The Next Stage
I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday. I know what you’re all thinking – but wait, we thought you hated going anywhere during the holidays! Well, I do. But I had to go to Barnes and Noble to get what was apparently the last, mangled copy of the map of the world in all of Southern California. To finish a Christmas present I had been stalling since I finished all the rest of the shopping back in October.
So I was at Barnes and Noble and it was a mob scene. A mob scene at 1 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, which sort of makes me question whether or not anyone in my community works to be able to afford to spend so much money at the local Barnes and Noble. I mean, shouldn’t all of those people have been at work?
Nonetheless, I got my map and several other things I absolutely did not go to Barnes and Noble for, and headed to the check out line for the most miserable 45 minutes of my life. Towards the end, as I was close enough to the cash register to make eye contact with the employees as three of them aimlessly wandered around behind the register station, pretending to do something else, while one, lone cashier checked out the seven billion customers – when I was that close, I heard someone behind me approach people further back in the line. “Oh my God, we haven’t seen you guys in YEARS!” she shrieked as though they were – quite literally – separated still by miles, and then they started the old game of catch up that in a nutshell involved platitudes and niceties.
As if this experience could not have gotten any worse, these were the final moments of my time in line yesterday at my local, overcrowded Barnes and Noble.
Then it happened. Right as I was starting to walk up to the cashier, I heard one of the catcher-uppers say “and Joanie will be coming home from college for Christmas break tomorrow!” And in that little statement, made by a complete stranger and completely irrelevant to my life, I was hit with the striking realization that I probably should have made several years ago. Somewhere around the time I left graduate school five years ago, maybe earlier than that.
I will never go home from college for Christmas break again.
As I drove home – another 45 minute task, because every person with a car in Southern California apparently drives around and clogs up traffic on Tuesday afternoons as well – I realized just how many stages of my life are over. I’ve never really come to terms with this, or thought about it so seriously. Accepted it into my heart and soul that there are chapters of my life so fully completed that they have been burned up, never to be read again. At least by me.
Not only will I never go home from college for Christmas break again; I will never experience the butterflies of a first date. I will never have that “new mom” feel again, just as the thrills of skipping class to hang out at the local McDonalds with the other high school seniors are gone forever.
Admittedly, I have noticed signs of the ushering in of this next era of life. But have I never noticed before when one door closed and a new one opened? I don’t believe so. At least I don’t remember noticing the passing of time in the same way that I did yesterday.
The signs have been there, though.
A few weeks ago, I realized that I rarely wear make up anymore, unless of course we’re going somewhere. And even then I find a way to justify wearing none. Or just some mascara.
My outfits used to be coordinated perfectly – I’m not even sure why. I’ve never cared much for what people think of me, and yet my underpants always matched my belt. In this new stage of life, though, it’s all yoga pants, mom jeans, and stretchies. Tucked into slippers that could pass for moccasins. Paired with a tank top that has a bra in it.
I noticed this about a month ago when I was at the mall and realized that I can’t remember the last time I wore a Victoria’s Secret bra.
Someone at a family party a while back was talking about going to a bar and out to play pool, and actually planning to get home around 3 in the morning. I remember thinking – in earnest – to myself that nothing good ever happens after midnight, which is something my grandmother used to say.
I felt so disgusted at the idea of doing anything other than watching Netflix and reading a book, that I immediately looked for an excuse for us to go home and do just that.
More importantly, while I definitely have memories involving college and high school and growing up and going out, I still can’t remember what my life was like before becoming a mom. I actually have no idea what I was doing with my time. And I don’t mean to sound diminishing to those that aren’t mothers, or to sound so cliche. But really in this new stage of my life, being a mom is not only my job but who I have become.
I’m a wife and mom. That’s about it.
I feel so ordinary, and there was a time in my life when to be ordinary would have been like spiritual death. But that time is over and I am fine with my new chapter in life. In fact, I have never been happier.
When I was younger, I wanted to make something of myself. Be something – be someone. But I think I had a very skewed idea of what it was to be someone. Rather than be known or famous or a published author or an accomplished painter, or someone everyone knows and writes about in history books and is remembered for generations to come… being someone really just meant being myself.
In this new stage I am myself, and very few people know me. I’ve accomplished very little and have many talents. Not one of them results in a paycheck and that’s totally cool. I don’t wear make up often, and prefer comfortable moccasin-style slippers over high heels, even when high heels are the status quo.
And when it is my turn to run into people at the local Barnes and Noble that I haven’t seen in ages, my most exciting update on what I’m doing with myself and my life will be simply that I’m a wife and a mom. Some may find that meaningless or boring, but that’s what I’m doing, and it’s the most Me I’ve been in years.