I think a lot about what it means to come of age, especially about where I am in the process of growing up. Twenty-six is, in my opinion, the last year of your mid-twenties, and lately I’ve really been feeling the difference between the early years out of college and where I am now.
I think a lot about myself, which sounds weird to say. Call it navel-gazing or obsessive self-analysis or even just a need to develop meaning around the trajectory I’m on, but I find that if I’m not taking time to slow down, check myself and see if I’m good with where I’m at, I tend to get a bit lost. So I do think about myself, and where I am, and how I’m doing, and sometimes I have breakthroughs and end up feeling so good, or whole, or at peace with things, that I need to intensely brain-dump it all out to prove to myself that I do get value out of the act of self-examination.
These days, for example, I’m finding that I’ve gotten into a satisfying and fulfilling groove with the people in my life. I genuinely like my friends right now, and that’s a great feeling. It took me a long time to get there, though. In the last year or so, a few friendships that I thought were going to be lifelong have ended, not with a bang, but with a simple fizzle. “Friends” stopped reaching out. I stopped being included in things, or invites that I extended were declined instead of accepted, or, worse, I’d get a “maybe” and find out through the grapevine that the “maybe” was just a no all along. It stung a bit, and I struggled to come to terms with the fact that friendships do just kind of end, sometimes.
Being totally honest with myself, and getting past that initial sting, I realized quickly that these people, or these groups, were never really at the top of my list of people who enriched or added a ton to my life. Admitting that to myself made the growing sense of distance and loss seem less significant, and opened up room for me to realize that I have such great, “quality over quantity” people in my life right now. I’m filling my days and weeks with people who are authentic and care about me and add so much to my world, and I’m building meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with these people because I understand now that those are the relationships that are worth the long-term investment.
Another awesome side of building those meaningful, tight friendships and relationships is that it’s led me to the realization that I don’t need to find fulfillment in that arena at work. Like I mentioned a few months ago, my beloved boss left the company I work at a few months ago, and in his wake left a huge void in my day-to-day professional existence. I think I’ve always put too much weight on being liked and building relationships with the people I work with, and that’s backfired on me in significant ways emotionally when that can’t be the case (um, hi, manager from the Big 4 who still makes scary appearances in my dreams).
I’m good at my job. I invest a lot of time and energy into making sure that I do it well, and it’s been a challenge to realize that, based in part on the culture of my workplace, that won’t always earn me headpats and recognition. Instead, I’m finding satisfaction in knowing that my job is and will always be just a job to me, and that at the end of the day, while the approval and professional satisfaction of my colleagues will always matter to me, they don’t need to be my friends, or “like” me in that sense. It’s permissible for me to show up, be polite, agreeable and professional, get my work done well, and, at the end of the day, go home and not give two shits about the people I spend my days with. While I think I would like to be in an environment where I had friend-colleagues, those relationships aren’t the ones in my life that are meaningful, and that’s okay.
And then the big guns: the relationship relationships. Like any mid-twentysomething, I have dozens of friends falling in love, buying homes, tying the knot, having kids, etcetera, and sometimes it feels like I’m churning circles on a hamster wheel while the rest of my friends have run marathons in that department. I haven’t really dated at all since Jon and I broke up, and for awhile I thought that was a bad thing. That it meant I hadn’t moved on, or that I wasn’t okay, or that I was stuck in the past while the rest of the world, including him, just kept marching on and finding their fairy tales.
While I’ll be the first to admit that I definitely still carry scars from that whole experience, I’ve come to the realization that I have moved on, in my own way, and that I did so without needing to jump into dating or start a new relationship. I’ve learned, the hard way, that I gave away too much of myself in the process of falling in love, and lost a lot of what makes me worth falling in love with in the process. Instead of giving into my need to be loved rightthisveryminute, I’m trying to hone in on all those little things I love about myself, and making sure that I’m still in love with who I am. I want to be the kind of person who has such a strong sense of self, such a solid commitment to who I am and what matters to me, that I’ll never negotiate down what I deserve and put myself in a position where I’m as vulnerable and weak and incapable of protecting myself ever again.
That doesn’t mean that I love being single. I thrive on giving and receiving love, and being part of a team, a unit, a pair. I do, however, think that it’s okay for me to be single right now, and important for me to be okay with that fact. I’m content to focus on being the best friend, daughter, sister, employee, bridesmaid, mentor, what the heck ever, that I can be. And down the line, I think that desire to build meaning and significance into the relationships in my life is going to put me exactly where I need to be to find and build that most meaningful relationship. And THAT, I think, is exactly the proof that I need right now to show myself that I’m growing up, and I like who I’m turning into, and that coming to terms with how adulthood looks for me right now isn’t quite as hard as I thought it would be.