About two weeks before my wedding in 2012, I had a holy-shit moment: Anything that I wanted for the wedding but hadn't thought of, or forgotten about, or hadn't decided, or just hadn't gotten around to, had to be ordered now or it wasn't going to happen. Now, I throw lots of parties but I usually don't have this moment because for those other parties, there's "always next year." But not with a wedding. I only get one (insert lame first marriage joke here), so I knew I had better think of everything because that was going to be it.
I recently read a quote from beloved television writer and producer, Norman Lear: "Excuse me, age 80 is not circling the drain." Indeed, Lear is an active ninety-three-year-old who probably accomplishes more before his morning oat bran than I do with my entire day, so if he says he's not circling the drain, I believe him.
I'm thirty-seven years old. Ancient by my nieces' standards, a spring chicken by others. So while I tip my hat to Lear for reminding us that age is just a number, I'm beginning to have the same sense of panic I had two weeks before my wedding. Anything I want but haven't thought of, or have forgotten about, or haven't decided, or just haven't gotten around to, must be started soon. Or it isn't going to happen.
When you're five, everyone is just freaking old. When you're fifteen, you're going to live forever. When you're twenty-five, there's still plenty of time to do everything you want to do. And apparently when you're thirty-seven, you realize you better get off your ass and start doing all this shit while you're still able-bodied, able-minded, and alive, because reality begins to set in that it isn't always going to be that way.
"So stop writing your stupid blog and get started already!" is what you're probably thinking, which is a completely valid response, except: 1.) Writing a blog IS one of the things I really want to do, and 2.) A lot of the things I really want to do takes money that I don't have, and 3.) I'm still not sure what I want.
Hence the panic.
I had problems #2 and #3 when I was in my twenties, too, but they weren't as scary because there was still plenty of time to acquire money (I hadn't a clue how I was going to do that, but no bother) and there was still lots and lots of time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
One of the realities I'm facing in my thirties is that not all of these things are going to happen. It is a jolting experience to look your mortality in the face and realize with certainty that you've got one shot at this life, and one shot just simply isn't enough to pack in all the things you want to experience and accomplish.
So then there's kind of a mourning period. You have to mourn the death of a dream that you now realize isn't very realistic, or you begin to let go of a dream that was so, so important to you at one time, but maybe just isn't as important to you anymore. Those big dreams can be difficult to let go of because we often use big dreams to define us. So if we don't have those dreams anymore, who are we?
Dreams are funny. They're touted as being magical, wonderful, something to hold on to, something to chase, something to motivate us to achieve far above and beyond what we ever thought possible. But I think there's another side to dreams: burdensome and stressful. I get up, I do morning chores, I spend the majority of my days doing a job I would rather not do, I take care of our zoo of animals, I pay bills, I make doctor appointments, I clean, I go to the post office, I work out, I work on house repair, I work on our plants, I make breakfast, I make lunch, I make dinner, I buy groceries, I volunteer..... and then at the end of the day, exhausted, there it is: your dream, glaring at you while you brush your teeth before bed and asking when you're going to make time for it, leaving you guilty and ashamed.
There is some comfort in Lear's comment. There are a lot of valid reason why you may not succeed in achieving your dream, but age isn't one of them. For instance, you shouldn't let age dictate whether you go back to school. "I'll be eighty-five years old by the time I graduate!" isn't a reason not to go back to school since you'll find yourself to be eighty-five years old anyway.
I realized the other day, with shock and dread, that I was past the halfway mark of age that my dad was when he died suddenly at sixty-seven. So no, Norman Lear, I'm not being melodramatic and saying I'm circling the drain, but I am feeling the pressure to figure out how to swim while I still can.
There is always tomorrow. Until there isn't.