This weekend I had a chance to spend some time with three women I hardly ever get to see, all within three years of my age, but at totally different life stages than I am. Today after church we had lunch with my best friend from high school, and despite the fact that we live in the same town, we have not seen each other since her wedding, three years ago, because our lives are so totally different. But today it was like no time had past at all, except for the part about my two boys are now seven and five years old. And her two boys? Are cooking along at 19 weeks gestation. And she just found out there were two of them earlier this week.
Its fascinating to me to think about how different we've become since we graduated high school together in 1990. At that point we lived, laughed, loved and almost breathed in unison. But I got married the year after I graduated college and had my first baby five years later, at 28. She didn't finish school, but dove head first into a sales career, bought a house on her own and lived the independent woman life I sometimes wish I'd had the chance to do (not really, actually. Its that kind of jealous regret but wouldn't do differently if given the chance thing we all have about other people). She did the singleton dating thing for years, and ended up just a few years ago marrying a college friend. And today is halfway through her first pregnancy, at age thirty six.
Saturday afternoon I went to a baby shower for another friend, a sorority sister from college. She is thirty nine, and pregnant with her first child. She too married late, just a few years ago, after running into an old college friend at a wedding. They started dating and got married, the year I celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary. I sat across from her on the sofa with another friend and oooh'd and aaah'd at all the cool baby things that didn't even exist seven years ago when I had my first baby shower, and tried to bite my tongue about giving her lots of unwarranted mommy advice.
Saturday night I took the boys over to my parent's house for dessert to see my cousin who was in town, celebrating her twentieth wedding anniversary. She is also thirty-nine years old, soon to be forty this summer. But she married her high school sweetheart before graduation had even passed, and started a family soon after. Her girls are 19, 17, and soon to be 16. The oldest is out of the house and on her own, the same age I was when I met and began dating the man who would later become my husband.
All these women, at different stages in their lives. Its so unfair to compare them, but I can't help thinking about how the four of us approached life from such different directions. One got married and had babies without ever seeking a career, and has raised a beautiful family of strong, independent minded young women unafraid to take care of themselves. Two fiercely and purposefully grew their careers first, only settling down to marriage and family after they'd reached a satisfaction with where their life and career would take them, and after knowing total independence. I wonder if they had not been so focused on those high-powered career goals, they might have found love sooner. But I think it's worked out for them both, regardless. They both found, after looking around for so long that love was right there in front of them, in the face of a boy they'd known forever. Not that different from me, really, I just didn't let the boy go the first time I found him.
And speaking of me, how do I fit into all this? Interestingly, I would probably be the most independent-minded of the bunch. Which probably explains why I took the Superwoman route: I tried to do it all, at the same time. Grow a marriage and a career simultaneously, and then add a couple of kids, to boot. And sprinkle in a little quest for spiritual growth, too, just for good measure. And physical fitness, while we're at it, because I'm not getting any younger, you know.
In the end, sometimes I stop moving long enough to realize just how thin I've spread myself with these life decisions I've made. And I question whether I do any of it really well, at all. I didn't set out to do it all, it just kind of happened that way. And maybe that's the point. Maybe none of these women planned it this way either, we all just kind of went with the flow of what felt right at the time. And that's where we should all be proud of ourselves - for doing what feels right. For defining ourselves not for what we do or don't do, but for how we feel. It doesn't matter how old we are when we have our babies, or if we have any at all. It matters how we feel about the life we make for ourselves. Do we look back and feel good about the decisions we've made. After all, life is just a series of choices. The key is to feel good about it in the end.