Archive | November, 2011

What a Difference…

30 Nov

A few years make.

Looking through old photos yesterday really drove home the point.  It seems like I just blinked, but really it’s been almost a decade since I graduated from college.  Do you know how old this makes me?  Actually if you don’t… Don’t do the math.  It’s depressing.

I don’t usually feel older than the students I advise (especially if I’m watching what I eat – gluten is still a HUGE irritant).  Oh, I can see it around the eyes.  And in my friends’ gray hairs (I don’t have any, but only because I pull them out when I see them).  But I still feel like I’m nineteen or twenty inside.  I watch shows like Glee and listen to songs from my college years and think fondly of being a young adult.  There are times when I walk around campus and can just feel the energy of those students, the overwhelming IMPORTANCE of everything.

Growing up, I always thought it was the way things were.  You grew old enough and went to high school and college accordingly, got a job, got married, and had kids.  By 23, I was sure, I’d be a mom.  That was so old.  Of course I met my now-husband when I was just shy of 24.  I barely had a date before I was 23.  No, really.  I mean, I had a boyfriend from the end of high school into college, but between his moving out of state and my being totally not ready to be physical…  Not that it should be an imperative in any relationship, but he was.  Ready, that is.  Not that we ever talked about it.  Oh no.  He just found someone who was.  Before breaking up with me.  Yup, he sort of forgot that step for a few months.

I can joke about it now (and actually accepted his friend request on Facebook a few months ago and have appreciated reconnecting with him, since we were actually friends before dating), but I remember so well that phone call, two days before my nineteenth birthday.  By the end of it, and for days afterward, I was a blubbering mess.  Sobs wracked my body whenever I’d think of it.  I don’t think I did anything but sing sad songs and think to myself that I’d never find anyone.  I don’t think marriage actually held the same meaning then as it does now.  I think it was more of the Disneyfied ideal of riding off into the sunset together that I was after, but darnit, I was supposed to marry that boy!

Again, perspective is everything.  He joined the Army after college (in fact he was in college on an ROTC scholarship).  Two years after he broke up with me, September 11th happened, and he fought in the Middle East multiple times, and had we still been together, I’d have spent the next decade or so with my heart in my throat.  Oh yeah, and moving from state to state with his various Army deployments.  At eighteen, the concept of moving every few years while your husband is on deployment doesn’t sound so bad.  It might even be romantic to have to write letters back and forth (remember, this was before we were in a war, so there wasn’t much of a real danger).  Now?  I know I’d never have been happy.  My parents drove me crazy as a teenager, but as an adult I can barely go a few weeks without stopping by to see them.  Not to mention that I go nuts when I’m without my husband for a single evening (if he’s working late, or when he went to Las Vegas for his brother’s birthday, for example).  I’m a homebody, and I like being settled.  I want a house I can be in for the next few decades.  Not for a year or two.

The next New Year’s Eve was Y2K, and I remember very vividly going to Mount Soledad with my high school best friend (a boy, and before you ask, no, we never dated) and talking about how this was the decade we’d conquer the world.  We still thought it was a given that once we got to a certain point everything would just fall into place, and we were convinced we’d find our spouses and start having kids before 2010.  I was sure I’d start dating a ton, soon.  I was over my ex, I thought, and after all, wasn’t that what you did in college?

I actually didn’t have a single date in college, though, at least not after my ex broke up with me.  I kept myself busy, but more than that I was always with my college best friend (who also happened to be a guy).  It didn’t occur to me until about 2 months ago (literally; I was walking on campus and the thought struck me) that there was probably a good reason that neither of us got dates in college.  People totally thought we were together.

Not that we didn’t actually get told – multiple times, by just about everyone – that we should date.  Our friends joked that we were an old married couple anyway, so why didn’t we?  I even tried to wrap my mind around it once (after college, when a mutual friend started dating her best friend – who she’s married to now!).  The idea made me physically ill, and I actually called him on the phone to tell him so (sorry M).  He was offended for a minute, but then started thinking about how weird that would be, and agreed.  Incestuous, even.  I’d do anything for him and I love him like the brother I never had, and I think he’s a handsome guy.  But…  Just…  No.

It’s funny, though, because we easily spent as much time together as any couple.  So it’s not surprising that people would assume that’s the way we felt about each other.  We just didn’t.

We both had crushes on other people during college, though, and I remember us both making fools of ourselves on more than one occasion about them.  Actually both of us made fools of ourselves at the same time about the same person on more than one occasion – one would try to be the wingman for the other and end up looking just as foolish.  We thought we were cool, of course.

My major crush in college was a great match for me – similar experiences and interests, incredibly sweet and highly involved in student leadership.  I was so star struck.  More than once I almost asked him out, but I lost my nerve every time.  Which was probably for the best, since he was probably more interested in my (male, remember!) best friend than in me.  Which was totally ok.  Except that I was sooooo clueless that it took me almost two years to figure it out.  Poor guy probably felt like I was totally stalking him.

After college I had one good guy-filled year.  I mean, I wasn’t exactly Miss Popular – and more than once I ended up in my car blubbering about how I’d never find anyone.  But the more I think about it, I had plenty of guys interested in me, including one who saw me from afar and had his friend come and check if I was single.  It’s funny actually, thinking back on how bleak things looked.  Of course I was still clueless.  It was an overarching trait, and one I actually find is pretty normal to have in your late teens and early twenties.  Even when that guy’s friend asked if I was single, it took me at least 10 minutes to understand.

It took me years, actually, to realize that one boy in particular was actually interested in me at the same time I was interested in him.  Oops.  I tried so hard to suss out his feelings, and to get through his naturally-shy outer shell, and I actually did a decent job overall, even getting him to buy me a drink once.  He was actually the subject of a lot of blubbering.  I thought he’d never like me, and I’d never find anyone.  It wasn’t until many, many years later, and based on more information than I had at the time, that I realized he probably felt the same way.  Okay, probably minus the blubbering.  We’d have made a terrible couple.  He’s an amazing guy, but is better with plants and trees…  And I’m way too much of a social butterfly for him!

I got introduced to a friend of a friend that same year, when I was 23, actually, and while he made it pretty obvious that he was interested in me, he wasn’t interested in the same things I was, to put it delicately.  Remember why my first boyfriend broke up with me?  Yeah, this was round two, except he didn’t bother to date me at all.  Also?  Potentially explosive situation with him.  Excellent guy.  Lots of emotional stuff.  And with my own propensity toward being emotional?  It would have been disastrous.

Again, I can laugh about it now – about them all – and look down my Facebook friends list and see every one of them (hi guys!).  But back then?  End.of.the.world.  Seriously, when “friend-of-a-friend” ignored me for a month, I couldn’t help but sing sad songs to myself and think that I was never going to find anyone.

The irony is that when that friend-of-a-friend finally did get back to me to tell me what a nice girl I was and that he couldn’t string me along (which actually was a very mature perspective, despite the fact that it made me mad at the time), I got pissed off enough to go dancing with friends that night instead of staying home like I wanted to.  And I met my husband.

Perspective is everything.

Had that friend-of-a-friend strung me along, I’d have probably stayed home that night.  And never met my husband at all.  Or been so blind that I’d have ignored him.

And then where would I be?

My Mothering Instinct

22 Nov

Apparently my instinct to mother anyone and everyone is so strong, and has been for such a long time, that I surround myself with very needy people.  People who have emotional trauma and turmoil.  People who disappear.  Who attract drama.  Who are completely unable to cope with lots of things coming at them at once.

I’m not sure why this is.  I’ve always been this way.  I’ve always been the one who would pull out the band aid from her pocket and fix the boo boo.  Who would pick up the pieces after someone else smashed the toy.  Who would check for a concussion when a friend was knocked to the ground. Who would worry about things.  Things happening to people I love.  Things that they don’t worry about because they’re too involved with their own drama.

I’m feeling a bit put out right now.  I will live to mother another day.  Eventually I’ll even have my own kids to mother.  Right at this moment I’m feeling pretty pissed off at the fact that I’m feeling so worried.  But I’ll probably still never stop worrying about the people I care about, even when they don’t reciprocate.

 

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