"Growing up and accepting your own personal change is challenging. Growing and changing with someone else while accepting each others' changes is even more so. Life is full of choices and paths, and true growing is usually done on the path you didn't expect to choose. Here is to growing, changing, and accepting."
- Ariel Andreadakis
Well beyond her years and as intelligent (if not more so) as anyone my age, my friend, Ariel was dead on when she wrote this. I was instantly grabbed and had to ask her if this was her own perception or just an idea or quote she liked. It was hers. I had to share it.
"Growing up and accepting your own personal change is challenging."
Due to where I am in life at the moment this hit me like a punch to the throat. Although I am happy, content, ecstatic even, as to how my life has turned out, sometimes I can't help but miss parts of the old me. The old me had no responsibilities, at least not ones I couldn't put off. The old me could book a flight to Vegas or stay the weekend in Brooklyn if I chose to. The old me could throw a few back on a Saturday afternoon because I felt like it. The old me could say yes to an invitation without having to check the schedule. The old me could get in my car and drive to Starbucks with a moment's notice. Our baby, Rafaella, is the most precious creation that I have ever been a part of, but at times accepting that I am no longer the "old me", the do what I want when I want me, is a struggle. I am many things: clever, funny (at least I think so), creative, loyal to a fault. I am also selfish. I admit it along with a few more not-so-great qualities. I would do anything for the people I love, but I like what I like when I like it and no one could convince me otherwise at that moment. Imagine my surprise then when a baby doesn't conform to this. I have had to grow up and accept that part of my growing up and personal change is evolving and becoming who I am NOW and not continuing to try and be who I was THEN. I am not sure if there's anything sadder than a person clinging hopelessly to who they were, never wanting to grow up and change, even though it's inevitable. Images of the guys from Night at the Roxbury are conjured up in my mind. This is not to say that YOU are not the same person inside - that will remain. To the soul, I am still the same person but my life, my responsibilities, my world, my country for Pete's sake (whoever Pete is) has become different. It is no longer just me. Friday nights are no longer just for happy hour. Weekends are no longer a time to relax or come and go as I please. Time with my husband is no longer just a time for good food and conversation, although we still manage to pull this off occasionally. My husband, even, is no longer just mine. I wouldn't trade what I have or where I am - no way. But Bruce Springsteen was onto something when he wrote "Glory Days."
"Growing and changing with someone else while accepting each others' changes is even more so."
What is more difficult than being your own person, doing your own thing, living your own life and then having to share it with another person. Even as babies this is difficult. All of you first borns would have to admit that when your younger siblings were born, sharing the attention (and toys) sucked a little bit, right? I know, I know, it was way more enetertaining to have someone to play with and now you have someone that shares your history, but sometimes you had to miss being the only one. And isn't this idea the key to happiness, at least, inside of a marriage? Being the only one you answered to was awesome and having to share that with someone sometimes stinks, but in the end it's better to have someone to share it with than to not. I will not be the same person forever, as stated above. I am bound to change and keep changing. Who I am now is not who I was in high school. Nor will it be in the future. Certain qualities have remained and hopefully the less attractive qualities will refine themselves as time passes. Me, now, wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes with some of the people I dated before. Me, then, would have thought it crazy to not be out on a Friday night. And so when you get married you have to accept that the person you marry will not always be the same either. HARD. It is hard enough to accept your changes but to take on someone else's and balance it with your own is downright demanding. Doing it is a skill. Learning to love someone through their changes and not wishing to keep someone the same is one of the most important secrets to a relationship...if you want to last, that is.
Life is full of choices and paths, and true growing is usually done on the path you didn't expect to choose.
What else is life, if not a string of choices that one makes? What led me to Dominican Republic? The choice to leave my job and NJ to try my hand at writing. Why did I get married? Because I chose to commit myself to a person who inspired me. Remembering back to our beginning, I wasn't going to take a position that opened at an elementary school. A friend of mine from my Masters program had offered it, and I, being quite happy with where I was didn't deem it necessary to change jobs just yet. My boss, a few days later, said it would be hard to work around a class that I needed to take. I made a choice. I picked up the phone, called my friend, and asked him to set up an interview. My life would change completely since this is where I met Mike. Later on, he would ask me to go out with friends of his that were salsa dancers. I would make the choice once or twice, scared that a failed relationship would be bad for business - literally, to back out of these "dates." Bad choice. He would make the choice to ask again. I eventually made the choice to go. Good choice. Good or bad choices, the choices that have really forced me to grow have been the ones I never planned on. There's a saying that "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." I never planned on Mike. I never planned on Rafaella. I dreamed of them, yes, but didn't plan for them. They both came on a path I was never expecting at a time I was least expecting them.
So here is to growing, changing, and accepting.
All things that sometimes we don't want, especially because they often come when we least want them, when we're least ready. And even though for me this has usually been the case, I can't think of a time in my life when I wasn't ultimately thankful for it. In the end, change and growth happens because we need it to. Most good things don't come to us when we have everything in order, when our lives are clearly organized. What fun would that be? Growing and changing is messy and usually isn't up to us. It's happening either way. Accept it. Or don't. Your choice.