In the effort to get back to the kind of writing I loved before I decided to become an academic, I was looking at a creative writing prompt and it directed me to write my coming of age story. I just sat and stared. My mind a complete white space (which is rare considering that in the space of a 5 minute snooze this morning my mind jumped from bee-keeping to circus to high school reunions to last week’s date night to movie reviews to yoga to lunch). This prompt assumes that I have ‘come of age.’ I guess in a way I have. I am well beyond adolescence (although the acne has only just left me) and getting closer to the cut off at which I would be considered a ‘mature mother’ in terms of pregnancy (which is still a way off). I got married and finally finished the academic journey with a (seemingly useless) PhD in the last few months. I have lived abroad for four years now, but I am just as lost now as I was at the age of 18, the beginning of supposed ‘coming of age.’ Maybe that is the real purpose of the prompt. It’s not a writing exercise but a self-therapy session.
I have been thinking lately about what led me down my last two major journeys, marriage and PhD. The PhD was something I decided to do when I was coming of age in University. At the exact same time, I was sure I would never get married. Of the two, I am more happy with the marriage than the PhD. It feeds me more and gives me much more joy. I was willing to take pretty scary risks when it came to the relationship that led to marriage (a trip to backwater Croatia to meet a family that didn’t speak English and a semi-illegal move to London which involved selling almost all my possessions and sharing a room the size of a large closet for two months) and am much less enthusiastic about the PhD journey and what I am willing to do to continue on the path of academia.
Perhaps some evidence that I have come of age, I have a fairly large collection of bathroom reading. In one of these volumes I read a piece about what advice three women would give their 18 year old selves. A common piece in women’s magazines. A celebration of coming to terms with who we really are and being comfortable and confident as we age. I am not comfortable and confident in who I am, but it made me wonder. What if I really could offer some advice? Would I? If I had told my 18 year old self to stick with the Journalism degree because it would offer more job prospects later in life (as opposed to the three degrees in Geography I currently hold), I may have given up my Geography and Geology degree. Which means I never would have met a dear friend and we never would have endured those all night study sessions memorizing fossils in which we pledged to go to Africa some day. Which means that I wouldn’t have gone to Africa with her in the summer of 2005 and wouldn’t have met my husband on safari. I wouldn’t give up that experience and all that came after for anything.
But it got me thinking. As painful as ‘coming of age’ was, is, the best part of my life is directly related to events that took place in those years. If the tables were turned and my 18 year old self had the opportunity to give my present day self advice, having seen how the next ten years or so turned out, what would she offer up? What have I forgotten about myself?
When Ariel met Sadie coming soon to a blog near you.