Last Saturday, Jeff turned 27. My oldest nephew–the son of my younger sister–graduates high school next month and starts college this fall. My own 20th college reunion is next month, though I don’t plan to attend. Had I followed the pattern established by my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother, I’d have married at 19 and had my first child at 20, meaning that I would now have a kid about to turn 22, just five years younger than my boyfriend.
When I think about it in those terms, it seems like it should feel really weird to be in a relationship with someone almost 15 years my junior. And when we first started communicating and then started hanging out, I thought it would seem odd and perhaps even uncomfortable. But I don’t feel like there’s really a meaningful age difference or generation gap between us; we typically like the same movies, books, theatre, music, and places, and generally even share the same cultural references. I don’t know if Jeff is old for his age, if I’m young for mine, or even if such attempts to understand people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors on the basis of the time they’ve spent on this planet are in the end really just pretty unhelpful. It’s probably all of the above.
And it’s not as though I’m experiencing some existential middle-age crisis, I don’t think (just the usual unending, non-age-specific existential crisis), as might be evidenced in taking up with a hot, young trophy stud. After all, I traded in the expensive convertible for a (gasp!) four-door sedan (albeit a funky, technologically cool one).
On the other hand, I do find myself yearning for something different out of life, at least vis a vis where I find myself professionally. I so envy the people who stuck to their dreams–and even more so those who even knew what their dreams were. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up (and is it odd, at 41-5/6, to still not feel anywhere near grown up?), but I fear more and more that it may be too late to do it even if I figure out what it is. When I took this government job two years ago, my then-boss’s first words to me were not about the importance of our mission, the interesting things I’d be doing, or the quality of my co-workers, but rather my “incredible luck” at having been hired as a civil service employee since I was now set for life and couldn’t easily ever be fired. Surely there’s more than that?