Inspired by a line from A.P. Bio (Season 4, Episode 6), “High school’s that time when you’re supposed to figure out who you are,” I wanted to share some thoughts.
High school is supposed to educate you. When it came to academics, I am lucky that I can place a big, fat check mark next to that one. I had an excellent high school education, and I’m extremely grateful for it. But the time spend in high school didn’t prepare me for learning about myself, what I wanted out of life, what I needed out of life, or the best way to make it happen. It didn’t even really teach me how to go about figuring all of that out.
None of those things would have been taught in school itself, but generally people figure some of them out on their own. But I ended up just navigating by autopilot and didn’t yet have the skills to consider all possibilities. (In retrospect, I probably should have gotten a degree in Writing or one in Geography or History. Or, found a way to stick with Computer Science by, you know, actually asking my college professors for help.) I didn’t have enough guidance for figuring myself out or my path in life.
My mom tried, of course. But I was a mystery to everyone, myself included. And she hadn’t really fully figured herself out either. Plus she was a single mom and was busy working. She was an excellent parent and left me with a lot of positive thoughts about myself and self-worth and such, but I needed a mentor, someone who would ask me guiding and probing questions that I could mull over and figure some things out. My life would have been much different, and possibly much better, if I’d had more hands-on guidance. I’m trying really hard to help my kids avoid that lack of guidance. And I think I’m succeeding.
But back to me. College was worse than high school in terms of helping me figure myself out. Probably because I was in a relationship most of that time, so I just chameleoned myself into relationship mode. Not a lot of self-examination or reflection took place, I guess. I did have some reflection after one big breakup, but perhaps not enough, because I didn’t have enough data to operate from. Neither person I dated while in college provided the kind of environment where I was encouraged to grow as a person, nor where I was safe to do so.
I’ve figured out bits of myself so slowly over the intervening years, but I want to discover more of myself now that I’m in my 50s. I really hope that my 50s are my decade. My decade to spend more time inside my head and write and work out ideas and stories and passions. I want to explore and build relationships and do some wacky things. I want to wear clothes that reflect my style and my inner self. I want my outside look to match my inner vision of myself. I want to be so unapologetic about who I am and what I like and want to do that I don’t spend much time worrying about what other people think or how I affect them. I’ve hobbled myself so that other people are comfortable far too much. Now I think it’s my time to shine.
I think this is why so many women come into their own at 50 or in their 50s. They are often freed of daily child rearing and can focus more on their own selves, and are freer to express themselves. When I’m done with this life, I want to be free of as many regrets as I can, to know myself to the nth degree, and be able to say that I did all the things I wanted to.
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