A little over a month ago I turned 30. Undoubtedly exacerbated by everyone and their brother’s inquisitions about if I felt older or wiser or if I’d signed up for AARP yet, it felt like a big deal. A new decade! New era! The last time my age had a 0 in it I couldn’t legally drink!
When I was 25 I was excited to be approaching 30. So adult-like, making a cush life with two dogs, a good job, and a husband in a swoon-worthy beach town. Kid-free because we just weren’t quite ready yet, not because they weren’t an option or part of the plan.
When Brian and I split, it was easy to think of everything as a loss or setback. Losing a partner, a second family, someone to share every big and meaningless moment with. Regressing on the “ideal” adult timeline after getting so close to binkies and daycare phase.
After a while though, those “losses” started looking like opportunities. Freedoms. More time for me, and the things that were important to me. I didn’t have to share my time or my thoughts, I had the freedom to do with myself whatever I damn well felt like. Take off for the weekend on a whim? Buy an expensive pair of jeans I couldn’t really afford? Spend a meaningless night with someone meaningless?
The independence was intoxicating and addictive, and before I knew it I was regressing down other adult paths at the sake of dignity, finances, and probably personal safety. (I did get a handful of really great stories from it all at least.)
Looking back, this sudden swing to erratic behavior was clearly some part of the coping process. I was bingeing on all of the things I felt I’d been deprived of during my relationship, and sitting on the cusp of a new decade, it hit me clear as day like my optometrist smashing a pile of bricks against my forehead and suddenly knocking me into 20/20 vision. I’d been playing so hard in the “I can do whatever the hell I want!” sandbox that the novelty of freedom had lost its luster. One-night stands and impulsive purchases began feeling mainstay, the period of shame or regret afterwards shrinking with every instance.
A week before my birthday I’d been back in Ohio doing my usual visit home things; running with Mom, drinking beer with dad, talking about mom and dad with my sister, soaking up time with both sets of grandparents (who I realize more and more how lucky I am to still have around,) and dinner dating with my two best girlfriends.
This visit was different though, as our usual scandalous stories and alcohol-fueled laughing fits were replaced with ultrasound pics and ultra-sobering accounts about human anatomy that my almost-30 self still just wasn’t ready to accept as reality.
Seven months prior I’d been back for another visit, and again Lauren, Shea, my sister and I were out for our ritual dinner date. We evenly poured a pitcher of margaritas between the four of us, and Lauren raised her glass offering a toast. “To Sarah being home, and me being pregnant!” I didn’t know how to react (other than calling dibs on the glass she’d just pushed to the center of the table.) There were hugs and cheers and maybe squeals, and I just sat there with my jaw dropped, firmly gripping two margaritas.
Lauren and I have been friends since we were two. Without sounding too cliche, we’ve been through a lot together – deaths, divorces, graduations, promotions, illness and extreme joyfulness – she’s first-handedly been part of more tallies in my life win-loss column than anyone, a lot of them from across the country, none of which would’ve been the same without her.
I knew Lauren as a kindergartner, a lush college sorority girl, a braces-faced teenager playing softball with one of those silly ribbon scrunchies in her hair. I knew her as all these things because I was there next to her being them, too. (Minus the braces and sorority.) But Lauren the mom? I wasn’t ready to follow her there, and that struck me in a more selfishly vulnerable place than I really want to admit.
For the first time in 27 years, our paths weren’t moving in perfectly parallel paths, and unintentionally, I distanced myself. I changed the topic or avoided it altogether in group texts, didn’t ask about appointments or names or nursery themes. I loved hearing what fruit the baby was comparable in size to, because thinking of the Chiquita banana lady living inside her stomach made it less real and scary than an actual fetus. I made bad jokes when I was uncomfortable, and bad faces when she’d tell one of those “omg that really happens?!” anatomy stories. I was a shitty friend, and continued acting out in that regressive post-divorce behavior to distract myself from the fact that my best friend was moving on to a stage of life without me.
I realize how fucking childish that is writing it out.
The last time I’d seen her the pee had barely dried on the at-home pregnancy test, and there I was this time trying to hug her over the full blown 8-month baby belly she’d grown since my last visit. I’d lived in the delusional state of baby cantaloupes as long as I could, but seeing her that day pulled me down to earth like the optometrist’s bricks tied to my feet and paid gravity to work double-time on me. No denying it anymore, my best friend was definitely about to birth a human, not a cantaloupe.
There are the types of people who you just know are meant to be parents, and Lauren’s definitely one of them. She’s a great human with a great big heart and a selflessness I just can’t comprehend, as made apparent by the fact I’ve been too preoccupied thinking about my lagging behind to see how exciting it is that she’s starting the family she’s always wanted.
This realization finally came a few days after she said she’d been put on the delivery schedule, and a few hours after that I had a plane ticket home. She doesn’t know I’m here, and won’t until I walk through her hospital room door, wine in hand (that’s allowed, right?) and tears in eyes. She also won’t realize how much more this trip is for me than it is for her. (Again with the selfishness thing.)
Reflecting on all of this gave me a peace with turning 30 I didn’t expect to find. I realized growing up doesn’t mean growing old, and it’s certainly not about losing freedoms or giving up on dreams. It’s not a number or a timeline or where you’re “supposed” to be. It’s about finding things that add to your life, that give you more than you could give yourself, and squeezing as much out of them as you can.
I’m really glad I’m in a place where I can chase those things down, and that I get to be here when Lauren *literally* squeezes one of those things out today. (Sorry couldn’t help it, this was feeling way too feelings’y.)