html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Too idealistic?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Too idealistic?

Three years ago, at Andrew’s Solstice party, he set out prayer paper for us to write on. He said for us to put down what we wanted to release from the last six months, so that when we burn the paper it won’t follow us into the next six months. That was easy. I wrote that I wanted to get my life out of limbo. I knew I was living essentially as I had since undergrad, with a roommate, hanging out with friends, playing sports. I was 31 years old, hanging out with a bunch of 23 year old friends (that year was Nick, Kimmy and Brev). Now I am 34, living alone, hanging out with friends, playing sports. This year my playmates are 22. My life has stalled.

I’ve heard the saying “you can’t become an adult until you have had kids”. I understand how condescending that is to grown people for whom kids aren’t an option. They are certainly adult in the sense of being participating members of society. But I give some credence to the idea in a different sense. I haven’t had a growth spurt in years. I’ve accomplished some stuff (‘cause hell, I’ve got time to spend), but none of it is fundamentally different than anything I could have done at 24. I’ve gotten more competent and more willing to take on incrementally bigger things, but really, nothing about me has changed in years. A decade.

Far as I can tell, the next mostly likely events for stretching and teaching me are marriage and kids. (Should I miss those, next down the line is my parents aging and dying, and please can I have the good changes first?) People say things like “I learned a patience I never knew before” or “I don’t remember what my life felt like before”; that makes me think they have changed. My life now is fine and good and I like myself, but I’m long overdue for something that demands more of me. I’m sure that I will rue these words, but I’m not working at capacity at all or struggling with hard concepts or accommodating difficult change. I could pose a challenge to myself, but those end up being a more intense version of something I’ve already done. Harder, but not new.

I do not want to tempt fate by saying this. I have zero desire for gratuitous hardship. But I think there are steps to becoming my best self, and the work put into a marriage and kids (and career, but that’s just doing more of what I do well) would be big leaps. I want some big leaps. I want my life to start moving again.

44 Comments:

Anonymous Brock said...

I think if you ask some people who've "moved on" past their college lifestyle, you'd find that they wish they could go back to it.

I certainly would. The only thing I don't miss about the college/grad school lifestyle is the poverty.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do adults really do much growing and changing? I mean, we can continue trying new things, but like you said, nothing is really new at this point. Marriage doesn't seem too much different from dating. Maybe having kids will be a big change, but is it really all that new?

This seems like the common problem with being an adult. We're kind of done now, and just need a way to fill in our spare time. All that wonderful stuff I learned in college is slowly fading away. All that physics and math I was so in love with have no place in my life anymore. One of the great things about having kids will be getting to take all this worthless knowledge I've accumulated and force it onto someone else, so they can grow up and be disappointed that it all has no real use anywhere.

Justin

12:56 PM  
Anonymous UnderwearNinja said...

Have you ever won a woman's chocolate pudding wrestling match? If not, I think your next step in life has already been found.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Brock:
Ten years later it isn't offering me much.

Justin:
The world needs your children.

Oh UnderwearNinja. I know I look all sweet and square when we meet. But I lived in a co-op where they semi-annually filled an entire room of the house with pudding four inches deep, covered the stairs with plastic and spent an evening sliding down the stairs into the pudding. I wasn't a wholehearted participant in most house events, but I have met all of my pudding wrestling goals.

1:27 PM  
Blogger capella said...

I don't mean to marginalize your desire for marriage and children, but I think some of what you are referring to here is a desire to create something. Some satisfy that desire through their work, but unless you are a professional starving artist, the creative element of your job is probably diluted by the mundanities of earning a living. Other people engage in hobbies that fulfill them in this way, which it sounds like you do to an extent (community gardening and so forth). But of course having children is a more visceral form of creation.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous scottb said...

One thing to keep in mind is that once you _do_ have kids, you've set yourself on a course for the next _two decades_ where your goals are, to a great extent, subsumed in the Great Task of raising kids. And, for me, from here in the middle of it, I think that's a great use of my time and energy. But your mileage may vary.

1:45 PM  
Blogger billo said...

Megan, I hear what you're saying and I think there's some truth to it. But maybe it's not the events per se but our approach to them that counts, that makes them an 'experience'. Of course, many people are 'adults' at a sort of official level (job, marriage, kids ) but is that *really* what it's about?

As for marriage, back home we say it's like a tasty and very rich cake: those who haven't eaten it are very sad and those who have are full of remorse! :)

1:56 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

Ah yes, because married people with children are world reknowned for the depth and breadth of experiences they undertake. Like sometimes they watch CSI when it airs but other times, when they're feeling totally crazy, they TiVo it and watch Law & Order instead.

I think your first step should be to stop deluding yourself that "growth" or "stretching" have much to do with your desires. That is New Age mumbo jumbo bullshit that everyone who is unhappy has been conditioned to reply with.

The best self help advice ever given comes from Buckaroo Banzai. "Where ever you go, there you are." The world is full of people who think the next job will be the one that magically unlocks all their pent up fullfilment. That the next move will take them to a town full of people who understand their heart completely. That the next lover will be substantially different from the last 20. That if only they get that promotion everything will resolve into perfect clarity and simplicity.

It never happens that way and all you get is a world full of people absolutely convinced that a pot of gold lies at this end of this rainbow, even if the last dozen disappointed.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

But if I find the right New Age mumbo-jumbo, the next time will be different! No matter how my engineer side dominates, sometimes my vegetarian, yoga-doing, ultimate-playing breaks through. I'm all opposites inside.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can still do stuff after you have kids. In fact, once they're old enough you can force your kids to do exciting things with you that you can't get other people to do.

And, I still say being content is no better than being dead. The goal should always be to be better. My friends who are content annoy the hell out of me. Too lazy to get up and do anything, just want to sit in their little homes, and watch their little tvs, and not try anything, or spend any money, or go anywhere, or do anything. BORING. I can't imagine having to eventually look back on a life of nothing more than watching television, and reading books, and blah blah, whatever it is lazy people do.

Justin

2:31 PM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Oh god, I can still vividly remember the smell of "Pudding Joy" night at your CoOp. I stumbled upon it as it was winding down, and all the pudding had warmed up, and the whole place smelled like a pudding locker room. If there had ever been a moment when I would have wanted to jump in and participate, I missed it by a few hours.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...

I had a conversation similar to this with a friend the other night. I lamented about feeling like I have no purpose in my life at this stage. She said I needed inspiration and recommended something her husband listens to when he feels lost - Tony Robbins. The CD is sitting on the passenger seat in my car... not sure what to make of the idea.

The grass will always been greener on the other side... because you can't tell there are weeds mixed in the grass from your angle. I understand your desire to create something, to take all the knowledge and experience you have gained and apply it to something worthwhile. One suggestion I was given as a step towards marriage and family - volunteer to be a big sister. That where you can be a "parent," giving and learning with a child. It might be a good way to expand the mind.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pandax, don't you end up getting attached to some kid you don't even own then? And, in the near future, when she does get married and has her own kids she's gotta throw her little sister away?

3:04 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You mean, my own *better* kids? The cuter ones that belong to me?

PandaX - I have close by perfect nephews, so I can do some proxy parenting when I want.

Capella - My creative compulsions usually express themselves as hospitality. Making my home nice, or coming up with a new event. This blog has brought out a side of me that I didn't know about, where I have some pride in writing for an audience. I may see if that takes me anywhere. But for any of those, I can quit when it gets hard, 'cause I'm only answerable to me.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Hmm. People seem to be posing alternate realities so that they don't have to just pat your head and say, "Oh, boo, I hope it will all come true very soon." For what it's worth, I think you know exactly what you want and you are going to do it. You are going to keep hoping for that relationship that you want, and then you'll Settle for Brian. No, just kidding. You'll keep hoping for that relationship that you want, and then if it doesn't happen in three years you'll go have a kid on your own. And then you'll be so busy you won't have time to obsess over it, and wouldn't you know it? Someone will find you and your kid very appealing and slowly they will infiltrate your life and there you will be, exactly where you knew you were destined to go.

Yes, adults grow and change. Yes, having kids is both good and bad for one's personality. It's all true, the good the bad and the ugly, but you're not going to take anyone else's word for it...

3:47 PM  
Blogger a little mouser said...

let’s get back on track.
See this picture? Look past the cute babe, those are Meggie’s boobies.

I have more.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at this! I think she's trying to one up you.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,210219,00.html

http://www.janemag.com/memos/blogs/sarah/

Justin

4:02 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

HOLY SHIT! You're here! I'm SO glad!

Y'all! Look at him! He's little and perfect, isn't he?

NO more pictures without warning me.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...

Anonymous- don't you end up getting attached to some kid you don't even own then?

And the problem with that is? You get attached to friends, nieces and nephews, etc. and you don't own them? Perhaps capitalized words would have been clearer - Big Brother, Big Sister, Big Sibiling.

Couldn't you think of it as being a Godparent? (not that I have one) I'm talking about spending one day/afternoon a week with a kid through a community program. But as M said, she's already got a nephew.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Nephews! Two of them! And they're perfect. Two perfect baby siblings, as well. One smart-ass grown sister.

4:41 PM  
Blogger lil miss dubin said...

obv there's lots to say here, but for now i'll just mention that i too missed pudding joy by at least a few important hours. i was at food orgy though...making the point to leave before things got too out of hand. but you know...that ol' co-op made for a lot of good stories, right? go bears.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, not too idealistic. Sounds reasonable to me. -K.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course it changes you, silly. You squeeze a human out of a teeny tiny hole. Its horrifically beautiful! I wouldn't say I've grown though, I'm just different now. You have to be, you don't really get the choice to be the same as before. But you do get to do way cool things like teach them to slap their ass and say thats my shit! over and over. I never wanted kids and I am so achingly greatful that I did. Its nothing like anything you ever think it is.

as an aside - Eliot says: You are toast! You ain't got nothing I can't handle. Ok, well I said that but she did say and I quote "did you hear my words? you are going down"

Lets let the public decide on what fine and tasty pies we have.

debi

7:38 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Next time I see your beautiful Eliot, I'll gently explain to her what I mean when I say "BRING IT".

7:44 PM  
Anonymous pilgrim said...

"My life has stalled."

How "vile"!

9:30 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"In fact, once they're old enough you can force your kids to do exciting things with you that you can't get other people to do."

Like force them to go to folk music concerts. (shudder) That's what I blame all my psychological problems on. :)

12:55 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

Also, just a thought, if this blog is supposed to be an extended personal ad, having a picture of you looking very couple-y with a guy in your sidebar may be counter-productive....

1:53 AM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

I love Loth for making it possible for me to trump all assertions that what I really need from life is [insert anything pudding related]

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, it was folk music? Not Ayn Rand?

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said, force them to do exciting things. Folk music isn't exciting. In fact, concerts in general are a waste of time and money.

Justin

9:15 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Amanda Bee:
Loth wins ALL arguments about pudding or any fun naughtiness. It is totally the Draw Four trump card, especially if you look conventional and boring.

JMPP:
That's my co-blogger, who is constantly entertaining the crew with his funny observation and frequent postings. He's the real reason for all the traffic here.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Pandax said...

Whoops, my comment was singular because I always think back to the picture you used to have posted with the one nephew. :)

Despite your feelings of stagnation, I think you have a good mindset. You are full of interesting thoughts to share, you have activities, and you have good friends. I feel like you have a much better attitude about this "stagnation" than I do about my own. I know you don't seek out compliments, but I find it hard to believe that you will remain "limbo" for long if you put your mind to it.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waaaaaait a minute! Isn't anyone going to compliment the blog proprietor's very nice holdings on incidental display?

I'm all for this high-falutin' philosophy talk, but really! -K.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that having kids is just as likely to impede it or even to constrict you as it is to help you grow. While I don't have children, I know people who have become more selfish and rigid than anyone ever could have predicted after they had children. Children don't cause growth; they're only a catalyst, and they have to have the right characteristics already present to result in the right reaction.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"Far as I can tell, the next mostly likely events for stretching and teaching me are marriage and kids."

Have you considered becoming a foster parent? I think single people can do it too.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

My aunt had some foster kids, but that was after she was already married and her kids moved out. Kind of helped to replace the empty space.

If children are really PRIMARY in your thoughts, that might be a good strategy. But if GUYS are still the #1 interest, you might be discouraging the ones who'd like to start a new family of their own...most single moms don't consider their kids a big stud-magnet on the dating scene, no matter how much they love them.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about starting a company? thats challenging.

-eric

7:31 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"most single moms don't consider their kids a big stud-magnet on the dating scene, no matter how much they love them."

That's why I suggested fostering instead of adopting. Fostering, you get some parenting experience, but in most cases, you also give the kids the back after a while.

I don't think I want to have my "own" kids but I would consider fostering some older children someday. It breaks my heart to think of all the gay teenagers living on the streets because they were kicked out of the house for being gay, then ran away after they were put in a very gay-hostile foster or group home. There is a desperate need for more gay-friendly foster homes. Don't know if this would be something for Megan but I hope more people who have the ability to do this consider it.

10:26 PM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

What is up with all the clinical analysis? I thought the point of all this was thinking out loud, pure and simple. Exploring ideas like desire and where it comes from. Desire for love and romance, desire for a partner, desire for a family.

Yes, there are other ways to get a family, shoot--there was a great story in McSweeney's a while ago about a woman who wouldn't tell anyone who had fathered her child. Depending on your sensibilities, the story was maybe grody, so I'll spare you the details, but the point is: no one is saying it is hard to have kids. It is easy (except when it isn't, but that is a different story). What is hard is building a family.

Brock, I really don't miss my college lifestyle in the least. I miss having a sauna in my laundry room, sure, but the rest of it? Not so much. I like making commitments that last longer than a semester. Being able to afford groceries. Not being so damn stressed out about every little test (I nearly failed calculus because I overslept and missed my midterm. I thought the world was going to end.)

Secretly (but don't tell anyone) I also really don't miss seeing my housemates naked and covered with pudding. Despite my prior jokes and proud insinuations that I took part, I always thought pudding joy was slightly nasty. And I saw it from the start, when it was hot and clean still.

Enough about loth. What I was going to say actually has nothing to do with your post at all. I know that if you wanted to start a debate, "shall i foster or not: please advise" you'd have said so. That isn't what this is about, your post, but I've been thinking about it since foster care came up and I wanted to say these things, that a friend of mine is a foster parent with no regrets and a great relationship with her teenage foster daughter, but Love and Diane is a great story that, as a pure aside, reminds you that foster care can also be heartbreaking.

Meanwhile, when you start to feel like your life is stagnating, it is time to be drastic a little bit. I don't know what you need, but I know the feeling. When I was 22 I had all these 34 year old friends and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Now that I'm not 22, I find myself realizing that being friends with younger adults freaks me out because it makes me worry that maybe I haven't grown past them. I don't think it is a rational response, it is a gut response. Shoot, when I was 22, the world was this amazing place full of possibility and freedom and excitement. Dubin would come to NYC and we'd spend all day drinking coffee and reading Adrian Tomine. I'd listen to Laurie Anderson and float through life.

Now, I spend a few hours reading blogs and design porn and I feel all guilty. Where has my laziness gone?

My attempts to convey that I understand stagnation and I wish I knew how to kick you in the butt so as to make you feel less stagnant (by pushing you into new projects that are, also, less stagnant) are getting lost in the drift here.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

> My attempts to convey that I
> understand stagnation and I wish
> I knew how to kick you in the
> butt so as to make you feel less
> stagnant (by pushing you into
> new projects that are, also,
> less stagnant) are getting lost
> in the drift here.

I would think that if you can manage to slip behind her while she is facing some dynamic project, you should not need elaborate instructions for the butt-kicking. At your own risk, though, apparently she has some martial arts skills!

9:14 AM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

I play capoiera, Jens. Chapa--I kick the butt; esquiva, I get out the way. She'll never take me down.

Actually, come to think of it, there are some very hot capoeiristas in my class...

11:45 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Amanda Bee:
Capoiera is pretty much just gorgeous people sleeping with each other, right? Aren't y'all hooking up with each other and the instructor all the time? That's all I see when I see capoiera.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

gorgeous FLEXIBLE people sleeping with each other

My youngest son is signing up for a class...since he is just 14, I think he will concentrate on the butt-kicking a while before he starts on the sleeping!

5:55 PM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

I'm temporarily derelict from my class (it is an hour and a half commute each way and it started to wear me out), but Mestranda Edna gives us lectures rather often about not sleeping with our classmates, which has led me to the obvious conclusion that everyone is doing just that.

6:04 PM  

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