I'm finally starting to feel my age. This next birthday I'll be thirty-seven. I've lived a selfish life when you think about it. It's been for me, not for a partner or for any children. The only time I understood what it was to give every day for the good of someone else was when I taught school. Everything that was in me was for them, and it was an easy gift, easy to give. They needed me.
When you give like that--all day and into the night--encouraging successes, soothing failures, mending hurts, anticipating questions, preparing answers, preparing people for tomorrow and the next day, it takes a toll. I aged in those years, on the inside, but it was short-lived. I reached for a lighter life again.
Even in the midst of this lighter life, I can't stop the scenery from changing around me. Friends are tending to their sick baby every few hours through the night, picking her up from her bed and rocking her back to sleep again. Friends are separating; friends are divorcing; friends are sticking it out after infidelity. Family, once made, binds you to others.
It's such an enticing idea, making a family, finding a partner. Happiness. For so many, the idea lives as a dream bestowed upon their chosen, but one that eventually they cannot find in the person sitting in front of them anymore. Those revelations often find you in your thirties. My friends call it "the reckoning," a term a little too cute to me for its impact. Aging happens on the inside, through heartbreak and loss, traumas, or simple care for the good of someone else each day. You breathe in life. You breathe out.