Getting Older

Late 20’s/early 30’s is a strange stage of life to be in. You no longer fit in with the “young” people which you still have the tendency to consider yourself a part of. You still feel young, but I remember thinking 30 year olds were super old most of my life. You also aren’t embraced by the older generations who tend to view you as an immature child and make light of your concerns about being older. I’m so used to eye rolls and scoffs from boomers if I dare to mention feeling old. It’s an awkward middle ground between youth and middle age. It feels like no one quite understands you. At times it feels like you don’t even understand yourself.

I know I should focus on being grateful that I even made it this far. I’ve had an extremely easy, wonderful life for nearly 28 years now. I’ve never had a serious illness, surgery, or even a broken bone! Throughout most of human history, it would have been a miracle that I even made it this far. Rather than feeling like a blessing, aging has just started to feel surreal to me. I’m sure as children, we all imagined growing up and living independent, adult lives one day. However, when you’re 10, “adult” means 18-20. That’s all the further out I really pictured. It was hard to even conceptualize being older than that. It started to get weirder each consecutive year after my 21st birthday.

You find yourself waiting and waiting. Wondering when you’ll finally start to feel like a real adult. It used to seem inevitable that one day you would wake up and just get it. You’d understand what you’re supposed to do, who you are, where you’re going in life. After a while, that expectation changes to questioning if you’ll ever actually experience that confidence and self mastery you had always anticipated. At a certain point you start to ask yourself where you ever got that impression of adulthood in the first place.

It’s also strange to consider if this is a natural part of getting older, or if this experience is unique to your generation. After all, things have changed quite a lot since my parents were 30. The baby boomers were all having children and buying houses around this age. Whereas my generation isn’t exactly able to enjoy the same privileges. Instead, we are burdened by crippling debt, useless degrees, being stuck living with our parents, unable to shed those aspects of our childhood that are still so prevalent in our lives. I’ve been playing Pokémon every evening for months now. I doubt I’ll ever outgrow that particular interest.

Apart from all the psychological aspects of aging, it’s also quite scary to realize that my body is getting older too. As a woman that is particularly frightening. Despite knowing that my worth is not tied to my age or my appearance, I am aware that society does not reflect that fact. Is my life going to become more difficult once I’m no longer a young, attractive woman? I’ve already got a few wrinkles between my eyebrows and a handful of grey hairs. Will I still think I’m pretty ten years from now? Will I still be able to do impressive yoga poses or intense cardio workouts? When will I begin to notice aches and pains that never quite go away? How much longer will this strong, healthy body last?

The concept of aging is certainly a bizarre one no matter how you want to look at it. I only hope that as time continues to pass that I will grow older with dignity and grace, with gratitude in my heart. Even though it’s scary, I am still hopeful. I am curious to find out what the rest of this miraculous life has in store for me.

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Sinking Ship

This year my place of employment took a huge hit financially. The state drastically cut our funding. On top of that we haven’t really been able to fundraise like we normally do because of Covid. It seems like everyone has been staying pretty positive on the surface. Up until recently I’ve just been trying not to think about it and hoping it will all turn out okay somehow. This place has been around for over 11 years after all. But with our therapist leaving for another job this August, I’m really starting to wonder if I should be exploring other job options too.

I really would like to stay here forever. I’ve said that many times, but it’s true. This place is better than I ever imagined any job could be. I actually look forward to coming here everyday. I feel like I’m just spending time with friends most days. However, I know that’s going to change somewhat without our current therapist being here. It’s really going to be sad to see her go. I hope that we’ll be able to remain friends, but she seems so busy and I’ve never been good at maintaining friendships in the past.

Mostly I am starting to wonder if I should go back to actively pursuing a teaching job. I did pay quite a pretty penny for the certification that I’ll have to be renewing here in a few months. I’m not sure that I would enjoy being a teacher as much as I enjoy being an advocate here, but it would still be nice to get summers off. Not to mention I’d get paid a hell of a lot more, plus better benefits and job security.

Honestly money has never been a big motivator to me though. I seem to be doing just fine with the ridiculously low wages I’ve always made so far. It’s much more important for me to like my job than to make a lot of money. I hardly ever feel like spending more than I need for the bare necessities anyway. The people I work with here understand me and appreciate me, oftentimes more than I feel I even deserve. I truly feel blessed to work with such incredible human beings. Which also makes the thought of leaving hard in another sense as well. I don’t want to put them in an even shittier position by abandoning them in their hour of need.

It really feels like standing on the deck of a sinking ship, trying to decide what to do next. The hardest part is I’m not sure that the ship will really go down or if we can salvage it. I suppose that my plan for now will be to ride it out. I refuse to give up on this place. It’s simply too amazing. I’ll do what I have to do to keep my teaching certification in the meantime, but I won’t worry about applying for any more teaching jobs. Then if in a few years this place does go under, I’ll become a substitute teacher while I search for a permanent position. Hopefully, in the end all of this worrying will have been for nothing.

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Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

A few days ago, my new boyfriend had to move over five hours away from me for a new job. When I first found out he’d be moving, I thought there was no way things could work between us. Then after we started dating and I began liking him more and more, I started to think it might not be so bad after all. Now that he’s actually gone, I’m back to wondering if this long distance relationship is even possible. My mind and heart keep oscillating back and forth between these opposing thoughts.

Once I considered the fact that I haven’t dated anyone in around five years, I thought maybe it would be good for me to have a long distance relationship at first. I have developed quite a few embarrassing bad habits in my time living alone, especially during quarantine. It would end up being quite stressful having him coming over all the time and possibly moving in. After becoming accustomed to being alone, I’m not sure I’m ready to have someone constantly by my side and in my business. With him being far away now, I figured I’d get a lot of the emotional benefits of having a boyfriend without having to worry about the close proximity. Now I’ll have some time to get my shit together a little bit before things get more serious between us.

Despite these benefits, I’m starting to worry once again. You see, neither one of us is very good at texting. We’re both busy with our own things and only end up sending a couple of messages back and forth each day. We’ve already talked over Facetime once and we do plan on writing each other letters, but I worry that won’t be enough. I already miss him so much. And that’s me, someone who wasn’t sure they could ever even love again. I can’t imagine how he must be feeling given that he is a very affectionate, relationship focused person.

I’m terrified I am going to lose him already. I’m definitely willing to wait for as long as it takes and do everything I can to make this long distance relationship work, but I’m worried he’ll change his mind about that. I wouldn’t blame him. He seems like he’s much more capable of finding partners than I am. I’m sure there are plenty of new vegan girls that he’ll find closer to him. I keep feeling my heart contract with fear, dreading the day when he texts me that he can’t do this anymore. I’m afraid I won’t even have the opportunity to hold him again before that happens.

Even though I’m open to polyamory, I’m not sure if he is or if that would ultimately help or hurt the situation. I’ve thought about breeching the subject with him, but am too afraid of scaring him off. Especially considering that he was cheated on by his fiance a few years ago. The proposal for an open relationship might send him running for the hills. It wouldn’t even be for my benefit though. I doubt I’d even utilize the opportunity were our relationship to be open. I would just hope that should he find someone else, he wouldn’t completely abandon and forget about me. He would be able to be with both of us. The new girl wouldn’t feel threatened because I’m so far away, and I would have the peace of mind of knowing that my baby is happy and being taken care of by someone. Maybe I would even fancy this girl and we could all become a happy little thruple someday.

Although, in that scenario, would we even really still be dating? He would have even less time to talk to me and would easily grow much closer to his new girlfriend while our relationship withers away in the background. I think I’ll stay quiet about that option for now and just hope he is able to manage the distance as well as me. Not that I’m fairing super well at the moment either though. There has always been a constant push and pull inside my heart. One moment I want to never leave his side and the next I’m relieved I won’t have to make time to hangout. At least there are those moments when the distance suits me.

I know that everything is about perspective in the end. I will just have to focus on all the good aspects of having a long distance relationship. At times it does seem rather perfect for someone like me. Although part of me still holds out hope that he’ll absolutely hate this new job and decide to come back home. I know that’s cruel and selfish, but I can’t help it. Maybe I’ll start writing my first letter to him tomorrow. Hopefully that will let me feel closer to him again. It’s so strange to think that only a few months ago I had no idea who this person was. I was even still pathetically pining over my ex. Now I actually haven’t given him a single thought in quite a while. Finally I’ve found someone who is truly a much better, healthier match for me. I hope that despite this distance, we will continue to grow and improve together and find ways to feel close to one another. I’m terrified of getting hurt again and I find myself struggling with it already, but he is more than worth all of the fear and the effort.

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Future Worries

Last night as I was falling asleep, I couldn’t stop worrying about something that, depending on the state of the pandemic this summer, may or may not happen in July. Even though that’s nearly half a year away, I was sick with anxiety about it. I couldn’t relax.

However, in the middle of my worrying, I had a realization. Why was a worried? Presumably because I feared being anxious or uncomfortable in this future situation. Yet by pre-emptively worrying about it months ahead of time, not only would that not change the reality of the situation when it finally arrived, but would ensure I was anxious and uncomfortable in this very moment as well. Fixating on the past or the future does nothing but steal the peace we could find in the present.

This train of thought led me to also understand that there will always be a time in the future to worry about. Or a memory to miss from the past for that matter. If we don’t teach ourselves to prioritize and be mindful of the present moment, that anxiety, that sadness, will always remain.

Peace is only to be had in the present. It is always here waiting for us, waiting within us. Why waste it? Difficult times are sure to loom on the horizon. But there is nothing to be done about them until they arrive. I always feel like if I don’t worry about things before they happen, then I won’t be prepared when they do. But even I know that is ludicrous. Anxiety and worry do not make you more prepared. They just extend your suffering. To truly prepare, it would be best to stay grounded in the present. To allow myself time for peace and rest, so that I may face the future when it comes with strength and confidence and a firm connection to that peaceful place within myself. Besides, who knows who I will be, where I will be, when that future does finally arrive? I will not be the person I am today, the person I am right now. I must have faith that whoever I have become by then will be ready.

So I will let the future come in its own time. There will be plenty of time to agonize over it when it arrives if I still feel the need to. In the meantime, I am going to practice learning how to more fully enjoy the present. I am going to give my brain a new system to follow. Whenever I notice myself becoming distraught over something yet to come, I will practice pivoting away from those thoughts. I’ll ask myself: How does it feel to exist in this body right now? Do I feel heavy? Light? Is there tension in my jaw? My shoulders? Can I release it? Can I relax into this body? What is my breath like? Short and fast? Long and deep? How does it feel to breathe all the way down into my belly? How does it feel to pause between inhales and exhales? Can I feel my heart beating steadily in my chest? Can I hear it pumping away? Can I feel gratitude for these things I so often take for granted? Can I remember that the future is not guaranteed? Yet I have this precious moment in the palm of my hands. What a crime it would be to waste it.

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Unsettling Side Effects

For the last few years I have been taking an SSRI called Paxil to help me deal with my social anxiety. While it has improved my life tremendously in some ways, it also has had many negative effects. For one thing, even though it has completely obliterated nearly every shred of social anxiety I experience, somehow it has seemed to dramatically increase my general anxiety. Now rather than being anxious about talking to people, I am just vaguely anxious about nothing in particular all day, every day. I find this completely bizarre. I have no idea how that is even possible. Then again I never have been fully able to comprehend how any medication can effect my mind in such a dramatic way.

That isn’t the most troubling side effect I experience though. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how Paxil has effected my emotions. I used to cry a lot as a teenager, multiple times a week at least. But as I grew older, I noticed it took more and more to make me even tear up. I assumed at first this was just a normal part of growing up. Then my sister, who also takes Paxil for social anxiety, mentioned how it makes her not feel anything. Until that point I had no idea it could be a side effect of this medication.

I laughed it off at first. Even thinking of it as a positive side effect at times. It was much easier to remain unaffected by the difficult events in life we all experience. It was almost like a protective barrier. However as time marches on, I have started to worry about it. I miss feeling things deeply. You can’t eliminate negative emotions without also dulling positive ones. I may not cry as much, but I also don’t laugh or love as fiercely as I once did. I feel somewhat like a hollow shadow of a person.

I even miss being able to cry at this point. After all, it is healthy to cry. It can even feel good. Instead of letting out that pain and sadness, it now slowly collects as a heavy inky blackness in my heart, weighing on me more each day. I fear it also makes me appear cold and uncaring to those around me. I am missing out on so many shared human experiences. While I am no longer afraid of people, it has made me feel more on the fringes of society than ever.

I fear when my loved ones pass away, I will stand at their funerals dry eyed and empty, unable to properly grieve such immense loss. I fear I’ll never truly love again either. Maybe that is why I cling so desperately to the ghost of past love, only being able to feel it through memory.

I don’t know what the answer is to these issues. It is extremely difficult to stop taking this particular medication. It has terrible withdrawal effects and must be done slowly with medical supervision. Not only am I afraid to face such a daunting challenge, possibly returning to my original state of social anxieties, but I also find it distasteful how much money I would have to spend on medical appointments within the course of this task. I do have insurance, but it only pays for one visit a year. And I would need many more than that to monitor such a transition.

For now I will just soldier onward. Hoping that someday something will stir my heart again.