They Lied When They Told Me I Could Have It All

By Liz Petrone

I read the other day that you do most of your living in the first twenty years of your existence and the rest of it is just trying to process that living. I don’t know yet if this is the most depressing thing I have ever heard, ever, or if it’s a giant relief, but I am pretty sure it’s horseshit. Regardless, it gave me pause, because what I do know is that there is this very real turning point, right about where I am now in my thirties, where a life is no longer about the planning for and moving towards and reaching for and is, instead, about the right now.

I don’t know yet if this is the most depressing thing I have ever heard, ever, or if it’s a giant relief, but I am pretty sure it’s horseshit.

And maybe it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. It’s hard to even say that, isn’t it? Because I do believe that the way it turned out – is turning out – is exactly the way it was supposed to turn out, but that doesn’t mean it turned out the way I had dreamed it would when it was all out in front of me and I was six years old and my Mom gave me a copy of the constitution and I read the whole thing while on the toilet and got so excited when I saw that nowhere in that whole thing did it say I couldn’t be president just because I had a vagina that I ran out to tell her the news without even remembering to pull my pants up.

But it’s been eons since then and so many of my very own best choices – like the one to marry young and start a family and the one to have all the babies that my heart cried out for-mean other things just don’t fit, not the way my mother’s dog eared copies of Ms. magazine made me feel like they would when I thumbed through them and made plans that the unceasing march of time has pulled from me so slowly and sneakily that I couldn’t see it happening even if I tried. I will no longer be a professional dancer. I won’t be a surgeon. I will probably never be a home birth midwife.

And it’s not even all career stuff either, I don’t know how to garden, even, and animals mostly hate me. I’ve wanted to learn how to cook Mexican food for a decade and I haven’t evolved past melting a whole mess of Mexican blend shredded cheese on something and yelling out ‘ole’. It’s pathetic.

But I’ve done the big milestone things of growing up. I graduated from high school, and then from college. I had my babies, I married my marriage, I bought my house. I have a career that I love and I have a hobby I love even more. The work of the getting is starting to be behind me and I’m (mostly) ready to do the work of the having.

And you would think this would be the easy part, except in many ways it’s not.

All that looking forward should have been hard, and it was, but it was that exquisite kind of hard that’s wrought with expectation and promise.

Who knew? Why would this, the part of life where we can settle into the choices we’ve made and stop agonizing over what the next big step needs to be, be the hardest yet? All that looking forward should have been hard, and it was, but it was that exquisite kind of hard that’s wrought with expectation and promise. This is, well, what it is. And maybe what happens is that the looking forward becomes the looking inward and we notice that even with all of the joy and all of the chaos and all of the living we are busy doing, the longing is still there.

So yes, I’m going to say it. There were dreams bigger than this, bigger dreams than standing here knee deep in laundry with a saggy tummy and early onset wrinkle-face and the dull but un-silence-able voice inside that too remembers what it felt like to run yelling through the upstairs hallway bare-butted and waving that faux parchment around like it was my flag. And in some ways I traded them away, in what was admittedly a deal so stacked in my favor that I would do it again so fast that it would make your head spin if ever given the chance.

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