The Same, But Different
I called MB earlier as I left my night class and walked to my car. He told me that a very good friend of his is at the hospital with his wife, where their son is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow at 35 weeks. As I grilled him for details (Why so early? Are they expecting any unusual complications? How long will the baby have to stay at the hospital? What room are they in, since he's heading there after work at 3:00 and I won't be able to meet him until 5:00?), I suddenly wondered how many dozens of times I'd walked along the same sidewalk to my car, getting the day's scoop from MB.
After we were done talking, I started thinking about how things feel the same when I'm on campus, and totally different all at once. I started college seven years ago, and for five years it defined me, shaped me, framed my life, and helped to forge who I have become. Now I'm back on the same campus, taking a class from a professor I had as an undergrad. I still run into people I know, though not as frequently as I did when I was a real student. It's weird, to be walking on that campus and talking on the phone to my husband, instead of my boyfriend (and later, fiancé), to be talking about people we know becoming parents.
Thinking about that, and looking back, led me to this: back then, I felt that my friends and I were on the cusp of adulthood. Most of us were nearing graduation, several of us were in serious relationships, few of us had any idea what exactly we were going to do after college, but we felt like we were on the verge of something very big. We were mostly ready to strike out on our own in the world, to give a good attempt even though we didn't really feel very grown up. Tonight, I felt that my friends and I are on the cusp of adulthood. About half of my friends are married. Most of us are dealing with big important questions, like whether or not we want to have kids and when, whether or not we want to go to grad school and where, what careers we should pursue, where our paths lie.
I don't look back on my cusp-of-adulthood-at-22 feelings and scoff, the way I looked back at my cusp-of-adulthood-at-18 feelings and scoffed when I was 22. I do think, however, that adulthood is more faceted and more layered and perhaps more exponential than I knew. At 22, we were looking forward to becoming independent. Now, at 25, we're slowly beginning to become dependent or depended upon. We are (some of us) committing to serious and hopefully lifelong relationships. We are confident and centered enough to put all of our trust in someone else and let someone else put the same trust in us. We are buying or hoping to buy houses. We are making our own car payments and utility payments and paying back our student loans. We are looking for careers instead of jobs, we worry about whether or not we'll have insurance options. We still freak out about 401Ks and IRAs (because retirement? is not even on the radar...), but at least we think about them now. We are planning for or having children...children who are likely to depend on us for as many years as we've been alive, if our own lives are any indication.
I'm sure in three or five or eight or ten or twenty years I'll look back on this night and think about how much I didn't know. I'll realize that as much as I thought I was arriving somewhere tonight, I had no idea of the journey or the many destinations ahead of me. I also think that I like the idea that I can walk the same sidewalk many times, and even though where I started and where I end up will change every time, I will be able to appreciate the differences in each trip.
Reading: Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
Playing: Busted Stuff by Dave Matthews Band, discs II and IV from my Led Zeppelin box set
A cryptic message for someone who will know what it means:
So much as I love you.
Where you end, where I begin,
Is like a river going through.
(DMB, "Grace Is Gone")