Around the time I turned thirty, I started freaking out. I was looking at everyone else in my life. Friends and family were all getting married, becoming homeowners, becoming parents, getting raises and earning titles. From that vantage point, it felt like I didn't have much of anything.
As far as I was concerned, I hadn't reached any of the "milestones" of adulthood. Thirty years of existing and I had nothing much to show for it. Just a job I wasn't cut out for, a man I couldn't afford to marry and a fantastic apartment that we still refuse to acknowledge is too expensive for us.
I wasn't a teacher, an actress, a writer, a mother, an astronaut, or the President of The United States or any of the other million things I said I wanted to be when I grew up. I was nothing.
Our society has ingrained in us from a very young age that we are defined by what we do and by what we accomplish. How many times were you asked as a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Did any of us ever come up with an answer that did not involve some sort of occupation? No one ever taught us to simply be. There was always something else we were supposed to be striving for in order to determine our identity.
This creates a problem though, because if you believe that you're defined by what you do and what you have, then you're setting yourself up for crushing disappointment when life doesn't play out the way you expected.
I, for example, had always assumed that I'd have kids of my own someday. I had never questioned it. All women became mothers, didn't they? It's what made us different from men; it's what made us women. At least, this is what I believed before I met my fiancé.
We have been together for seven years, and from the very beginning, he has always been honest about not wanting kids or, at the very least, not wanting to "rush into it".
Many women would have considered this a "deal breaker". In a way, I understand that idea. How often do we hear of couples who, after being married for a bit, finally start discussing the more important aspects of the relationship-like having kids, and are left in disbelief when they discover that they were never on the same page to begin with?
When my fiancé shared his feelings about our future, it put me at a crossroads of sorts. I could choose to be happy with what I had now or I could decide that he was essentially preventing me from becoming who I wanted to be in the future and move on.
I thought on it for a long time, and I eventually realized that my life would not be drastically or tragically altered if I couldn't be a mom. It would just be different from what I had had in mind. It doesn't make me less of a woman, nor does it mean that my life is empty and devoid of purpose and meaning. My children or lack thereof will not define me.
Life will not come to a halt if you don't get that promotion, or if your girlfriend rejects your marriage proposal, you can't have kids, or you can't do/be/have whatever it is that you think you need in order to be happy and fulfilled.
We are not defined by the jobs we have, the property we own or by the people we produce. These are things that show the rest of the world what our experience is like, but they don't say anything about who we are.
So, what are we defined by?
Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe that's the point though, maybe we're not supposed to be "defined" by anything. Maybe we're just supposed to be whatever we are right now at this moment. Though, it might help if you allow yourself to be quiet for a second.
Seriously, do it right now.
Be quiet, stop thinking for a minute and just listen. You have a heartbeat. You have breath. You have life. That's what you are.