This month I will turn 29, which will mark the last year of my 20’s. It is really astounding to think about all that can happen in a decade and the growth and development that has occurred. I entered into my 20’s with the mentality of a monogamist, hardened atheist, with absolutely no inclination to have children and with very few female close friends. I worked retail, rented an apartment and lived paycheck to paycheck, eating almost nothing but cream of wheat cereal and mac and cheese. I suppose it is a typical place that many of us have found ourselves in. I was stubborn and asked for little help from family or friends, learning independence and survival skills. I found I could live for days on soda crackers, and pop and if I desperately needed a night out, I quickly figured out how to ensure that strangers paid for my bar tab. Somehow or another I always paid my rent, car insurance, every year I bought the X-mas and birthday presents for both mine and my boyfriend at the time’s family and bought food for my hamster Dorby. I am almost chuckling right now at just how little I had and how unknowingly bleak life actually was.
But that is the rub I suppose, I just had no idea that things were as bad as they were. I lived day to day and survived. I went to work every day, and did all those little things that you need to do. I found what I thought would be my lifelong partner quite young and although there was a lot of great times, I feel that I went through the motions. I was not actually thinking about my wants or needs, I was instead so consumed by the idea that I needed to make this relationship work, I was stuck in survival mode. Whatever the reasons behind this were, I still find it very special that I was with my first everything basically for such a long time. To me it mattered that there was longevity in my first. I did not ever ask my friends about their relationships or question what worked or what did not work. Instead I was put in an unearned position of stability. What I mean by that is friends would compare their relationships and staying power or lack thereof to what D and I had. The only rational for doing this was that we had been together for such a long time it seemed that we must have been doing something right.
In actuality it was more dumb luck and timing that allowed us to stay together for so long and I do not mean that in a negative way. I think our relationship really went through 3 or so major changes and periods of growth and change. Instead of the two of us finding different people to explore our relationship wants and needs with, we ended up really growing together and apart side by side. We experienced the very first puppy love together, followed by a fairly consistent party phase whereby I think we only went home each night with each other for fear of STD and STI’s, and of course the last phase we experienced which was playing house and pretending that we were all grown up.
I have no regrets at all living this way or experiencing these phases of life with him, especially knowing that we were different people at each phase. My 18 year old self and ideals would be unrecognizable to the 26 year old who ended things, and yet with each phase of growth, change and new experiences the personality differences seemed smoother and more incremental. I am not sure I would have ever been comfortable opening that relationship with D up, as I put so much value on us being each other’s first and only’s for a large amount of time. My focuses in my early 20’s were very pinpointed and direct, the little things mattered to me so much more than looking at the grand scheme of things.
When I reached my mid 20’s I really started to open up my mind to see the bigger picture. I bought my first house and started taking larger risks for my life. I decided that I really did want children in the future and made some decisions to help me get out of debt to allow that to be a real possibility. I also really started changing my perspective on what made a good mate. I found myself yearning for a more goal oriented individual who could make plans and stick with them. As well I started seeking someone who knew who they were as a person. Someone who was established in and of themselves, and did not need me to define them or to complete them.
It suddenly occurred to me that I had a choice in who I wanted to be with, and that I did not need to work so hard to make things succeed. I know for a fact that I would have been able to continue with D for the rest of my life if I wanted to. We had both been through so many changes together that there is very little doubt we could have made it through more, but the bottom line was that I no longer wanted to work that hard at love. I decided to be selfish and take a chance on finding something new out there. I needed something fun and easy. And I needed to explore those options prior to raising a family of my own. And now here I am writing about the openness of relationships and questioning the norms that I spent the majority of my 20’s clutching. Hopefully on my last 10 year reflection I am a little more recognizable from start to finish.