One of the downsides to adulthood is the preponderance of real-life problems. Remember how easy it was to solve problems at age 25? Broke? Move back in with your parents. Lonely? Adopt a pet. Overweight? Eat cabbage for a few weeks. Overworked and underpaid? Get used to it.
Lately, I have been suffering through a series of oh-my-goodness, I'm really a grown woman panic attacks. Daily.
If life was a romantic comedy, this would be the scene in When Harry Met Sally when Sally (Meg Ryan), cries to Harry (Billy Crystal) that she is going to be 40...eventually. If this was a horror flick, it would be that moment right before someone got stabbed. If life is really just an 80s melodrama, then apparently I am Sally Field.
In Norma Rae, she portrays a reluctant union organizer. In Places in the Heart, she is a Depression-era widow. In Steel Magnolias, she loses her daughter. Currently, in The Busy Black Woman Chronicles (of which I am the star), I am a reluctant cat herder Recessionista who is losing her mind.
I am making light, but this is no joke. I am just not ready for this very adult role of being the de facto family matriarch. I am not Claire Huxtable--most days I feel very much like Denise.
(Of course, Lisa Bonet is all grown up and crazy, so maybe I should pick a better role model...like one of the Olsen twins.)
A few years ago I wrote about how great it was to be turning 30, and I clearly had no freaking idea! As I count the months until the big 4-0, I look around me and realize just how delusional I was in thinking that life would be so much better once I got out on my own. Because let me tell you, after the age of 25, problems tend not to have simple solutions. And this is not just the reality check of grown up bills and whether to have sex on the first date. This is the really real honest-to-God fact of divorce, loneliness, health problems, college tuition, 401k plans and the loss of that parental safety net. This is about that scary moment when you stare into the future and squint because you need glasses.
I remember how my parents' peers would look at me and wonder aloud, where did the time go, and because I was too self-involved to understand, I smiled and shrugged and went back to thinking about whatever it was that occupied my mind. But now that it is my turn to ask the same question, I understand. I understand it when I learn about the deaths of my classmates from high school and college. I understood it when I wiped away tears at my niece's wedding a year ago. And I get it whenever I look upon my Baby Niece, who is old enough to resent being referred to as the "Baby Niece".
But as confused and bewildered as I am about life now, I would not go back to being unconcerned and nonchalant about life at 25. Talk about scary--just the very thought of...wait, I am not even going to finish that thought. I'll just say that I am so much more comfortable in my skin now than I was then. Back then, I would have stocked up on comfort food and holed myself up in my apartment for days if I had to deal with half of what I face now. Today, no matter panicked I feel, I must up and face the world head on--too much comfort food is not good for my cholesterol.
And that type of wisdom only comes with age. And thinking back on my 20s, I guess if I survived being that clueless, then maybe I can do anything...