The 48 Year Old Senior



“Sheila, we are just souls in bodies learnin’ stuff,” he said to me.  And with that one utterance, I was able to let go of the guilt du jour for mistakes made that I had been carrying around.  It is simply not true that therapy only happens in a therapist’s office.  I find mine more often than not sitting across the table from someone I love at Daisycakes or Cocoa Cinnamon or Fullsteam. 

As we begin the last 5 weeks of Spring 2013 semester at Duke I find myself reflective of the souls in bodies who are learning stuff.  It’s that time of the year you can feel the fear from the seniors.  It’s in their dreams of showing up to graduation in their pajamas, it’s in their memorized phrases they tell people my age when I ask, “so, what’s next?”  This year, their fear bounces from them and jumps right into my own soul, also full of it’s own fear.

For I am about to embark on my own graduation of sorts.  Born the youngest of 6, I arrived in the world in the middle of a tribe.  School, growing up, sharing a bedroom with my sister, sharing a bathroom with 5 other bodies, going off to college, sharing space, getting married, sharing space, having children, more space sharing, sharing even of my own body.  This year, I graduate from the space sharing part of my life.  I want a cap and gown.  I want a public ceremony.  I sometimes, honestly, want a purple heart.  As my daughter opened up her college acceptance letter, my first thought was “My work here is done.”  Narcissistic, right?  Not, “good for you,” “I am so proud of you,” “way to go” (although all of those things eventually came).  No, my first thought was of my purpose in life.  Who/what am I if not a wife, a mother, a daughter?

Talking to Maya in the women’s center today about how overwhelmed she sometimes feels when she thinks of all the “stuff” she’s got to do – job, partner, children, career, community, purpose, over the next decade.  I almost hear her saying “but wait, I’m not ready.”  I hear you, sister, me neither.  The difference is, though, I have some tools that develop from surviving in this carcass for 48 years that she simply does not have…..yet.  Yet, being the operative word.  She will develop them.  Hell, honey if I can develop them, so can you! 

I have one request, though. And this goes out to everyone over 30.  Please, please stop telling people in their 20s what I call “the great lie.”  That is, “these are the best years of your life.”    Take your rose colored glasses off and remember with empathy how hard and how terrifying it is to enter the adult world.  You have a big ol’ house to build and no tools in your toolbox.

Now, I will say that the decade I am about to start, empty nest, empty house, no one to take care of but myself… through a small measure of panic and gritted teeth…I do believe this is going to be the best decade of my life.  I’m ready to get started.  And for those of you who are 22 and about to graduate, you are ready, too.  Honey, if I can do it, so can you!  And we are going to look damned good while doing it, too.