“So what degree are you on now?”
“How many more degrees are you looking at? 2? 3?”
“So what’s next? Doctorate and big job?”
These are the questions hurled at me these days, usually accompanied by laughter (well, they laugh; I awkwardly smile). At the risk of sounding ungrateful that the questions are less of the “So when are you going to settle down and get married?” variety, I’m trying to figure out how I ended up on the other side of the spectrum.
I’m struggling going into 28, y’all. This time last year, I was excited to be planning how I wanted to celebrate with my most cherished loved ones. Coming off the heels of months of heartache, I was determined to push myself in the right direction. Nothing I lost in my life the year before was going to stop me from enjoying what I had gained; I was going to make sure of it. This year is a struggle of a different type and I don’t really know what to do with it.
Growing up, 28 was that magical year for me. I don’t know what made me choose 28 as the year to have it all figured out. I think it was my Dad telling me about a friend of the family who earned her PhD at the age of 28 when I zeroed in on having life figured out by this year. I was supposed to have my doctorate degree, been married, been a homeowner, and have a lucrative job that makes me happy all by 28. Yes, I know that’s not how any of this works, but I was determined to be the girl who could have it all.
For some reason, this birthday is meaning something different for me. Can I have it all? Is that what’s meant to happen? Why do I feel so guilty for having desires? Those questions litter my thoughts as the days go by. More jokes being told about me being the forever student and living somewhere with the warmth of my degrees. Laughing at my own pain has become a thing. Am I becoming that girl?
To be honest, there are worst things to be labeled as than the consummate student or a high achiever. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and though I’m not even close to satisfied, I am grateful to have had the opportunities and experiences that I have had. But there’s that inner gnawing that I can’t shake – what if that never happens for you? How will you deal with it? The answer is “I don’t know”.
No one told me how to deal with, in real time, dreams deferred and possibly dreams that won’t ever become reality. I already know that I’m young and I’ve got time but what do I do with the urgency I feel? What do I do with wanting to study marriage and family and simultaneously feeling I’ll have none of that on my own? What do I do?
28 is coming and I’m sure it won’t be doomsday. The Earth won’t stand still on my account; it’ll keep turning and self-regulating. And life will continue on as some of my goals will continue to advance and some will seem to continue to move further into the shadows. That’s how life goes. I just wish I felt OK in still believing that I could have it all (I do realize I may be desiring more than I realize but dreaming big has never been a weakness of mine).
For now, I just pray for the understanding of what my life requires and the strength to truly be OK if that doesn’t include what I consider to be having it all (not the smiling in front of everyone and falling apart behind close doors type of OK). It’s more important for me to become that girl most of all.