Five years ago this month, I graduated college. I was 21, with a handsome fiance, a wedding one month away, and a teaching job lined up. To my practically teenage mind, it was beyond fairytale. I couldn’t wait for 40-hour work weeks, conversations about retirement plans, Sunday mornings sharing the paper. I walked across the stage like I owned it, blithely tripping into “real life”…and then instantly began questioning everything I had planned.
How did I not realize how hard teaching would be? How was I qualified to be a good wife? Were all my adventures over? Was I going to regret jumping into all this? I had skipped a lot of the “classic college experiences,” like tailgating and bar hopping, and convinced myself that this was tragic and needed to be fixed. I tried partying a lot, collecting a weekly karaoke bar date and at least one heavy-drinking night a weekend. I smoked cigarettes and stayed up late on work nights. I pretended to like beer pong. I had some fun, but I usually overdid it; drank too much or said something weird. I always felt uncomfortable when I woke up after a night out.
My husband, Ben, was older, and he didn’t understand my fear of “acting too old.” He’s much too self assured to ever act as silly as I was, but he was patient with me, thank god. I pulled myself together long enough for us to buy a house, a cute little fixer-upper, but the stress of the sale and the needed repairs sent me into rageful panics that I still wince over. At the time, I felt frazzled and uninspired. In hindsight, I was a complete mess. This was not the fairytale I had pictured for my post-college life.
Lifetime movies and other cautionary tales let me know that having a baby is no way to solve any problems. I wish I could say that my decision to get pregnant happened following an epiphany, was made with a convicted mind. Honestly, we just gave it a try, and soon, we got lucky. The origin story is not overly romantic, but one thing is certain: from the second I read the pregnancy test, something very large clicked right into place. I remember waking up Ben, showing him, and realizing that that instant in the hallway was the beginning of our family.
My son is seven months old now, and I feel like I’ve matured five years in the short time I’ve known him. The transition started during my pregnancy, as Ben and I made plans and wrote him letters. On October 13th, he showed up on the scene, and then my life was changed. Everything since then is a pleasant blur. My marriage is stronger. I’m a more thoughtful daughter. I’m a more efficient teacher. I’m a better friend. Milo came and made it right.
Before any other mothers reach through the screen and choke me, THIS IS NOT EASY. Being a mom is exhausting, and sometimes gross, and always scary. Being responsible for another person staying alive is tough; being responsible for another person’s character is terrifying. I’m a working mother, which adds a whole other layer of guilt and confusion. I have stretch marks and there is throw up on me. But I am good at this. Ben and I are good at this. We shore each other up. We give each other breaks. We found our groove as a family; we just needed some more players.
I don’t know exactly what caused the change in me. I know Milo was the catalyst, but there has to be something to the fact that a girl with a cute husband, good job, and manageable mortgage payment was so unhappy. I think I was spending too much time figuring out how someone my age was supposed to act, and pursuing my mangled impression of whatever that was. When Patrick contacted me about writing for QLC Series, he mentioned that I had always wanted to be a mother, and I was surprised. I had become so used to overthinking my life and ignoring my instincts that I had forgotten how much motherhood had meant to me when I was young. Now that I’m living it, I understand that this was always how my quarter-life time was supposed to look.
In a roundabout way, I’m finally who I thought I was going to be when I walked the graduation stage five years ago, and I can truthfully say that it was becoming a mama that got me here. I wish each of you the same lucky break.
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.