When I was old enough to understand life — but not really old enough to live it — I painted a picture of the future me. I saw myself single, working in a busy fulfilling career, hanging with an active group of friends, going on adventures and being the ‘crazy aunt’ that always had time for shenanigans.
Not naughtiness, mind you, just shenanigans.
Of course, that isn’t the me that I am now. Although my career is rewarding and I work hard, my circle of friends is mostly remote, I rarely adventure and my nieces and nephews would not consider me a shenanigan-worthy person. And as a married mother of two, I can tell you that my kids are positively certain that I don’t know what shenanigans are.
And over the weekend I realized something odd: I’m not living my life, but one of my friends is.
It struck me like a lightening bolt while I was scrolling through Facebook. Every picture lined up to create a collage. A picture of a sleepover, cute little kids enjoying a night away from home with their aunt. A picture of lifelong friends around the Thanksgiving table. Pictures of trips to Greece and Florida. Status updates from adult retreats, girls weekends and crafting projects. I’ve know this woman for eight years and I just put together the pieces. I just realized that so many of the elements that I expected to be part of my adult experience weren’t mine, they were hers.
I’ve known for a long time that my life plan took a left turn at Albuquerque when I met my husband, so that isn’t the thing that knocks my socks off. It’s the idea that if someone is living the life I thought was mine to live, what if I’m living the life that someone else thought was theirs?
What if some young woman, somewhere in the mid-1990’s, envisioned herself getting married young to the boy next door. What if she planned to work her way up through a series of professional jobs while raising two kids in suburbia, trying to have it all while struggling with work-life balance? What if she planned to have great in-laws and family vacations and a sailboat?
Heck, what if she always planned to have a cat, but learned as an adult that she was allergic? What if I got her cat?
Of course, I have no idea whether there is anyone anywhere who is looking at my life from the outside and thinking back to their own visions of the future. But it’s possible, isn’t it? And if it’s possible don’t I owe it to her to live this life — her life — as well and as enthusiastically as I can?
And if that’s not the weirdest example of peer pressure ever, I don’t know what is.