About a week ago, I was hanging out with a couple from our discipleship group (T & S). They are the other younger couple in the group along with J and I. We've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them over the past year or so. In fact, the wife (S) and I have quite a bit in common, from temperament, to anxieties, to interests in counseling. As such, she's been great about making sure I know I feel welcome to chill with them since my hubby and I have been separated for the summer. So I took them up on their offer Sunday before last; I grabbed up the doggy, and they brought along their reluctant toddler, and we all went for a walk on the local trail.
It was nice just to be out of my brooding shell for a bit, and to chit-chat with dear friends. But near the end of the talk, T asked me a random question: "do you feel like you're middle-aged?" To which I retorted: "are you trying to get beat up?!" WTF?
Turns out, he wasn't asking if I felt as old as I looked :) He was just relaying a scientific fact that he'd recently been pondering: as we get older, our perception of time increases, which presumably means that "middle-age" may feel a lot sooner than it numerically is. (My guess is that he shared this because we share a deep appreciation for science and mathematics).
After my sarcastic response, I did admit that I indeed felt middle-aged. Moreover, it's actually been somewhat difficult to deal with being a post-30 male. As they pressed for details, I began to share with them how I had some significant dreams growing up.
But my dad told me "acting is lying, and Christians don't do that" (no joke), so I abandoned that dream. To this day, I still sorta wish I had been a philosophy/theater double major in college. Instead, I was a biochemistry major (Spanish minor).
During junior year, I took a Sociology class, and loved it so much, that I seriously contemplated dropping biochemistry, and being a sociology major. Similarly, half-way through pharmacy school, I contemplated dropping out and going off to get a counseling degree. I can't say that I regret sticking it out (there's something to be said for finishing something) and going the psychopharmacology route. No doubt, this will serve me well in the future. (I've recently taken the GRE, and am now all set to apply to counseling programs!)
After spilling my guts about grieving the loss of some of those dreams, I began to talk about my biggest difficulty with being 30: I feel incredibly "ORDINARY". Intellectually, there's nothing wrong with this. Yet, I've always felt like I would be someone great. At first I thought I would be a famous actor, and then in college, the plan was to get a PhD in genetics and go on to earn a Nobel Prize. And with each passing year, it's as if the proverbial bar got set lower and lower, until I was stuck in the land of ordinary.
And here I am now, nearly 32. Let's face it: it ain't gettin' much more spectacular. Every day that passes, more decisions get made. The more decisions get made, the more alternative decisions become impossible. The world is filled with fewer possibilities; our dreams get crowded out by reality. Extra-ordinary cannot be attained.
When I finished speaking, T & S began to commiserate with me about these things. It was astonishing! Up until that point, I had only ever articulated these fears and frustrations with J - who is still in his late 20's, and I think perhaps cannot fully relate. T & S have both hit the big 3-0 though, and it was refreshing to know I wasn't some solitary freak dealing with this!
At the end of that conversation, I went home and reflected on it more. It seems as though I can sum up early life's great struggles in this way: the mid-to-late 20's seem to be about discovering who you truly are (feel free to access my old Xanga blog if you want to know more about the existential angst of that process for me!) By extension then, it seems natural that the 30's are about coming to terms with who you're not.
And viewed from that perspective, maybe being "ordinary" isn't so bad. After all, when you're ordinary, you're not alone...