Tea Breaks is an ongoing experiment of sorts, in an attempt to fit in a bit of the going-ons in my life. So every Monday, I talk a little bit about what happened last week, and occasionally a little bit about my own plans! Just a heads-up though – this might merge with the Weekend Coffee Share, a blogging event that the inimitable Jade M. Wong introduced me to. Go check her out, her blog is a delight to read ❤
Before I say anything – no, I’m not getting engaged. This is more of a personal reflection for me, so… shall we?
A while ago, I had lunch with an older friend of mine. She’d graduated a few years before me, and in many ways, she was a friend, a mentor, and a teacher.
During this lunch, she lamented that she was feeling old. I remembered being distinctly confused, because she wasn’t that much older than me. She certainly looked nothing like it, nor did hanging out with her feel like it – talking to her was always fun, easy, and we could go for months without seeing each other and pick up where we’d left off.
“Chris, no, really. Look at this.”
She pulled out her phone, logged into her Facebook, and suddenly, I’m confronted with an array of wedding pictures, engagement ring pictures, baby pictures, of all shapes and sizes.
She sighed, and puts her head in her hands. “I feel old. Everyone’s getting married or engaged already, and me?” She shrugged. “I’m going to die with ten cats. Be eaten by them. Just be stuck here. In this -” She waved a hand around, and said no more, nursing her coffee.
I didn’t know how to console her. I admit, I didn’t understand. It was their life, and theirs alone. She was accomplished, I daresay moreso than her friends, jetsetting, globe-trotting, and generally being an inspiration. So instead, I nodded, tried to soothe her, and clumsily changed the topic. Soon, the conversation faded from my mind.
For the past few months, I found myself recalling this incident and reflecting on it. It started with my Facebook feed. People I grew up with were suddenly getting engaged, or married. In the past week, I saw three classmates and friends announce their engagement with shiny diamond rings. Another would be married next month. And if I recalled correctly, there was also at least one or two baby announcements.
In that moment, I finally understood what my friend had told me, all those years ago, what she’d been feeling. It wasn’t just about feeling “old”. It wasn’t something as simple as making an announcement, and putting it out there for the world to see.
Neither graduation photos nor announcements of job offers elicited this feeling from me. Those I could safely look at, congratulate them, and move on. These – I was happy for them. But it left me with a strange ache.
It was – I was stuck. Stuck, when the rest of the world around me moved on, getting engaged, getting married, and soon, they would be growing their own families. I envied them. I was measuring my worth against theirs on their relationships, their milestones, and found myself wanting.
Deep inside, I knew I was growing too: I was studying for my qualifications, I was working on my job offers, my application for a further Masters, finally working on my stories. I knew that I was one of the lucky ones too – to be able to travel the world, to see things, to have so many good friends, and meet like-minded people who were nothing but good and kind to me. Dating and relationships weren’t the end-all. But there was some part of me that was hard-wired to see all this, and wish I had it too.
I think about my parents in these moments. They dated each other for nearly a decade, and before that, they’d seen other people too. I wonder how they felt, when all their friends marrying left, right, and centre. How did they feel when they were invited to housewarmings, baby showers, when they were struggling to earn enough money to just pay rent?
Or it wasn’t so bad. Their era was when computers were microwave-looking things that spat out code. The Internet was almost non-existent. And they could only get news through mobile phones the size of a brick, and by meeting face-to-face.
My mom and dad on separate occasions have sat me down, and told me everything would happen in due time. Not to “settle”, or to rush, or be married for the sake of being married. My dad in particular liked to emphasize that our generation’s predicted lifespan was at at least 90, and I had a good sixty plus years to fret about it. All this I take to heart, and it’s a much-needed reminder to stop worrying and just live.
I still don’t know how they knew what I was thinking. I know I didn’t mention it, in the way children do when they don’t want to worry their parents.Maybe it’s what parents do. They see you everyday, and even if you don’t say a word, they just know.
And me? Well, I know I have another mid-term, and three more assignments around the corner. It’s probably the best time to stop lamenting, and worry about the fact if I don’t finish these assignments, I’ll be really behind…