Aging on the outside, forever 15 on the inside

I’m up early in the dark, on this cold and snowy Saturday morning; weather that is far too cold and snowy for the time of year. Exhausted from a week of being sick (again) and wrapping up funding meetings and our 12-hour day of online giving that was successful. Not “knock it out of the park” successful, but overall good. Good enough that I am trying to break from my typical, “But it could have been better; it should have been better” mindset. Actually, in the spirit of celebrating, which is something I declared The Arts Partnership would do more of at our annual meeting in June, I am pretty cheery about the campaign as a whole.

But I’m also not sleeping because there is change in the air. Part of being Mary Poppins is knowing that the wind changes direction, and with it, comes decisions that must be made.

I’m tired. Not just physically tired, but mentally tired, too. I’m feeling the passing of time in a new, unusual way. I’m certainly not old, but I’m absolutely not young anymore either. And so I’m in that middle time that is murky and unknown. Being closer to 50 than 40 feels kind of like the grown up version of being 15: you’re not a little kid, but there’s no clear benefit or expectation to being 15. You’re far from 18, which is the first magic age. Heck, you’re not even sweet 16. You’re just…15. There are weird expectations that you are starting to grow up and be an adult, but you don’t have any idea how or what that means. Yes, I’m at another 15 crossroad.

In my mind, I should have a lot more figured out by now. I should have “hit my stride,” whatever that means. I should have the perfect pantsuit–the one that makes me feel tall and confident, and I should always have a handbag that is crisp and neat and sits at attention when I put it on a desk or table. Oh, and speaking of desks, my work space should be tidy.

Instead, my favorite handbag is slouchy and has some unknown stain on it that I simply haven’t bothered to try to work out. It slumps on the floor wherever I carelessly toss it. My desk manifests the way my mind works. I’m highly strategic but not at all linear. Think of a straight line from point A to B (not me) and then think of the path a bee takes in a pollinator garden; that’s my mind. It’s cluttered and random, and things appear to be haphazardly scattered around. That’s where I am most comfortable because that’s how my creative brain works.

And the perfect pantsuit? I have taken to wearing these shapeless silk travel dresses of late–super cute, jammie-comfortable and well named, they are indeed perfect for an airplane trip. Comfortable? Yes. Powerful and confident? Not so much.

My whole life I have longed to split my screen; I have longed to see the “what if” of the paths not chosen. I am at once a bold leaper off cliffs with absolutely no idea or care of what lies below and the one who hides behind her mother’s legs, hoping not to be noticed.

I love my current life. So much so that I suppose I take it for granted and sometimes boldly declare that it’s time for a change–I must explore other options and see what else is out there. And then someone provides me an opportunity–a remote one at that–and I panic and cling to my current life. I get overly sentimental about things that yesterday were utterly irrelevant.

I try to remind myself that the women in my life who appear to have it all together–whose pantsuits and handbags are perfectly tailored–struggle with these, or entirely different, insecurities, too. I’m surely not the only middle aged women having a perpetual 15-year old’s crisis.

I think the actual struggle, the true reason I’m so tired, is trying to reconcile that this must just be life. That we never actually do “arrive” to wherever we dreamed we would arrive when we were 15.

What if life is truly just always looking across the proverbial lunchroom to the cool kids’ table, longingly wishing that you belonged there but knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you do not? But what if you also know that underneath their Girbaud jeans and guess long-sleeve t-shirts, aka their beautiful pantsuits and perfectly applied lipstick, they are as insecure as you feel, too?

How in the heck do you reconcile that?