When I Grow Up
I wait on the edge of my seat as she counts the number of lines in the swirl. I’m holding my breath, hoping that the results don’t yield the neighborhood kid brother. She does the count, crossing out every sixth answer on my sheet until each category has only one line item remaining. ”A school teacher, married to Jonathan Taylor Thomas, with five teenagers, living in a mansion in Florida, and driving a minivan!!!” my older sister squeals at me. I jump around, cheering in response, as I have just hit the jackpot of all MASH games! I mean, who really wants to end up in a shack with no children and the kid brother? It wasn’t going to be me, that much I knew.
I turned thirty today. 3-0. THIRTY. Three decades on this planet, and I find myself reflecting back, mostly on my childhood, and drawing some comparisons between where I thought I would end up, and where I am now. When I was a girl, I thought that thirty was O-L-D. Really, I thought that “teenagers” were old. Sixteen was such a grown up. I couldn’t even imagine a day when I might be that old. At this point, my mom probably wasn’t even thirty, having given birth to my sister at 19 and me at 21. I thought that if I did, somehow, make it to thirty, that I would probably have a whole head of gray hair by then. I knew that I would have at least five teenagers. And I would be a teacher, and would totally be driving the coolest vehicle of all time….a Dodge Caravan. I sure hoped that I would be living in a mansion with JTT, but whatever house I lived in would be right next-door to my big sister, Angie and my super cool neighbor Pam.
As time went on, I still thought of 30 as pretty ancient. What 16 year old wants to be 30? At that point I daydreamed about every single one of my crushes or high school boyfriends and I beating the odds and staying together forever. We would be thirty, with a bunch of kids in a house, and that’s about as far as it went. College came, and I grew up. I realized that thirty was coming, and was excited to start focusing on building a life and a career, and eventually shacked up with the man that I get to be thirty with.
Throughout the childhood and teenage years, you draw a distinction between age groups. Sort of an ‘us and them.’ “Us” being the kids, and “them” being the grownups, of course. I always just recognized people who were of a certain age as adults. The age was probably 25, but then it crept to maybe 27, and so forth. I distinctly remember the day that I first thought that thirty isn’t that old. I had graduated college, started a job, and had a bunch of young, awesome colleagues who were all turning thirty. They dressed trendy, went out and partied, and were a really fun time to be around. That’s when I knew. I’m getting old. And I will probably be thirty too.
This weekend it has been really fun for me to reflect on those childhood MASH games and look at where I thought I would end up, with where I am now. I don’t live in a mansion with JTT. Bummer. I do have a home with a hubby who is probably ten thousand times better than JTT (sorry, bud). And actually, my best friend used to call him “Zachary Taylor Thomas” all the time, or ZTT for short. I certainly don’t have 5 teenagers, but I do have a threenager, who is probably even more frustrating than five teenagers at times. I didn’t become a teacher, but I did continue to love and value education. I got a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s degree, and work in higher education. I’m kind of glad I didn’t relocate to Florida, because it’s pretty humid in the summer, and I will never drive a minivan. Its pretty wild how eerily similar the comparisons are. Really, a lot of the answers are the same, just in grown up terms rather than the mind of a child. In any case, my MASH predictions were awesome, but real life is even better. Thirty never looked so good.