Someone wise recently told me that I was in a time of transition. The end of one calling, a complete reconsideration of my gifts/strengths/interests/opportunities.
Another wise person – to whom I happen to be married – recently told me that I am over-committed. He told me this as I stumbled to bed at midnight, still checking email on my phone. Even though I did roll my eyes and explain that I’ve been that way since he married me– I’ve been that way since high school, in fact– he has a point. I’ve got fingers in a lot of pies, eyes on the horizon, ear to the ground, toes in the water, nose to the grind stone…and still unsure of where me heart is. I see this as a symptom of being in transition.
My Professional Identity: Dora the Explorer
Do we all imagine that our late 20’s will be the time when our roots are spreading and we’re finally gaining momentum and focus in the dream life we have achieved? Or was that just me?
Late twenties transition is different than that initial real-world jolt. When we were 23 and 24 we were all freaking out together. We were all poor and disillusioned (because it was 2008, so really everyone was poor and disillusioned but the 23-24-year-olds could still pull off the look). No one really had much.
Now we’ve got stuff, to varying degrees. I have friends who are nearing their 5 year anniversaries at the same firm, 7 years of marriage to the same person, and they have kids who are older than my own marriage and job. But then again…I do have a husband and a good job. And a mortgage. So, it’s not really like being 23.
It’s like being 29 and in transition.
In some ways it’s inevitable, because a woman’s late 20’s are prime time for babies, promotions, distance running PRs, and establishing oneself as a political entity. Those all get in the way of each other as is. Add in “re-starting half your life” and, well…yeah.
I’m not naive enough to think I can have it all or do it all. But while the music swells and the temperature rises…I’m not ready to plant my flag on the shore and say, “This is who I am…now…for real this time…never mind last time.”
Whether we call it transition or chronic over-commitment, here’s the lay of the land in this strange new world…
Evidence of Life Transition in One’s Late 20s
(Millennial Generation Edition)
1) Another woman cleans your house…and her car is nicer than yours.
2) Public parks, check-out lines, and bars are places to answer emails. But NOT movie theaters. Some things are still sacred.
3) You have a growing closet of Patagonia clothing because it’s versatile enough to merit the price tag. By versatile I mean that it looks ready-to-go without looking already-been.
4) You have five email addresses and use them all frequently. Sometimes you use the wrong ones, and people begin referring to you by your college nickname in professional settings.
I care about these two beasts.
5) Your less attentive family members have no idea what you do for fun vs. what you do for work. You’re like Chandler Bing on Friends, crossed with Sydney Bristow from Alias (and because you are in your late 20’s you get those references).
6) You look at maps and if you can’t bike or walk there, you are very resistant to the idea of going at all. Why? Because it’s probably the only exercise you are going to get…and your car has no air-conditioning, bumper, or driver-side door handle. It looks hip to pull up sweaty on a bike. Not so much when your brakes alert everyone to your arrival.
7) Your phone accompanies you to dinner. But you still hear your mother’s sarcastic chiding, “Wow, you must be important. Expecting a call from the President?”
And you respond…”Actually, Mom-in-my-head, the fact that my phone is at the table tells you precisely how unimportant I am. Important people don’t have to take calls at dinner.”
A friend once made a similar observation about how many keys are on one’s keyring. As you climb the ladder of life you gain keys as you gain access to more and more responsibilities. Then one day, you trade all those in for one master key. And at the top level you simply expect doors to be unlocked in anticipation of your arrival.
8) You have dogs. Plural. And a yard. And if it weren’t for your spouse/partner/roommate they would all be dead. I, for one, currently have four more living things to care for than I ever anticipated. The one that does not whine gets neglected. Sorry, yard.
Also, I said dogs intentionally. Cats do not count. Anyone can care for a cat. College students can care for cats, and they can barely care for themselves. Cats will survive the apocalypse, and they can survive owners under 25.
9) You start spending more money on skin care, which you justify by spending less money on iTunes.
10) Your husband asks, “Do we have anything going this weekend?” And you say “No! It should be totally relaxing.” Then he’s totally baffled when the alarm goes off at 6 am on Saturday, and your parting words are, “I’ll be back in time to change for the symphony. Don’t forget to drop by community garden workday and the dry cleaners.”
In all seriousness, transition is a weird time. The wise man who identified my own transition also gave me the advice that I’m trying really hard to follow: don’t cut it short.
When we were young we frequented the swimming holes of the Edward’s Plateau. Limestone caves were everywhere, and many times the entrances were underwater. You had to hold your breath and swim into the darkness trusting that the person who told you about it was right in that it was only a 15 second swim before you reached an air pocket or cavern on the other side.
Pop up too early and you bashed your head and sucked in water when you gasped. But if you could hold your breath until you sensed that you were through the mouth of the cave, the caverns on the other side were magical.