Monday, November 19, 2007

a modern-day scylla and charybdis... kind of

Saturday I found myself at the Boyfriend's friend's house watching a college football game. It should be noted that I use the term "watching" very loosely as I was really just drinking beer among people who were actually watching the game. Either way, I got credit just for attendance.

I was seated on the couch next to the friend's little sister, who happened to be a junior at the very same college that I attended. We instantly bonded, playing the "do you know...?" game (we mostly only had the MUCH younger siblings of my classmates in common) and laughing over the idiosyncrasies that are as true today as they were six years ago. She was so young, so excited about drinking beer (she doesn't turn 21 until March, y'all!), so eager to hang out with the older folks while trying to be subtle about her college student status. She fooled no one, but there was really no reason for her to pull wool over anyone's eyes. She was cute, fun and fit in immediately. Shows how mature this group of friends is, right?

And speaking of mature... across the room sat Boyfriend's Most Responsible Friends, the ones with the baby. P is 10 months old and is absolutely adorable, if you like babies. I don't, particularly, but didn't really have much to complain about with this one. He was fairly quiet, not terribly fussy, and the worst thing that he did was stick his hand in the bowl of queso. Despite the unusual harmless nature of Baby P, though - I couldn't help but notice how exhausted his parents were. They wanted to stand for 30 minutes when they arrived because they had just driven the 45-minute commute from the suburbs. They were constantly searching for Cheerios, heating up formula, or chasing after Baby P to make sure that he didn't push any buttons on the TV or put his hand in any more queso. He would seem as though he was getting worked up to cry and they would immediately throw him up on their shoulders to cheer him up. All the while I was seated on the big over-sized couch, happily sitting still and sipping my beer.

Out of nowhere it occurred to me... I was smack in the middle of my past and my inevitable future. I know that this is no big revelation because we are constantly in the middle of our own present, but it has never been so well illustrated. Seated to my immediate left was my past self: a size 0 20-year-old who was excited about homecoming floats and sorority competitions, thrilled with the rebellious under-age drinking and whose only worry was how to get a summer internship with no work experience ("Isn't that why you have internships? To get experience??"). Across from me and to my right were two stressed parents, happy to have a family but constantly pushing and working to keep the baby from crying in public, worried about their relationship and how the stress of the baby has affected it, then digging for more Cheerios.

On the left, college life sounded like so much fun and I was a little jealous of her jean size. However, the more thought I put into it made me think about all the late-nights I spent studying only to pull a 60 on an accounting test. I thought about never having enough money and having to work a job at the library to pay for any extras at the end of the month, then skipping Spring Break trips with friends to wait tables for extra cash. I remembered living with roommates and the constant struggle to make 5 very different girls agree on one lifestyle and one apartment decor. I couldn't help but wince at the memory of wondering constantly if I was meeting the standards of my oh-so-conservative college friends and having the painful knowledge that I was living in the skin of someone else. The confines of someone else's rules of behavior. Under the heavy thumb of my parents' approval.

Once I thought about this, my jealousy waned.

Then I glanced across the room and saw the way Baby P's parents were working together for the overall good of their son. I was impressed with their efforts but also exhausted by them. "I know I'm not ready for that," I thought. "And I don't know that I ever will be." And I was comforted by my present, even though the past continues to haunt me and my future continues to frighten me.

Pretty deep for a college football game...

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