Happy Birthday to me!
I’d like to send out a big fat thanks to MamaPen for not giving up 30 years ago when I wasn’t sure I wanted to come out. And another big fat thanks to MamaPen and PapaPen for teaching me what it means to live with integrity and for being supportive even when they don’t get it.
I don’t ordinarily do much to to celebrate my birthday, but for some reason, it seemed very important to me to be running at the exact moment that marked 30 years since I was born. This year, in general, my impending birthday unearthed an unusually nostalgic part of me.
This post’s title came from the same place in my head as many of my thoughts have during the past few weeks. I have been, unaccountably, thinking of A. A. Milne’s non-Winnie-the-Pooh books…his poetry (some of which does in fact feature Winnie-the-Pooh). Why am I thinking about this, you might ask? Well, let me explain something first.
When I moved out of my parents’ house some years ago, I raided the collection of children’s literature. You see, I knew that when they eventually downsized to a condo, the collection would be donated, sold, or otherwise lovingly cast out of the family fold. For some reason (probably the same one that caused me to bawl with my face pressed against an enormous pile of stuffed animals that seemed to me to represent a chunk of my life story), moving out permanently felt a lot like the end of whatever vestiges of childhood had remained throughout my early 20’s. In the end, I took the things I wanted to keep—for myself, and for my hypothetical future children.
On my shelf, today, is a healthy collection of books meant for humans just a fraction of my age, including some A. A. Milne. A few weeks ago, I pulled out a couple of volumes and they have been sitting next to my computer since then, where I find myself randomly picking them up and paging through: When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six.
I was drawn to the way the titles talked about age…part of me truly wants to write an old-school essay for a long-ago English class about all that is conveyed, collectively, in those ten words. And as I flipped through, reading a poem here, a stanza there, I really wanted to find something that resonated with me where I am now. It was perhaps an unreasonable desire, since I am several times older than the target age range, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that I didn’t find a poem therein that really spoke to where I find myself in life.
What did strike me, though, was the Introduction he wrote for Now We Are Six.
We have been nearly three years writing this book. We began it when we were very young . . . and now we are six. So, of course, bits of it seem rather babyish to us, almost as if they had slipped out of some other book by mistake. […] So we want you to know that the name of the book doesn’t mean that this is us being six all the time, but that it is about as we’ve got at present, and we half think of stopping there.
Something about that just flabbergasted me, because it seems so true. We keep changing as we grow older, and so much of what appeals to us so much at one age might seem horrifically embarrassing a few years later.
BUT then I did something that turned that notion on its head. I recently found myself re-watching, for the first time since high school, the entire run of My So-Called Life (thank you, Netflix).
For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, My So-Called Life was a short-lived show from the mid-90s that was widely considered to be a realistic depiction of the contemporary high school experience. I was in 6th grade at the time, and my mom wasn’t so keen on my watching it, but I was intrigued, nonetheless.
It wasn’t until MTV re-aired the show when I was actually in high school that it became a true Thing in my life. (MamaPen reminded me that I taped every episode. Taped. On VHS.) As I watched it recently, I realized how often I must have re-played certain episodes and, pathetically, certain scenes—I can imagine myself sitting in our old TV room on that much-abused brown couch, remote control clutched in my hand. Honestly, I practically have bits of it memorized…even after nearly 15 years have passed.
What was absolutely incredible, though, is how my perception of the whole thing has changed. I was watching through new eyes. So even as the part of me that is still a 15 year old girl swooned at certain parts and remembered that kind of raw pain that may only be possible when there’s so much about the world that you don’t know (while completely not recognizing that fact), I realized that I saw the main character, Angela, in a whole new way. And, more importantly, I saw her parents in a whole new way. In terms of life stages, I’m somewhere between them…long since graduated from high school, but my adult responsibilities do not yet include rearing one or more miniature humans.
Turning thirty is weird because, for me, it’s an in-between stage. I have friends, from high school and college and after, who are settled down, married with multiple children. And I have friends who are still trying to figure out what they want to do, who feel like they’re stuck at the starting line and don’t seem to know how to move forward. Me…not much about my life is truly settled, but I have a vision of where I’m going. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll get there, but I’m on my way.
Maybe there’s something universal about My So-Called Life, or maybe my views are clouded by the lingering fervency of my adolescent obsession. In any case, I loved it all over again. But this time, when I watched it, there was only one scene I watched a second time, and it was one that I probably didn’t even notice the first time around. (Note: Go to 6:50 in the video linked above.)
People always say you should be yourself. Like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster, or something. Like you can know what it is, even. But every so often, I’ll have, like, a moment when just being myself, in my life, right where I am, is, like, enough.
I love that. Because that’s how I feel right now in my life. Maybe things don’t feel right, settled, perfect, or whatever at every moment of every day. But sometimes they do. And that’s enough.