Active Prevention of a Mid-Life Crisis

26 Feb

 

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The absolute worst thing about Facebook (besides all of those ridiculous zombie-vampire-pirate-ninja-baked-goods-lil’-green-patch applications) is that it feeds my monster impulse to compare myself to others.  Every status update and photo album is a potential morsel for it to gobble down.  This is not something I love about myself; it’s definitely something that I’m working on, but dude, how many engagement pictures, changed relationship statuses, and ultrasound photos can I look at before I articulate the obvious gap between my lifestyle and that of half of my peers?

I’ll tell you something a little embarrassing: I thought I would be married before I turned 22.  I know, right?  Reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye, making a conservative youth group my life in high school, and attending a Bible college where people joked about the female students earning their “MRS” degrees were all ingredients in my little cocktail of future wishes.  I don’t remember if I ever voiced my plan to anyone (dear Lord, I hope not) but when I was graduating high school I had it all mapped out in my mind.  First and second year of college I would be a social butterfly, just having fun, right?  Third year I would settle on one boy to date, our senior year we would get engaged and plan our wedding, and I would toss my graduation cap and my bouquet in the same month.

You may have guessed – this didn’t happen.  As it turned out, I had two failed relationships and then I was too busy trying to deal with all my emotional ish during my senior year to find another boyfriend, get engaged and plan a wedding.  

Instead, I planned a trip to Europe with a friend, scheduled for three days after graduation.  Then I worked at a camp all summer in Maryland.  In the past 3 years I have lived in California, Maryland, Australia, Mexico, Norway, and Germany.  I have visited 12 countries I have never been to before.  I have bobbed in the Dead Sea in Israel, danced around a Christmas tree in Norway, fed a kangaroo in Australia, attended Carnaval in Mazatlan, picnicked in France, and touched the remains of the Berlin Wall.  I spent a summer Down Under and a winter as close to the Arctic Circle as I ever want to get.  I have eaten a thousand new foods and smelled a million new scents.  I’ve met 19,762 people.  All between May 2006 and February 2009.

That’s pretty freaking amazing.  Then why, when I stumble upon an old friend’s Facebook account and discover she now has 2 kids and a baby on the way, do I feel like I’m lagging behind in the race of life?  Something (perhaps leftover from the 40s a la Mona Lisa Smile) tugs on my sleeve and tells me I better polish my heels and get a ring on my finger so I can pop out some babies before…I don’t even know what.  What?!  How crazy is that line of thinking?  

These are just fleeting thoughts.  But sometimes I do feel like I’m a few cars back in the train of life than others my age.  I told my friend Allison about this in an email the other day (she’s the one who traveled to Europe with me) and she had this to say: “Once we do settle down and have kids we will have thousands of experiences, memories and encounters that will get us through whenever it feels monotonous. I think that if I settled down and had kids right away I would have a pretty serious mid-life crisis.”  Aha!  Not only do I agree with her, but I think this fear of the monotonous, the fear of the mid-life crisis, that my sister Rachel always depicts in an image of her, middle-aged and standing at a kitchen sink doing dishes and gazing wistfully out the window, wondering what her life could have been like if only she hadn’t settled is part of what fueled my desire to travel in the first place.  

Disclaimer: I do not believe that everyone who marries young is settling.  No way!  If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that there isn’t a formula for when and how couples should get together and get married.  But for me, settling down before I had all these adventures really would be settling.  I think that one day I would have been washing dishes or changing a diaper or sewing a Halloween costume (ha!) and wondering what kind of adventures I could have had.

I’m so glad that in 20 years, when I’m folding the laundry or getting my car washed or doing some other mundane task, I can smile to myself and think about that time I paraglided off of a mountain in Austria or tossed coins into the Trevi fountain in Rome…I can revisit the conversations I’ve had with hundreds of beautiful, fascinating people.  But dude, it’s not like after this I’m going to stop traveling.  It’s just good to know that I’ve lowered my odds of freaking out when I turn 40.  Also, it’s pretty sweet to put all those pictures on Facebook.

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8 Responses to “Active Prevention of a Mid-Life Crisis”

  1. Rachel Moyal February 26, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    Oh my gosh Joy, while I was halfway through this blog, I was thinking about writing as the comment, “Well you don’t want to be staring out the window while you’re washing dishes wishing you did more” But you did it for me in your blog! All of us Moyal sisters will have so many fun, crazy memories to think of while we stare out the window one day! Take that SCV young brides and mothers! Boo yah!

    Like

  2. Jessica February 27, 2009 at 6:14 am #

    i feel you sister, but dude one day you will get to tell your kids (and then grandkids) about all the amazingly cool stuff you did and all the crazy places you went and can encourage them to do the same.

    Like

  3. Jackson March 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    I think I remember a late teen Joy telling me that adolescence was a created developmental stage that didn’t naturally occur in pre-modern civilizations. Hmmm…

    Just playing. I think there’s a reason why the “grass is always greener” platitude rings true for so many of us. There are times when I think it would have been great to spend a few years in Asia at some Thai Forest monastery, walking dirt paths in my bare feet and discovering for myself the impermanent nature of the totality of experience and blah blah blah. The truth is, I can learn all of that in any place that I find myself. I can see the truth in my morning commute just the same as if I were in the hall of some Japanese zendo.

    All this to say… don’t be surprised if you find yourself at 40, standing in the kitchen, washing dishes, completely happy with it, not thinking about your travels. And as an added bonus, you’ll get to think about your travels too! Does that make sense?

    Great post, by the way. You’re a great writer.

    Like

  4. netanya March 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    Jacks,
    Thanks. The first line of your comment totally cracked me up. I’m so glad that we didn’t end up making the Joy and Jackson reality show. It just would have been an archive for blackmail. 🙂
    And yes, what you’re saying totally makes sense, and I’m starting to drift toward that line of thinking. I think it’s called “growing up.” Hee.

    Like

  5. Jessica Hamlin March 2, 2009 at 4:44 am #

    Oh, how I understand the evil facebook comparison monster. I have always had a problem with comparing myself to others and facebook certainly does not help that. It fuels it to a ridiculous point and I find myself feeling inadequate in my looks, my activities and life in general.

    May I suggest that quite a few people look at facebook photos of your beautiful, life-changing travels and wish they could jump right in with you? I know I have thought that a few times. 🙂 For myself, I have had to remember that there will always be things I wish I could do and maybe some stages I wish I were at, but remaining on facebook and staring at others photos and statuses only decreases the time I have to do whatever amazing things God has in store. I’ve thought of this analogy before, but it sort of reminds me of the mirror in Harry Potter that shows you what you most want to see. Some people got so obsessed with it that they never actually went out and accomplished what they saw. They just stood in front of the mirror. Facebook is a bit different since we stare at others for hours a day (while possibly comparing our own profiles to theirs. I’m sure I am the only one who does that 😉 ) but it nonetheless can take years away from reality and who we are in the non-facebook world.

    Sounds cheesy, I know, and we all have our good days and bad days. It took a while before I consciously tried to look at others’ statuses and photos and be happy or just fine instead of jealous and it’s something I check myself for everyday. It’s a process for sure and I still feel stings of bitterness and sometimes just need to cut the facebook cord and get out of the house. I know it is tough, believe me. I love that you are so honest and vulnerable about feeling how you do since I am sure others, in addition to me, feel the same way. It’s great that you also recognize that this time of exploration is necessary. Seriously, you can always wash dishes! 🙂

    I think you are an amazing woman, Joy, and really want to encourage you in all you have done, are doing and will do. I really look forward to getting to know you more when you get back. And yes, a Cinco de Mayo/Welcome Back, Joy! party sounds awesome. Can’t believe how fast time flies and it is March already. Insane.

    Enjoy the rest of your time. It is a gift from God that you have the resources, health and time to go. Take in all the scenery, new friends, brown cheese and currywurst you can!

    XOXO

    Like

    • netanya March 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

      Thank you so much for your encouragement and wisdom, Jessica! And I think you lead a fabulous life, too. 😉 It will be fun to hang out when I come back.

      Like

  6. Jackson March 6, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    Joy,

    “I’m so glad that we didn’t end up making the Joy and Jackson reality show. It just would have been an archive for blackmail.”

    Agreed! Though, the show would have had great ratings 😉

    Like

  7. Jocky March 7, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    Boy, you do a lot of thinking about Facebook.
    But having children would make it difficult to travel to all the places you are now able to visit. Though I think it will be possible…

    I was almost 30 when I got my call to the nations, 34 when I started to go and find out what this calling would look like.

    I believe that I will have children and then there must be a way to do all the travelling. Must be fun to have some small children on an airplane 😦

    I think the problem is when we look at others. That we take the things we have for granted and want to take the things others have (without taking the things of their life we don’t want to have)

    And by the way: There must be something about it when others tell you that you are a great wirter, too.

    Like

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