If you had asked 15-year-old me what my life would be like in 30 years, I would have probably painted you a picture of a single woman, no kids, living in a small cabin in the woods on a lake, somewhere in Northern Wisconsin. I would have told you that my favorite company would be my books and a few dogs and that I would be happy just being alive. Obviously, I would have been very wrong – except for the single part.
I don’t mind getting older. I think that the past 15 years or so have been the most interesting and educational. Marriage, parenthood, finishing college (at 40!), divorce, dating (and failing miserably), still parenting, being broke, being scared, finding my own footing, learning to like myself again, and being unapologetic for who I am. It’s a lot, so I’ll take it in smaller chunks and look at the past 5 years. I’ve learned way more about myself since leaving a shitty marriage and trying to rebuild a life on my own terms.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
- If you are strong, people will think you’re a bitch. They’ll also think that you have no feelings. They will also fail to be there for you on most every level, maybe because they believe that you’ve got everything handled. Luckily I have a couple of really amazing friends who know better than to think that I walk through shit unscathed. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them and I know it. I know their value. I can’t fall apart in front of the world, but I can in front of those people and they will listen, tell me to get my shit together, and help me stand back up. Then, they’ll slap me on the ass and say, “go get ‘em tiger!” It works for me.
- Being a single parent is kind of amazing, but it also fucks you over. You’re always the good guy, but you’re also always the bad guy. You don’t have a whole lot of time for yourself and you don’t have a whole lot of time for other people. As far as being fulfilling because you’re working on raising an amazing human with a fantastic heart – CHECK! As far as fulfilling in that you get to have adult company, build new relationships and what-not? Not so much. I mean sure, if you’re the every-other-weekend parent you get to do that kind of shit, but not when you’re the 26-days per month parent. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve met some incredible people who I’ve had to let go because I simply didn’t have the time to give them much more. So while I’m rarely alone because of my son, I’m pretty fucking lonely most of the time. I get that’s what I signed up for when I left with my kid. But I don’t have to be content with it. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I can’t have it both ways, so for now I’ll take the parenting and enjoy other people as I can fit them in without destroying my balance.
- I’ve learned that there are very few people in this world who actually mean what they say. It’s hard to speak your mind sometimes, because it very well might hurt someone’s feelings. You have to learn to do that with kindness. A little hurt up front is worth avoiding a shit-storm of hurt down the road. The other problem with this is that everyone assumes that you don’t mean what you say because no one else does. The old, “if a woman tells you nothing is wrong, you should run” is stereotypical bullshit, which proves my point. If a woman tells you nothing is wrong, she god damn well better mean that nothing is wrong. All of you bitches out there with the mixed signals really ruin things for those of us who don’t sugar coat that shit. I want – no, I NEED for my words to be taken at face-value. I don’t want people to fuck that all up anymore, and yet it’s always going to happen.
- The most important thing in any kind of relationship – family, friends, intimate, whatever, is knowing how to set limits and how to enforce them. This actually goes with #3. So many people are surprised when I say, “if you do that shit again, I’m not going to be your friend anymore”, they do that shit again, and I walk away. Limits. Set them. Enforce them. Understand them. Don’t be an asshole.
- You can be happy with your life, even if you’re lonely. You can be happy with your life if you go without sex. You can be happy with your life if you fail at a lot of the things you do. You can be happy with your life if you’re broke. But you can’t be happy if you give up who you are, so don’t do that.
I’m so far out of my comfort zone these days that I generally don’t recognize myself anymore. I’m ok with that because it’s personal growth and that’s what the entirety of one’s life is – evolving and changing with whatever life throws your way. You’re just trying to get to a place where you are content without being so rigid that you can’t bend a little when you figure out something new. Here’s to the end of 45 years of life and the start of the next 45.