As a mildly angst-riddled teenager I loved movies like American Beauty and Ordinary People that deconstructed the so-called American Dream and exposed it for what it really is, which I believed to be a false security blanket we hide under to escape our failures in achieving our true bohemian passions and desires. I can’t be the only teenage artiste who felt destined to transcend society’s expectations. Following the blueprint of marriage > house > kids seemed like a cop-out. Sentiments spoken like a true angst-riddled teenager.
This weird thing happens as you get older, which my mother of course told me would happen as I’d get older but I didn’t believe her. Your perspective changes. I would crow to her that I’m too different, too unique, to do something as prosaic as have children by the time I’m 33. No no no. I’m an artiste. I have dreams first. Then suddenly you turn 30 and you really do care less about being the world’s most fabulous actress, not because you doubt yourself any more or less. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much any more. Other things start to matter. Things like marriage > house > kids.
Whoa whoa whoa. What’s happening to me? I denounced that path at 16! Am I really going to deviate from my iconoclastic destiny by being… predictable? Suddenly I’m looking at listings on Zillow and taking school districts into consideration. Am I allowing myself to be sucked into the smokescreen of the “American Dream?” Or is this just, y’know, growing up? And how do I tell the difference?
I do what’s worked for me before. I stop. I breathe. I think. I deconstruct my preconceptions and try to see my situation from the outside. Maybe I should distance myself from conclusions I made about life as a teenager and allow room to grow? Just a thought.
*CUE angry teenager voice*
No! You weren’t wrong! You’re getting sucked in just like they want you to. “They.” “The man.” The daily grind. You’re better than that. You’re SPECIAL! Being responsible is code for being AVERAGE! It’s a trap! IT’S A TRAP!
Pause. Thank you self-aggrandizing teenage Becky. Noted. Now let’s get back to our present situation.
Teenage years, for better or worse, can be defined by one word: ego. It’s an important time in life. No longer children, our egos are finally sprouting legs to walk around as the person we’ll continue to become the rest of our lives. Puberty takes a grip, our hormones rage, and our egos blast off at full speed with an impenetrability and entitlement needed for things like surviving high school and leaving the nest. These broad strokes of “becoming” during our teenage years shape our goals and set our sails on a path to achieve them. Looking back I’m realizing that my teenage self was very important to me, it doesn’t mean my teenage self was right. Shifting my perspective now at age 30 doesn’t mean I’ve failed.
I’m stubborn. It’s hard for me to admit I may have been wrong, even if I’m referring to lofty ideas of self that I had at 16. A stubborn patch of coarse soil will never leave room for new flowers to grow, so let me take a look at this situation again.
Marriage > House > Kids.
I’m going to solve this problem very quickly because the light bulbs went off in my head very quickly once I stopped, breathed, and meditated a bit on the subject.
What is a marriage. Marriage is many things but the heart of it is love.
What is a house? We can easily get tangled up in the trappings and materialism of home-ownership but at its core a house is safe shelter.
What are kids? Well, I really have no idea what it’s like to actually have kids but I remember being a kid and I like kids. What are kids? Kids are family.
So what is this Marriage > House > Kids pathway? Let me translate.
Love > Shelter > Family
Is there anything more important to our survival than that? Anything more fundamental? More pure?
Love. Shelter. Family.
Teenage Becky was too embroiled in the development of her ego to do that nifty bit of translation of the American Dream. Adult Becky may be a bit wiser.
Love. Shelter. Family.
Yep. Those are definitely things that I want. Got the first one. Best decision I ever made. Got the second one except I’m spending every month paying off someone else’s mortgage so I’m understanding the allure of ownership.
Family. Well that’s a topic for another day.