At 30: my happily ever after
He came back toward me, with an intentness of purpose that told me what I needed to know, even before he said it:"It's just after midnight. Happy birthday."
At the end of the night, past the music and the conversation, Chris and I pulled out the sofa bed for him. As we did, the random shuffle served up Diana Krall's take on Joni Mitchell and I realized with a sudden hitch of breath that this little throwaway moment would be one that I remembered. She whispered her way through 'A Case Of You' while we untangled a purring, bright-eyed Tenzing from the sheets we wanted to place on the sofa bed.
With this, I am thirty; there is no great difference between now and an hour ago, but a world of difference between now and ten years ago. Ten years ago, most of my friends had their lives planned out, had their eyes set on grad school and the simple telescoping lifeline that would lead to success and families and happily ever after. In the years since, most of my friends have shot along those lines and I've been over here in my corner with my crayons, coloring.
My happily ever after isn't yours. Some days I barely even recognize it. On some superficial level I've comprehended that standard definitions of 'success' will likely never apply to me. In a conversation early this morning with a close friend, I said what I think defines my 'happily ever after':
"I know this much. I'm not a world-changer. I want to take care of the people I love, do something honest that I'm proud of at the end of the day, and be able to look my friends in the eye and see that I've lived a life that has earned their regard and respect."
This is me at thirty.
I was never really sure I'd make it this far, and only rarely did I dream that I'd show up on Friday, October 20 and know—just know—that it was a milestone to celebrate, not to mourn. I can tell you without reserve or hesitation that my life has not turned out to be what my family or my community dreamed it would be for me as a child. I was supposed to be the super-genius child, to go Off Somewhere and Do Great Things.
Instead, I am quietly married; I have cats, a couple of outlines for novels burbling around in my head, and a lot of people showing up for this weekend's birthday gathering. Depending on how you look at it, I'm either a webmaster or a librarian. Even people with caller ID answer the phone when I call them.
Happily ever after, for most of us, isn't about having our names in the newspapers or being revered by millions. I'm never going to change the world, but my little corner of it will have a pile of very good books, a comfortable couch, and a good light to read by.
I can live with that.
See you guys at the birthday gathering. :)