Let me be melodramatic for a second: I’m approaching my upper twenties (we’ll refer to this foreign territory as “The Uppers”) and I totally thought that by now I’d be married, I’d own a house, and probably have a baby or two (or at least, have my own set of matching dishes and have mastered the art of parallel parking…). And to be honest, these milestones and their possibly unrealistic deadlines didn’t manifest out of my own version of a fulfilled life, but rather from what I saw as an example from my parents. My parents were married at 22 and 23, they bought a house in their first year of marriage, and had two kids by the time they were 28 and 29. My mom had the freedom to be a full-time stay at home parent, while my dad was well on his way to climbing up the ladder of a company that provided great benefits and a promising future. (I know I’ve touched on these things in Gina’s Grotto, but they are such crucial factors in how I view myself and those around me, that it bears repeating.) When I compare all of that to my own path, it’s clear that the two are different in every possible way, which is why it’s easy for me to harp over that dreaded existential question: “What am I doing with my life and where am I going?”
From where I stand right now as an unmarried 26 year old who is still trying to find her place in this world, my parents seemed to have had it all figured out by such a young age. Many of life’s big questions, like, “Who will I marry?”, “Will I have children and what will I name them?”, “What career will I have when I grow up?”, and “Where will I live?” were all answered before they were 30. I currently share an attic bedroom with my boyfriend, I only just recently landed a full-time job that I like and pays me an actual living wage, and it wasn’t until literally yesterday that I created (with help from a money savvy friend, mind you… definitely not on my own) a budget. There’s a higher education I want to obtain, places I told myself I’d already live in by now, a career I want to expand, roles I want to play, projects I want to see to completion, pets I want to own, children I want to name, a wedding dress I want to pick out, and spaces I want to occupy. Oh, and I should probably throw parallel parking on that list as well, because I still can’t do that to save my life. I very frequently feel like I’ve fallen far behind. At the risk of sounding incredibly ungrateful, my natural tendency is to look for and over-analyze “what’s missing” before I take the time to appreciate the things that I already possess. I am constantly asking myself questions such as…
- What do I really want?
- What does success look like to me?
- What am I actually lacking and how to I obtain it?
- What have I done that I can be proud of?
…it’s the only way to bring those “I NEED TO FIGURE OUT ALL MY SHIT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE RIGHT NOW” racing thoughts back to cruise control.
After suffering through two panic attacks triggered by those such thoughts within the last six days, I’m going to try out this new thing where I don’t let negativity or the comparison game dictate my life. It seems to me that the Mind Monsters want me in a constant state of unworthiness and to believe that my outward appearance– as someone who tries to be bright and sunny and do things like teach yoga and write self-help blogs– is a total lie and that my inner life–one that wrestles with bleak bouts of self-doubt and insecurity– is the real truth of who I am. Well as I’ve said before, and as I’ll continue to say until it finally sinks in– those Mind Monsters can shut the hell up.
Entering my Uppers, I may not be married, own a house, or be anywhere nearselfless enough to have kids any time soon. I may not be an Equity actor (or have booked anything at all this season as an actor). I may not yet have a retirement fund or know how to cook beyond boiling water for pasta. And I still call my dad for help when I get my oil changed and the guys at Valvoline ask me if I want to change my air filter… However, in my twenties (so far) I have:
- Been paid to play two of my dream roles
- Traveled solo by car, bus, and plane many times
- Lived in five different states
- Introduced thousands of children to theatre for the first time
- Completed my yoga teacher certification (and paid my way through training completely on my own)
- Completed my Bachelors degree in Theatre
- Traveled out of the country–twice
- Worked for countless employers
- Survived heartbreak
- Found love
- Never been late on a credit card payment
- Paid rent
- Fed and clothed myself
- Taught children how to act, sing, dance, kinda sort do yoga, use their imaginations, and fight their inner demons
- Begun to write
- Experimented with revealing my authentic self
- Fundraised and produced theatre
- Put my foot down
- Shown up for someone I loved
- Failed gloriously
- Met some amazing people
- Been repeatedly inspired
- Been afraid, but went through with it anyway
- Finally been able to financially support myself
- Literally flown.
(The last bullet point was accomplished while playing Wendy in a production of Peter Pan… flying without the assistance of rigging equipment, however, remains a work in progress.)
There are many things I still don’t know how to do and there are many experiences that I have not yet had, but I can do and have done a lot. A lot to be proud of. A lot that some would be afraid to even try. I’ve kept going when others would have given up. I’m still here and I’m an adult, dammit! And I don’t need a person or a thing or even a paycheck to validate that fact. I guess 26 year old Gina is much different from what 10 year old Gina imaged her to be… but you know what? Maybe she’s not less than what 10 year old Gina expected, but maybe–if I allow myself to shift my perspective–just maybe… she’s more.