I’m Not Where I Thought I’d Be At My Age, But Who Is?
Life doesn't go as planned for most of us.
On September 25, I will turn 31. Or 32. Maybe 35. Perhaps, 27. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. As the brilliant wit, Oscar Wilde, once wrote, “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.” So I stand by that. I’ll be 22 next Tuesday.
But not matter my actual age, in years, like many people I’m not where I thought I’d be in my life. When I was 13, I thought for sure by the time my mid-20s rolled around I’d be wildly successful. I would have already published several books, owned an apartment in New York City, a pied-à-terre in Paris, and, of course, a villa in the Tuscan countryside where, naturally, I’d have vineyards so I could make my own wine – or at least hire someone to make my own wine.
I was really going to be something, I thought. Every dream I’d had, was going to fall into place. I’d love and be loved. I’d travel the world. I’d finally figure out how to make exotic dishes, volunteer in countries that needed help, then when I returned home, I’d be that annoying person who would correct people’s pronunciation of Budapest, Barcelona, bruschetta, croissant… everything. By the time I reached 25, I was going to be the rich asshole who showed up to events in NYC only to talk about my upcoming book and flooring in my new flat in Tribeca.
But 25 came and went, and it never happened. Then 30 came and went, and it never happened. Although by 30 I was finally being paid for writing, on a very limited basis and for less than $20 a piece, at least I was moving in the right direction. On my 30th birthday, I made a pact with myself: by 35, I’d be a full-time freelance writer, with at least one published book. Again, 35 came and went – did you happen to see my novel at your book store? No? That’s because it never happened. While I did manage to pull off writing full time and getting paid for it, the book thing still has yet to come to fruition.
To say I’m obsessed with getting published is an understatement. While my female friends around me are pissing on pregnancy tests once a month hoping to get knocked up, I’m crouched over my computer trying to figure out how to turn a 386-page memoir into fiction, because in this market, memoirs by non-celebrities just don’t sell. I guess I’ll throw some talking donkeys in then.
As much as I might be able to joke, as a means of not crying, it’s painful to not be where you thought you’d be at a certain point in your life. It hurts like hell, actually. Because of this hurt, I find myself complaining about it, perhaps, a little too much. Even yesterday, while complaining about it yet again to my father, he looked at me and asked, “Who the hell is, Mandy? You think I thought I’d spend my years of retirement watching Game of Thrones? No. I thought I’d be on a yacht, retired from playing for the Red Sox. At least you’re writing.”
When I took my complaint to my friend Lyndsay, the most logical of my friends, she echoed the same thing, “Who is ever where they thought they’d be at a certain age? You’re writing and traveling the world. I’m not sure what you’re bitching about.” Touché.
What I realized is that I spend so much time thinking about what I should have done differently to be where I thought I’d be today, that sometimes I overlook what I have and how far I’ve come. And I know I’m not alone in this. To live in the present isn’t always easy. To embrace the here and now, and be grateful for what you have takes courage and an open heart. It also takes practice. So while I’m not totally excited about the fact that I’ll be turning 34, or maybe 37, or possibly 29 next week, just knowing that I’m not alone in not being there — yet — is what really matters. It’s like we’re all part of a club, even if we didn’t want to be in this particular club. So we have each other and there’s solace, and hope, in that.