So, in the last little while, it’s been a bit tense around my household.
For reasons I can’t completely get into, both my mom and my aunt (who lives state-side with my cousin, in Milwaukee) have been dealing with some personal medical issues.
Needless to say, it’s dredged up the subject of thinking about one’s own mortality.
I think I’m arriving to the point in my life where it no longer makes me feel queasy to hear about it. Time flies faster during adulthood, and one day I’m going to have to deal with it.
There’s just one thing that has gotten me annoyed.
Twice, while having this conversation with my mom, she’s somehow managed to utter the following phrase (with a big sigh):
“I just want to see you settled.”
This irritates my thirtysomething brain, probably way more than it should.
The rational side of me know that, obviously, as her child, she’s just showing concern for my well-being.
But really. What does she mean by “settled” ?
“Settled”, as in, “I just want to see you get your own place (translation: move out, buy a piece of real estate and start paying a mortgage like everyone else)” ?
Or: “settled” as in “I’d like to see you move out, meet a nice young man, get married, have a child (or two)” ?
It’s the meaning that’s unclear. And that makes me UN-settled.
If I had come to my senses several years ago, I’d probably have already moved out, maybe be on my way to being married.
But then, it makes me think of my friend, Darlene.
A year and a half ago, she took a look at her life and decided what she most wanted to do – more than anything else – was move to Paris and make a go of it.
I remember going to her apartment – which she hurriedly had to vacate, since her landlord had, not-so-nicely, told her she had to move out because they had plans to renovate the house she was living in, and handing her living space over to a family member (barely within the regulation two months needed to notify a tenant).
In conversation with her mom, I had mentioned off-hand that I was still living at home, trying to save up to find a place.
I don’t remember the precise answer, but it was obvious THAT’s what Darlene’s mom wished her daughter was doing. (Which, in hindsight, wasn’t fair and embarrassing to Darlene, and uncomfortable for me.)
Needless to say, months later, moving to Paris was the best thing Darlene could’ve won. And I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that – if given the chance – she’d make the same decision.
And she’s not the only one that’s living her life, on her terms.
Just last week, my mother and I paid a visit to our accountant.
Before we got down to business, he and my mom played catch-up, and filled us in on his daughter – whom I can only guess is probably in her mid-to-late twenties – who’s currently living a quite successful life as a chartered accountant (just like her own man), but abroad in Paris as well.
But his worry? That she wasn’t married with kids. After all, 23 or 24 is about the right time for one to be thinking about marriage, so that by 30, you’ve got a couple of pre-schoolers and Grandpa is happy. Why wouldn’t she settle down?
My mom tried to counter that by telling him about a new friend she recently met on a cruise – who’s 87 years old, never-married and happy, and frankly, from what I hear about her, someone I HAVE to meet – but I don’t think it sunk in for him. Some outlooks and values are set in stone.
I get it, and yet I don’t. I understand that people’s upbringing can influence their values, which include what they think their children should strive for.
But why do they think that THIS is the storyline for everyone?
Why does being “settled” have to involve working for one employer one’s entire life, pouring one’s savings into a dwelling, to put down roots? Why is THAT the benchmark?
Why can’t it be a state of mind – of happiness, of contentedness of where one’s life is at?
It’s something I’m slowly learning. I can only hope that when I put those lessons and observations into practice, I don’t have those feelings of anxiety over whether I’m doing the right thing, or that I’m missing out on something.
The goal? Reaching a point when I have that sense of confidence about doing things on my own terms, of getting on with life, or writing my own storyline, with no regrets.
THAT’s what “settled” means to me.