Saturday, March 14, 2015
For some reason the friends I made in high school are ladies who went to college, traveled the world, entered law school and graduate school and then found themselves in a strong career. They didn't entertain the thought of marriage and children until they had accomplished these goals. To have four girls (five if you throw me into the mix) that came from a tiny town in Vermont and now span six different states 12 years after we threw our graduation caps in the air is quite remarkable in my biased opinion. If you were to read my (depressing?) diary from college it had my goal outlined as: married with 2 kids by 26, wearing a size 6, running for State Senate and living in a suburb of Nashville. Well, I'm 30, single with two cats, wearing a multiple of a size 6, working three jobs and at times I think I could live in an Airstream and be completely content. Things never happen as you plan them on paper. And that's the beauty of growing up. You wait your whole childhood to do it and yet you still wonder, "Have I actually grown up yet?"
One of the fabulous five friends from the class of 2002 is married and has two children. This marriage came before the two children, after college and trips across the world... and her two children were planned. And by planned I mean when she told me she was pregnant my response wasn't: "Dear God, what are we going to tell your parents?!?!?" Because time and distance are cruel we went a few years without seeing each other and I unfortunately was not there to meet her children when they were born. But this past weekend I was given that opportunity thanks to a road trip and a rare weekend off.
I hadn't seen this sweet friend in five years. She was married. She had children. She was moving across the country with her husband wherever his job took them. I was worried that I would have nothing in common with her. I actually had butterflies as I pulled into the driveway. With a throat sore from a three hour long sing-along marathon through the flat (so flat) landscape of Texas and Oklahoma I walked up to her door step and she met me there holding a baby on her hip. It was at that moment I realized two things: One, her smile had not changed after all these years and Two, she didn't look like a "grown-up." With one hug I was reminded that absolutely nothing had changed between our friendship despite the time and miles apart. But so much had changed in our lives. We didn't skip a beat in picking up where we left off but I could tell this "sleepover" like ones we had had countless times growing up would be like nothing we had experienced before.
I watched in awe as she balanced feeding a baby and carrying on a conversation. I thought about how the actions were the same yet the premise completely different. Instead of folding notes in front of me she sat on the couch and folded laundry as we laughed. Instead of sneaking out the window of her parent's house to meet friends she was sneaking into the shower to steal just fifteen minutes of personal freedom. Instead of gossiping about what my arch nemesis, Molly S., did in homeroom we exchanged disdain for the perils of her baby girl, Molly, teething. Instead of watching the boys we had a crush on in the dining hall in a complete trance we watched her little boy run around in a cape and place spells on us as a witch. We didn't stay up all night listening to music and dreaming of escaping that little town. We went to bed early listening to see if the baby would cry and if the 3 year old would escape his bed.
I've had countless moments since I turned 18 where I've asked myself, "Am I a grown-up yet?" And the subsequent question of, "What makes me a grown-up?" Paying rent, applying for health insurance, filing your own taxes, praying your electricity doesn't get turned off, celebrating in the produce aisle when bananas are on sale, remembering oil changes, and being a bridesmaid seven times all add up to what should constitute "being a grown-up." But I've always felt as if something was missing because I'm not married and I don't own a house and I don't have children. I have so much growing up to do. It wasn't until this weekend that I learned: We never really grow up. We are constantly growing and changing and evolving into a different person with new goals and new ideas. There is no finality on your journey to being a "grown up." I think it's a process that continues through each stage in your life. And then one day, when you're sitting on your front porch, yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off your lawn and eating dinner at 4 o'clock, you'll look back on all the years you thought you were finally a "grown up" and realize you still had so much more growing to do. And even then... You're not finished yet.
She was the first one of my four best childhood friends, a core group that I will forever cherish, to get married. She was the first one to have children. And she was the first one that I sat next to at a breakfast table on a Sunday morning where the parents in the kitchen making the eggs and the waffles weren't our parents: THEY were the parents. It was a surreal experience. Growing up I always wanted have a bit of her personality, definitely her athletic ability, her legs and for a day or two I was envious that my crush had asked her out. Now I looked at her and all of that seems like a lifetime ago. Instead, when the time comes in my life, I want to be the kind of mother she is. I want to have little mini-Kristen's running around the backyard laughing and a husband (i.e. Derek Jeter) using the waffle maker for Sunday breakfast.
But that chapter in my life hasn't come yet and I'm ok with that. Life moves at your own pace and each day brings you closer to the laughter and waffle makers. But each day also gives you a chance to continue "growing up." And that may mean more horrible first dates and a few more cats but the journey is mine to take and the road to it is paved with imperfections, do-overs and lessons learned.
And some times those lessons are learned when your best friend's toddler calls you "Tin-Tin" for the first time.