these choices might change you.  No one expects you to be grown up and all-self-knowing the minute you step out of college.  And if they do they can go fuck themselves.

*But do things to find out who you are.  Hardly ever do we take the time to do things that will actively cultivate a self-understanding.  Personally, when I reached 25, I had an ah-ha moment of “oh shit, I don’t actually know who the fuck I am!?” And this was coming from the girl who thought she had the best understanding of herself and what she wanted out of life.  Read books, take risks, try everything.  After all, while it sounds cliche, once life really picks up with your career, serious relationships and even babies you often will find yourself hardly surviving until 5pm let alone taking a trip around the world, taking an art class, developing a yoga practice or speed dating.

*It’s okay to grieve your childhood.  Being an adult can really suck.  Sometimes I get hit with a huge wave of nostalgia for my childhood home, memories or even just my parents in general.  A time when things were easier, less complicated and someone took care of you sounds good, no?  Don’t let it consume you, but you also don’t have to feel guilty if sometimes you miss the days of lunch boxes, homemade dinners and even, ew, homework.

*You are still innocent.  No matter what you have been through or done, you are only in your 20’s.  Don’t let the weight of your mistakes and blunders weigh you down—you have far too much of life to still get through for your baggage to be so heavy.  Be gentle with yourself.  Forgiveness of yourself is the only forgiveness you need.  Fuck all the rest.

Everybody Talks

I am the first to stand up and argue that I, possibly, have some of the world’s best friends.  And nothing has further emphasized that than my recent separation.  From letting me cry, vent, and make sense of my incoherent thoughts, to allowing me to crash on their couches, helping me physically move and otherwise keep me sane, they have been there through it all. I am eternally grateful for those who stepped up and made it clear that they will stand by me through this.

That said, of course when you make the decision to leave your generally well-liked husband, and it has nothing to do with any unforgivable and detrimental acts, there is bound to be some judgement.  I expected this, and I’m fine with that to an extent.  I know what must run through people’s minds, because it runs through mine, as well, when I see something about a split on my Facebook newsfeed.  What I was not prepared for, was the gossip and outward hatred toward me from those I thought were my friends.

See, I can handle the awkward comments, the paused conversation, the disapproving look in someone’s eyes that says ‘what the hell are you doing?’  I can even deal with the unsolicited advice or comments about my separation.  It’s when I hear things that are entirely false or fabricated that I fall back baffled.  Always a fan of bluntness, I have been open and honest about my separation.  If anyone has ever wanted to know anything, they simply needed to ask me.  Hell, you probably just need to stand relatively close to me for a few minutes and you would know all you needed, as I have a wicked case of verbal diarrhea.  So what’s with the rumors and lies?  What’s with the speculations?  Doesn’t US Weekly and Stars fulfill your crave to linger in gossip and judgement of others poor decisions?

I also find it interesting that the overwhelming majority of responses to my separation have been words of encouragement and understanding, but when it came to taking the plunge into the dating pool, the judgements come flying.

“Isn’t this a little soon/rushed/early”
“Don’t you think you should give yourself some alone time?”
“Are you sure you are ready?”
“Isn’t this unfair to the other person? I mean, you aren’t ready to settle down…”
“I think your ex would be upset, that’s just a little cruel”
“Why do you need a man in your life right now?”
“Do you really know what you are doing?”

Yes, I am ready.   I feel like I have emotionally had seven years of alone time in my previous relationship that was passionless and emotionally isolating, so I’m quite eager to feel something in a relationship.  Nor do I think it’s “unfair” to the other person-to reiterate, bluntness is a shining quality of mine, so my date is not exactly in the dark about the state of my life.  Yes, my ex, would be upset but he will be upset if it’s 5-min or 5-years from now-no one likes to see their ex with someone new.  And, no, I don’t know what I am doing-who does?!

So what I’ve learned from this, is apparently it’s a great thing I took the initiative to make my life better by making the tough choice to leave, but dating is an entirely different animal.  Then I must be heartless.  To have moved on so swiftly, and without concern, surely shows my lack of emotional depth and legitimate care for my to-be-ex-spouse or new dating partner(s).

Really, the point of all of this is that, I wish people would mind their own goddamn business.  I would like to tell people- don’t even try to put yourself in my shoes, because it’s a style of shoe that doesn’t even exist in your world.  Maybe we should revisit your original line of support when I told you I we were separating: “Of course you need to do what makes you happy!”  If dating makes me happy then so be it.  In general, unless I am doing lines of coke off your bathroom mirror, showing up to work intoxicated or taking part in other blundering life errors, leave me be.

I am at a point where my life has been so calculated, so “on track” for so long that I am ready to be free.  Free from the constraints of “supposed to” and “need to” or even “have to.”  Instead, I am working on following my heart (it’s not always as innate as one would think) and finding out who I am in the process.  That process cannot be controlled or guilt-tripped or even discussed.  I’m letting it happen organically-allowing the world to unfold in front of me, and instead of following a path, laying my own path down brick-by-brick until I find what makes me truly happy.

There’s That Occasional Night…

It struck me this weekend that since I have left, I have not looked back.  I realized that in the two-plus months that I have not lived in the beautiful, 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath  colonial home we so lovingly selected and purchased together, I have not let the emotions of loss or grief, or perhaps even reality, fully sink in.  Instead, I have kept busy, hardly finding time to sleep or keep my up my new apartment.  Not when I was living out of my car and sleeping on various couches before my apartment was ready.  Not when I packed up the U-Haul and removed all signs of my existence from the house.  Not even when I met with my soon-to-be-ex to discuss division of assets.  Somehow this has all been done on auto-pilot, with minimal emotion and reality lurking only in the background.

This weekend it hit me.  Like a Mac Truck.

I realize that with any loss in life-whether it be a physical death or the death of a relationship-the various stages of grief come at their own time and move in their own way.  However, I don’t really know if I have yet to face any stages.  Even the stage of denial seems to have yet to pop up (unless I am in denial about denial, ha!).  I have felt sad, yes, but only insofar as empathy for others.  It is as if I have nothing, myself, to grieve, or perhaps more accurately, don’t feel like I have the right to grieve since this was, after all, my decision to walk away.  I have only really felt sad when I see can see the pain in the eyes of those left in the wake of the divorce storm.  This is particularly poignant with my ex, himself, as I can read the pain and the hurt in his eyes as clear and unavoidable. Family members have also reacted with much sorrow, which, in turn, makes me feel sorrow.  But for them, not for me and the life I have walked away from.

It must be this avoidance of my own authentic sorrow that left me in the fetal position on my bed at 7pm this past Friday night.

This weekend, I finally came upon a night where I wasn’t either busy or so exhausted I was collapsing early in bed, and instead I was faced with the unwelcome alone time that comes with being single and on your own.  When I made the decision to leave, I had the notion that I needed to face life head-on and learn to be alone with out being lonely.  I saw that I was strong enough to stand on my own, but I needed to experience it, since I had yet to be on my own and not in a relationship for more than two weeks since I was 16 years-old.  I thought I was doing well with this…until this Friday, when I wanted to go out and do something but had no one to do it with.

I realized that in the ‘old days’ I always had a fall-back plan (which was more welcome and positive than it sounds), of hanging around with my husband, and usually, his best friend (whom I also considered a best friend). On those nights, we would watch trashy TV, play cards and otherwise bullshit while consuming specialty cocktails or wine.  I no longer had this fall-back plan.  I no longer even had my two best friends.  I no longer had my comfy couch, in my cozy house, with someone always around to keep me company.  Granted, at times this lack of alone time was a chief complaint of mine.  But in the twilight of this particular Friday night, as I took my dogs on an extensive walk around the city and  I saw the rosy glow of lights set against the impending darkness from the insides of brownstone apartments.  I saw homes with friends and families sitting down to dinner or heading out for Friday night festivities, and I felt impossibly alone in the world at large.

As I headed up my steps with the pooches to my own building, I caught a glance of my neighbors entertaining friends in their living room, complete with wine in hand, and I was reminded of a game my Grandmother used to play with me.  To keep me distracted in the back seat of the car on longer rides, she would often tell whisper in my ear “home” or “not home” based on if the lights were on in a house as we passed by.  The lull of her rhythmic whisper would calm my nerves, and put me in the most restful sleep.  But before I drifted off, I would study these homes and think how cozy the insides looked; I imagined how happy and content the people were in that warm light.  I was awestruck at how I still felt this way, all these years later, observing my own neighborhood in that moment.

I realized that this is what I have been striving for my whole life.  That sense of ‘home’ and belonging.  I have wanted to reach out and grab the warmth and contentment I felt coming from the lit up windows and doorways.  That’s why I married someone who was safe and secure but did not hold my heart.  I felt that if I could create one these perfect homes like those I observed from the backseat of my parents VW Jetta, everything else in life would automatically become perfect too.

At first, this train of thought left me longing for my house again and my old, simple life.   But then, I began to reconsider.  Maybe it’s this image that is my problem.  This image of ‘perfect’ which has been inanely constructed so many years ago, is actually quite sophomoric and impractical. When I think of the reality of the situation, I can guarantee that all of those glowing homes hold some degree of dynamics and relationships that all carry their own emotional baggage and tangled mess of issues.  After all, just a short time ago, I was one of these homes where from the outside, everything seemed perfect.

It was then that I recognized the truth: it’s not the light from within these houses, or the furniture and decor, or even the activities bustling within them, that makes a home feel so warm; it’s the souls dwelling within it.  The hearts and emotions of the people who love each other, care about each other, and love living life together.  It’s a concept that seems so elementary, and yet, I clearly had not understood this until that exact moment.  That’s what I want.  I want to exist with other souls who make my heart smile and my head feel light.

I may not have this warm and happy life in the exact capacity that I want at this exact moment, but as I clicked off my living room lights and shuffled sleepily into my dimly lit bedroom to find both of my pooches waiting for me with eager eyes, curled up together next to my pillow,  I felt my heart skip a beat with love.  I knew then that the simple fact that I had love in my life meant I was on the right path and not all hope has been lost.  Kissing them both on their soft little noses, I had a momentary feeling of contentment for the first time since I had left.