Nepenthe

 

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Twenty (gulp) Nine  
I'm going to be 29 in 11 days. I've been experiencing blissful denial and frightening realization. The pain really comes from shedding another layer of socialization. It isn't my disappointment, it's society's disappointment. The tension I'm feeling is caused by the disparity between what I am and what society has expected.

I went to a fundamental school, which meant girls wore skirts and boys wore pants. Not uniforms, but I would say more insidious because of the stronger socialization aspect. Many of my report cards from that time say "not working up to potential". Implicit in those statements is a yearning, "you could be what I could not". It was in everyone's voice, "you could fulfill my dreams".

No. I can't. I can only fulfill my own. My "success" (read: conformity to your expectations) won't make up for your perceived lack of success. It is not a loss for me to not live up to your ideals. I realize this and yet it is still painful and difficult to shed society's dictums. They were planted in the fertile, receptive mind of my childhood and are not easily uprooted.

I still feel the imposed dissatisfaction of not having finished my college degree, not having children, not having a house. These are the tenets of conformity. I'm married with no children, still going to college, living in an apartment. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn't ask "when are you going to have kids" or "are you almost done with college" or "have you thought about buying a house".

There's a steady hum in the background, a neverending chorus of Conform, Conform, Conform. But I can't. It just isn't in my nature to be like that, like what is expected. I don't rebel for the sake of rebelling. I don't even see it as rebelling. I am simply being who I am. And for whatever reason, who I am doesn't match what is expected. Most of the time I'm okay with this, but once in a while, at a critical moment, I'm caught off guard and rendered vulnerable.

I wasn't paying attention. 29 just snuck up on me. And in that moment of lowered guard, it hit me. That feeling of time running out. I felt like I had all this business to finish and not enough time to do it all. Buy a house, finish school, have kids. All of a sudden, I felt I needed to complete all these tasks. I forgot that these are not my tasks. I never assigned myself these tasks. These are society's tasks. This is my socialization talking.

It's so insidious. I need to question myself, my motivations, all the time to be sure what I am doing is what I want and not what someone else wants. I don't want to be caught in a trap of mechanical compliance. I want to live a purposeful life, a fulfilling life. It's more difficult, because I must cut my own path through the jungle, as it were, but it's also more beautiful and therefore worth it to me.