For a few years after I turned 40, I thought I might like to be able to go back and have a mulligan on the 25 or so years prior. This “do-over” would, though, have to come complete with the ability to use all the lessons learned in those twenty five-ish years I’d lived, (but without the aging process). This way I could arrive at a different 40 something year old place, one with no regrets or mistakes under my belt.
I wanted to go back and do it over because I figured with all the tools I’d amassed along the way I could now successfully and effectively do it. I’d be able to: pick a life partner on the first shot; Be a perfect parent to my son who never raised her voice and was always available and who guided him straight to his desired career in sports casting; Hold on tight to my career instead of leaving out of fear they might not like the job I’d been doing – only to find out later that they absolutely had; Stand still and not run away from town to town or from relationships with friends or lovers; Never drink or smoke because of all the damage I’d seen alcohol and cigarettes do; Pay closer attention in school and not tune out my teachers wondering “when the heck I was ever going to use the formulas and ‘worthless’ information” they were handing me and most of all, I would wear sunscreen!
At least then maybe I wouldn’t have quite so many wrinkles and age/sun spots showing up out of nowhere and could be saving for retirement instead of for the laser treatment packages that are sure to be my only hope.
If I had a chance to use what I know now back then, as a young woman, I would never sit in fear and doubt around my peers because I’d realize that they sometimes felt the same way. I’d see, instead of wasting years looking for them, that no-one really ever has all the answers. I’d know that most people struggle with staying comfortable in their skin and wouldn’t get stuck in thinking I was alone in that feeling. I’d say thank you more. I’d use “NO” as a complete sentence and accept it when it was said to me. I’d give more things away early on, because I’d have figured out sooner that it is not about “stuff,” either in quantity or quality. In my case during those twenty five or so years later, I’d left so much stuff “behind” whenever I left anyway, that I wouldn’t even go there (I chuckle when I think of how many dry cleaners on the east coast have forgotten items with my name on them waiting to be picked up from when I lived nearby); I’d stand still and plant a garden and when I felt like I needed to run I might be able to stay still and work the energy out pulling the weeds.
Going back and doing it over would, I thought, definitely be less stressful and less disappointing the second time, especially if I was able to bring all the knowledge I’d gained the first. I wouldn’t feel the mountains of grief and regret over what I didn’t know when I didn’t know it, but instead would move on and out and through purposefully, understanding the importance of all the lessons being taught by life along the way. I’d not allow myself to be crippled with longing and loss and uncertainty. There would be no “What If’s” or “If Only’s.”
Alas, ten years later, at fifty (50), I have changed my mind and have absolutely decided not to “tee the ball back up on the first tee box.” I guess this is largely because I’m way too tired to go back and do any of it over, but also because if I were to forget to use those learned lessons along the way (which I’m afraid I’d be inclined to do) and had to live through some of life’s confusion and pain again I’m not sure I could stand it. I have decided that on some level getting through at all requires a bit of a spiritual warrior heart and the fact that I can feel it beating as I sit here and type helps me own that one is there, alive and well inside of me. Beyond that, if I were to be time travelled back to high school (or even middle school) today I would definitely be eaten alive.
First of all I’d be considered a prude. My shorts would never be short enough or necklines low enough to be able to fit in with fifteen-ish year old girls today. I don’t understand why having your hip bones stick out over the top of your jeans or showing as much cleavage as you possibly can to the world makes you cool. It just doesn’t feel like it’s on your terms that way. I like to dance, but these days everyone looks so mad out there on the floor. Female entertainers today dance more like they’re fighting or at least getting ready to defend themselves and the “tough guy” black bondage suits cut way too high and way too low that have become the wardrobe on stage (some even malfunction) are not even sexy. Are they? I’m no prude, but I think the ideas of “a time and place for everything,” a way of presenting and honoring our bodies as lovely and “leaving a little something for the imagination go a long way,” as my mom used to say. Oh God, did I really just type that? I AM old!
Since manicures and pedicures are not things I plan my week around and are indulgences fit in only after my real priorities, I’d be judged regularly for not having bi-weekly acrylics. I am not very good at casual flirting and am painfully shy around men that I like so I’d surely be beaten to the punch as far as dating. I’m overwhelmed when trying to carry on multiple text conversations with several textees at once and most of my reading comes from library books and not an Iphone or kindles, so the geek at heart would never make it.
I’d do my own hair and makeup for dances and proms so would therefore be considered a frump. It is what it is, I am simply not into the whole $100 dollar up-do while you drink cappuccino and pore over “Glamour” magazine thing.
Speaking of the prom, I think that dress codes are a good thing. On the radio the other day a broadcast stated that a girl was given a choice at her high school prom:
1. Adjust your dress so that less cleavage is showing.
2. Leave the prom.
She is now looking for a formal apology from the school and claims that her evening… and from the sound of it maybe her entire life…is now ruined.
See, I wouldn’t make it because I think rules are a good thing and guidelines are critical. Putting rules aside though, is there no such thing as modesty anymore? From the other side of the coin it is obnoxious to sit across the table from someone when their boobs are in your face (especially when you don’t have any), or your boyfriends face for that matter. Sorry girls, but it is! And if your man thinks it’s sexy you might want to run, because if he doesn’t mind people looking at your “girls” it’s a good bet he’s looking at other girls and their “girls” too!
I use Facebook to say “hi” to old friends I miss and not as a game to make myself look more popular than the next gal/guy. Hell, I can still get sad if a friend request goes unanswered. No, I’m simply not cut out for it. I just wouldn’t be able to compete with other girls the way it seems you have to in today’s world. Actually, I finally stopped thinking I had to, and it is other women who are my “go to,” trusted peeps now, so in that alone I’d be an exception to the rule.
My self esteem is not boosted nor do I derive pleasure or power in sharing the most secrets about the most “girls” I can amass. I do not find fellowship in talking about others to be deemed the one with the most information, thereby the most popular. I believe in keeping secrets, especially within my selected trusted network, and feel really good about myself when I do. Integrity equals self esteem, who knew? So, I guess I wouldn’t be included in the girls’ day/night out fests that many seem to love to engage in and absolutely have to be invited to.
Ah, maybe it’s just me. Although I am comfortable in my skin much of the time and have what would be considered a relatively sexy body for my age, I’d like to remain graceful in how I present it to the world. I don’t want everyone on social media pages to know where I am or who I am with at all times. I want to be selective with whom I share myself, my thoughts, my feelings, my whereabouts. There is something to be said for gradually working towards intimacy. I am afraid that by the time this up and coming generation reaches their third or fourth birthdays with 0’s at the end they will all be in big trouble. Somebody, somewhere must agree with me. At least, dear God, I hope so!
When will there be time for acceptance of who we are if everyone is so busy telling others? Where will there be room for individuality or keeping some things for the imagination? Mom, I know you are rolling over in your grave because trust me I am finally getting the point. I finally understand some of your claims. What will be special? Will there be such a thing as privacy? With facebook, texting, youtube and tweeting alone young people are so “out there” how will they ever reign themselves back in? I don’t see how it will be possible and I fear it will be too late.
When you get to the fifth decade of life girls, you will likely wish that you had cherished yourself more and held a few things back early on. Had stood still in your uniqueness and owned it, kept it for yourself and digested it a bit before putting it out there. You will see, at least I think you will, that there is something utterly powerful and sacred in respecting yourself and honoring yourself enough to work to be who “you” are and to stand still in it first and then on your terms…at your time, after you have proven it to yourself, share it with anyone else! You will recognize that there is something to be said for waiting to be a grownup until you have to be. When you do, please…please…pass on what you have learned like I am trying to do.