After perusing the last post, I realized I not not answered my lone reader's question, to wit, "What is there to look forward to?" So, as much as I hate "Top Ten" lists, here is mine:
(caveat: I realize that there are twenty-somethings who are much more evolved than I was; in fact, there are people in their twenties who are more spiritually and emotionally mature than I will ever be. I write the following thinking of how far I have come on my personal path, and I don't assume everyone is/was like me at these various stages in life. It's possible that I am growing up very slowly)
- You care much less what people think. You are much more likely to tell someone who is rude, cruel, stupid or simply nasty to go f*ck themselves, a la Cheney.
- You feel a lot sexier. A lot.
- You have arrived at a place in your career where either you are someone with power, or those with power listen to you. They're afraid NOT to, because you have lost your fear at work, too--your influence is real. You're not fighting up the ladder--you've kicked the ladder over.
- You have enough money to live in a beautiful house and fill it with beautiful things (leaving room for your husband's/partner's/lover's collections of banjos, skulls, cameras, art, whatever).
- You enjoy life with your husband/partner/lover much more than you would have 20 years earlier; you forgive faster, love more unconditionally, and take things much less seriously. What would have been a relationship-wrecking disaster at 23 is trivial and quickly forgotten at 43. Me at 23: "You don't like Euphoria? Oh MY GOD, HOW IS THIS GOING TO WORK???? Me at 43: "You don't like Euphoria? Pass me the headphones, then. And turn down Cliff Edwards, will you?"
- You are less needy. If the husband/partner/boyfriend/lover doesn't call you, you either don't notice, or you make the phone call and keep it short. "Lunch?" "Yes." "Great." End of call. You don't need romance and declarations of love all of the time in order to feel secure and happy in your relationship. In fact, you treasure your time alone and allow the other person their space.
- You don't freak out as much (unless you have some well established phobia or anxiety problem . . . ahem) in general. Emotions carry you away at 23; they rule you. With me, when I was unhappy about something at 23 it was an all-encompassing disaster, affecting everything and everyone around me. When that emotion passed and I felt good again, I didn't see that as simply a change in perception, but a change in REALITY. My emotions WERE reality, not passing moods.
- Sex is better. I can't go into too much detail here, but trust me, it's true. Even if you think you're having mind-blowing sex in your twenties, trust me, it STILL gets better. I've noticed something interesting in my 40s that I suspect will continue to be true, according to my elders: sex becomes a more pure and intensified total physical pleasure. In other words, it's less wrapped up in emotional neediness and 'proof' of love; it starts to take on a spectacular life of its own, unencumbered by insecurity. It's still the perfect and powerful expression of love, but afterwards I can fall asleep without the nagging worries that used to invade my mind: "does he REALLY love me? Did he REALLY enjoy that? Did I do EVERYTHING he wanted?"
- You acquire some distance and perspective on parenting and teaching. In my 20s, I wouldn't have been the patient and gently instructive parent and teacher that I am now. Now, I realize that my kid (and my students) needs guidance and discipline--she doesn't always have to be my friend. I didn't have the qualities I needed to parent her in my 20s. For those of you who want to wait, you should--you'll be a better role model, a more grounded parent.
- Finally, you come to an understanding that where you are is a result of your choices, not other people/institutions/family FORCING you to make certain decisions that you weren't sure about. You realize that you may change your future path by consciously altering your choices. Perhaps the best thing of all about 43 is moving closer to my spiritual nature, the ageless and timeless soul of me for whom death and illness mean nothing. I have a LONG, long way to go on this one, but I recognize that I am closer to letting go of fear that I was 20 years ago; I know there is progress, although slower than I would like. I suppose another way of expressing this is: you are closer to God, however you define that concept.