Friday, October 12, 2012

Reticence and Redemption

When I think about the differences between 19-year-old me and 39-year-old me, it's sometimes hard to believe I'm visualizing the same person. But then there are the similarities: The young woman I was and the mature woman I hope to become are both on the brink, the precipice, the cliff, the diving platform, the edge of something so great and so huge and monumental, yet there we are, both clueless and hopeless and fragile and as messed up as a sack of cats.

Nineteen-year-old me would go on to become a mother at 20. She would make terrible decisions and take way too long to complete her college degree. She would helplessly cower in abject sadness when friends turned evil, wear her heart on her sleeve, and laugh loudly, head tilted back, with great joy and enthusiasm. Wow. It kind of seems like I'm talking about 39-year-old me. Because I am still that silly, fragile girl, but with a 20-spot of combat duty under my belt and a better understanding of how to cope with my crazy frizzy hair. Yes, that is a real issue.

On the edge of 40 (ok not for six more months, but still), I have a husband and three children (one almost 19!) and a house and cars and issues and bills and Wi-Fi and sadness and hypertension and stress and a stalled career and all the suckish stuff that adults have to deal with. I waffle between the definition of my current precipice: old age, or mid-life crisis? Real issues, or imaginary shit trying to kill me from the inside out? What to do, what to do.

I was thinking earlier today that I so wish I could go back to 19-year-old Amy and slap her around a little, tell her to grow a pair of ovaries and go kick some ass. But I know I wouldn't listen. A good indication of this is a conversation I recently had with my almost-19-year-old daughter who was bitching about her appearance. I find this truly ridiculous, as she is hot as hell yet walks with the dejected slump of an 85-year-old farmer. If I was her, I'd be out doing some damage.

"But you're my mom. You think I'm pretty but you have to," she said.

That's when it occurred to me that no matter what I said to my past self, I wouldn't have believed my future self, anyway. At that time in my life, I had the benefit of having friends that were a great deal older than I was. Friends who knew things. And I listened politely and believed what they said. I believed it was true for them, but not for me. After all, isn't that what youth is all about? The cocky confidence to do everything for yourself, yet the disabling insecurity and nagging feeling that you constantly suck at whatever you do? No? Maybe it's just me.

So what would an aged me tell 39-year-old me? Don't sweat the small stuff? Let it go? Live and let live? None of this will matter in 100 years' time? If you're an ass to people, people will be asses to you? All this I already know. But there's a huge difference between intellectually knowing something and emotionally owning it. And there's the rub. And also the reason I'd never, ever want to be 19 again for anything in the world.

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