A friend of mine sent me an old picture of an old boyfriend the other day and it has put me in a tailspin.
Not in a "oh no! I married the wrong man!" sort of way. More in a "what happens to all those people once we're done being them?" sort of way.
When you date someone seriously, you can't help but picture what your life will be like with that person. He was scrappy and idealistic. He was studying things he loved, with not much thought for how his degree was going to feed him. It was never an issue, because he always made things work. I admired him very much.
Meanwhile, I studied for the Foreign Service exam. It is maybe not a good sign when you and your boyfriend are preparing for careers on different continents. It is one of those things that made sense at the time. Neither of us was concerned about making a lot of money, but we did want to spend our work weeks doing what we loved. It's one of the things that was right about us.
Do you remember the commercial, where two young men are hitchhiking in Europe? One of them is talking about how he wants to be a potter and live off the grid as they walk past sheep farms and whatnot. And then a couple picks them up in their beautiful, quiet, comfortable, leather-interiored, European luxury car, and the boys are rendered mute. After a moment he says, "maybe a business major with a minor in pottery."
That boy, I'm sorry to say, was me. I tried on some new versions of myself. I envisioned big weddings with elegant gowns. I dated real estate developers and anesthesiologists and got a job in an art gallery because that's what I saw someone do in a movie once (sadly, not kidding).
It took me a long time to realize that real estate developers and anesthesiologists, though lovely people, are not my thing. I like my life partners a little scrappier, thank you.
The picture of my old boyfriend made me think about what was so right about our relationship. And after days of stewing about it, I've concluded that what tripped me up when I saw the photo was that I lost sight of who I was for so long.
There is a lot of talk about losing oneself when becoming Somebody's Mother. There is talk about keeping who you are alive, the you that is not defined by a mini-van and mom jeans. I love this idea, but the problem is, I lost sight of who I am long before I had kids. I'm not really sure what it is I'm supposed to keep alive.
At least, I wasn't sure until I saw that picture. I saw that picture and saw who I was when he was who he was.
I'm smart and scrappy and comfortable in my own skin. I think I'd like to revisit that version of me. And the funny thing? That's exactly the kind of person I married.