My best friend, Flora, celebrated her 24th birthday yesterday by running a marathon where the proceeds went to cancer research. She’s a tough cookie, and I’m proud to say that she has been my best friend for (officially) twenty-one years. I know, crazy to believe that two toddlers could stick out a friendship past the terrible twos AND puberty. Bless our souls.
Flora and I had similar upbringings. Coming from very European families–as we call it “fresh off the boat,” literally–it was always instilled in our minds that we would grow up into this beautiful young housewives that would be married to successful European men (her’s would be Italian, mine would be German) and while hubby was working that 9-5, we’d cook, clean, and raise our equally Euro children the same way we were raised.
Flora is a year older than me and has always been my mentor and idol. I remember we’d play school where she’d be the teacher (because she was older) and I would be the student, and she’d actually give me copies of her math homework to do! It wasn’t her homework, per say, she’d have her teacher make a copy for me. Let’s just say I was always one step ahead of my grade, and, looking back on it, I can’t thank her enough. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college if she hadn’t gone first.
I was dead set on living the 50s housewife life. I remember one time, in second grade, our art project was to draw us in the profession of our choosing or desire. I drew a “mom,” a woman with her hair up, adorned with a pink apron and yellow rubber gloves, a feather duster in her left hand and a crying baby in her right . . . all with a smile on her face. On that quarter’s report card, my teacher said I lacked ambition; the rest of the year, she made me read books about scientists, firefighters, and any other daredevil job that every child would oooooh and aaaaah at. Not I (said the fly).
Flora really redefined what independence meant to me, especially when she ended her seven-year relationship with her high school sweetheart . . . seven years!!! I can only imagine that most women would feel lonely or lost (I know I would), but I think I was more upset than Flora was. Not only did she redefine independence for me then, but through her stories of travel and living on her own and paying for her own education. She showed me that I could be independent, too, and that I wasn’t limited to becoming a young bride/mother/housewife/all of the above. More so than those books in second grade, she showed me that I could be whatever I wanted to be.
Today (and especially recently), I see posts on Facebook of engagements and baby announcements, and the smiles on their faces in the pictures they post truly warm my heart . . . but these women, future mothers, and couples are so young. The youngest I know of is . . . eighteen. Shit, I’m a bridesmaid in my good friend’s wedding next year, and she’s twenty-two. Just last year I was twenty-two, and even now, at twenty-three, I’m still a little bit freaked out whenever a Say Yes To The Dress marathon comes on! Not because the dresses are absolutely gorgeous (and they are), but there’s so many things I want to do before the I dos.
Like traveling the world; I want to learn from different cultures, eat food I can’t get in Chicago (which is very tough, since Chicago is pretty much foodie central), and learn something from the vast world around me. I want to write a book about all of my experiences, and one about the made-up experiences that run through my imagination. I want to write a successful screenplay and watch my words be turned in the movie that played through my head while I wrote it. I want to bungee jump, since I was too terrified to do so in Australia . . . even though I went skydiving instead (#DoingItWrong). But I want to go skydiving again, too, and scream at the top of my lungs as I free fall through the clouds. I want to be absolutely terrified, but conquer my fears and live life to the fullest.
I want to be independent for just a little while longer.
With a family to take care of, children to look after, and a relationship to keep up, there’s hardly anytime to accomplish all of that. It’s selfish and immature, but I’m still young and still in need of some quality Grace time.
Don’t get me wrong, I am truly happy for my friend getting married next May, and it smiles to see happy photos of weddings and baby bumps . . . but (dare I ask this) will all of your young and crazy goals and dreams be accomplished? Eventually, if you don’t forget about them.
Congratulations to the wives, the mothers, the newlyweds, and the men shopping for that perfect ring. Eventually I will join you all in the land of wedding bliss and the joys of motherhood, but for now I’ll wait. I’m only twenty-three, and I want some adventuresome stories to tell my future children and a legacy to leave behind.
On a final note, happy birthday Flora! You truly are an inspiration to not only me, but to every person you meet. I love you, and I hope you enjoyed your special day.