Tag Archives: 20-something

The Spring of Something — or Someone — Else

Until this past June, my life had pretty much been all about me. But then a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel/alien entered the world and co-opted my selfish instincts for himself. I suppose since his needs pertained to more life or death issues (“feed me or I’ll whither away”) than my own (“but I really want a beer right now”), this move was justified. But man is it an adjustment. The irony is that one of the reasons my husband and I decided to move into the “next phase of life” and have a kid was because we felt like our lives were becoming too much about us – we wanted to be more generous with our minds and time; worry about things other than our own increasingly repetitive issues; break the 20-turning-30-something habit of navel gazing and stare at someone else’s infinitely cuter navel. Careful what you wish for. Goodbye us and me — hello baby!

Let’s start with an example:

The other day nature called. But baby had fallen asleep on my front in the Baby Bjorn during our afternoon stroll. Solution? Sit on that porcelain God with baby strapped to my body, the entire time thinking this is wrong this is weird this is wrong ew ew ew. Baby survived un-disturbed, at least so we’ll pretend until the therapist bills roll in during his tweens because he “can’t seem to go without having a really uncomfortable feeling he can’t quite place.” Sorry future son.

And maybe one more because this is fun:

How about every second and every decision of every day. Can we leave for the Cape at 10? Nope, gotta wait until sweet pea is fed, otherwise he’ll lose his shizz in the hot traffic on 93. Can I wear that dress to that wedding? Nope, gotta find one with boob accessibility. Can we watch a movie? Nope, dear angel has reached his limit after 7 minutes of tummy time. Can I grab lunch with a colleague? Nope, sorry mama, you’ll need to guzzle that sandwich in one bite while leaning over the sink because the physical incarnation of the twinkle in our eyes is hungry/tired/frustrated/bored/does it matter why he’s crying?

But we (meaning anyone that has chosen to become a parent) asked for this, right? This is the full life we all imagined. Maybe we’ve traded in the white picket fence for a too-small parking spot in the city and the golden retriever for a plant that really is trying so hard to live (sorry Fitz), but the cherry on top of this blissful sundae has always been a child. A little photoshopped version of its parents to carry the torch into the future long after our own light has gone out.

Is there any more optimistic move than to introduce a new life into this muddled world? Or, I suppose, (enter double-irony) more selfish move?

We wanted this human to remind us that there is more to existence than worrying about where we live, what job we have, what our title is, what our salary is, whether we’re good enough, smart enough, powerful enough, pretty enough, happy enough…enough. In one fell swoop (if by “fell swoop” you mean 12 hours of labor after 9.1 months of pregnancy), a child sucks all those worries away and replaces them with a totally soul-crushing arrangement of eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks on a little noggin gently perched on top of a pudgy combination of body and limbs.

And then he breathes!

This little thing actually breathes! And cries, yes… but he breathes! And his heart beats and his eyes water and his fists open and close and, when you’re particularly lucky, his lips form a smile that makes your own heart sing. Suddenly your sole reason for being is to keep all those functions going. That’s it. Devising marketing strategies, assessing profitability, tackling stuffed inboxes, excel models and power point presentations — those fun activities have flown the coop. All troops are now assembled to help this little nugget become a boy and, sooner than anyone will expect, a man. In the midst of the sleepless chaos that is infancy, this child — for all his wailing and lovely scented diapers — has brought a calm to my mind and a singular sense of purpose I’d been desperately seeking.

In a caffeine-induced high or the occasional moments of parental triumph (e.g., that one time you got him to go to sleep before he became, dun dun dunnn, “over tired”), all the above is glorious. Living with blinders on makes the focus of your gaze quite important. And when it’s so damn cute, it’s not hard to allow it to consume you. But I realize one day, probably quite soon, the world outside my blinders will creep in and pull my gaze slightly away from our little miracle. I’ll return to worrying about all of the “[insert adjective here] enough’s” of life and inevitably feel torn between my duty as mom to our son and my other duty as me to myself — not to mention wife to my life-changing and -making husband.

But for now I’ll enjoy the cocoon that protects my son and me from the rest of the world and allows us to see and concern ourselves with only each other. At 3:17 am after being up and down since midnight, I’ll try to remember that I wished for this and that I’ll long for this evolving memory even more acutely when he’s coming home at 3:17 am after not texting when he said he would. I’ll kiss his little nose when he’s not expecting it, massage his tiny and, yes, slightly-webbed toes when he’s bored on a car ride, offer him my finger so he can learn to grab and whisper over and over just how much I love him every night when his eyelids get heavy, even though I know he hears nothing but a soft familiar sound.

As I fight in “the trenches” that are these early weeks of his life, I’ll look at this blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel/alien and see the promise of and hope for a better tomorrow that brought him here in the first place — and remember that, thankfully, it really isn’t about me anymore. It’s about a greater, more powerful, life-altering “us.”

Well, and a damn cute navel.

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What would you say ya do here?

I’m a card-carrying member of the 20-something club. You know us – we’re the ones that want to change the world but aren’t sure in what way. We’re the over-educated who can’t get jobs but can travel. We’re the trophy-obsessed trying to “be real.” We’re the Facebook generation, the one-uppers, the pay-me-more-ers… The incredibly f-ing frustrated group that just wants to figure it out!

Did I mention we’re 20-something?

Every time I discuss this common frame of mind with “real” adults, I’m inclined to describe it as a generational difference. They quickly remind me that this isn’t a generational issue. This is an age issue.

Being 20-something is incredibly complicated. There are many, many ways to be 20-something. You could live on your parents’ couch or you could run a company. You could be taking orders from your mom or the president of the United States. You could be overseas in Afghanistan or down the block in a Bronx elementary school. You could be assembling meeting prep binders or you could be publishing books. You could think you’re way ahead or far behind. Whatever your situation, you don’t think you’re where everyone else is.

That said, whether you retire to your childhood bedroom or a penthouse suite every night, the one thing that I think virtually all of us have in common is the quiet voice nagging us late at night after a long day: What do I really want to do?

I’ve found that for many of us 20-somethings, a job isn’t so much about employment as it is about figuring out who we are, what we’re about and what we want to do. Turns out most of us have no idea who we are, what we’re about and what we want to do.

Are we smart, motivated, hardworking individuals willing to put in long hours, do the dirty work, to rise up the ranks? Yes, absolutely. Will we do that for just anyone? Nope. The job market has forced us to be a little less picky, but the truth remains that we’re holding out for something that aligns with our fundamental passion – if only we knew what that was.

I remember when I was looking for my first job out of college, by far the most common sentiment I heard was not I want to do X; it was I just want to be around smart people and work for a company I believe in. 

A few years and jobs later, I think we’re all lying to ourselves.

I think what we really want is the right answer when the person next to us at a bar or across from us at Thanksgiving dinner asks: So what do you do?

I HATE answering this question. I hate the judgment that I can sense in how they do or don’t nod their head in approval. I hate the way I need to defend my response, build it up or tone it down. I hate the disappointment of a sympathetic head-tilt or the flicker of excitement I feel when they’re impressed by the answer. I hate the fact that – whether they admit it or not – they are pigeon-holing me based on my response: you are what you do.

I think more than anything, I hate that I don’t feel proud of my answer.

And, if I can get over myself, I think that may not be a bad thing. There’s actually a lesson to be learned in there. What response would I be thrilled to share? What answer would I love to give and then be more than happy to discuss with and defend – in depth – to the most obnoxious man in the room?

Negative emotions (jealousy, frustration, envy, hatred) can be great teachers – showing us what we really want/wish we had – if we take the time to assess, reframe and look for solutions. Kind of like a masseuse working on a knot in your back. You gotta focus and push on the pain to get rid of it.

I think I’m getting closer to figuring out what I’m meant to do. In my happier moments, I try to think of my working life as a process of whittling down a block of wood. Slowly I’m chipping away at something massive, undefined and daunting – figuring out what I don’t like as much as what I do – until, some day (or year) I’m left with a beautiful… something.

In my more frustrated states, I enjoy commiserating (aka drinking) with others. And finding out that I’m not the only one who’s suffering from all this damn whittling and is tempted to break out the axe. (Who whittles anyway? Seriously.)

Somewhere in the middle I find a calm knowing that I’m blessed in many ways, and swimming in the unknown can be a glorious adventure if you have the right people to swim with you.

There are millions of articles out there about figuring out what the heck you want to do – but here are a few I’ve recently found and that manage to keep my attention. Enjoy and good luck!

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