What is it to be who you are?

I clucked mock-prudishly as my dear friend recounted her last weekend’s shenanigans.  Oh dear, I thought.  Who have I become?  When did I start saying, “Oh dear?” And clucking?

My friend teasingly reminded me that I was hardly one to judge anyone’s wildness, with my own hiding just in the shadow of my current existence.  And she’s right.  I can hardly judge.  I was a little wild. Yet my life has become so relatively sedate in the last year that can hardly fathom that I am still the same person who was living my life just a few years ago.

I think adulthood crept up on me while I was looking for something else.

It’s kind of like this (without the German (?) subtitles):

In chatting with my sisters and friends, I’ve been reminded on a few occasions recently of who I am.  Or, who I was.  It’s a bit unclear, really.  I am not sure I’ve left the old me entirely behind.  Perhaps she’s just dormant.

I find myself wondering if it’s my situation in life or my age that has leveled me so swiftly.  In a few months I turn 30.   It is definitely a milestone, but it’s not particularly stressful to me because part of me already feels 30.  Perhaps it’s the part of me that neurotically covers her plants each night to protect them from possums, or the part of me that has become a compulsive floor sweeper and counter wiper.  Or maybe it’s the part of me that wakes up the morning after a few drinks and promises never to drink again because I feel worthless and unproductive.  There’s been a small death in me of the carefree 20’s, but it’s happened before my 20’s reached their end.

For a long time, 30 represented the end to me.  It was the end of all things interesting and adventurous;  no more travel, no more goofiness, no more fun.  After that, life would just be babies and business and probably dogs, too (maybe a running stroller if I was feeling frisky!).   That was it, according to my feeble 20-something mind’s view.

Thus, it was planned that if we were single, just like in My Best Friend’s Wedding, I’d marry my male best friend and Ithen I would pop out some kids and a stroller.  (Well, let’s hope I never pop out a stroller.  That sounds awful.)

But that’s really what I thought would happen.    Consequently, I believed that all things crazy and fun must happen before the clock struck 30. Bottom line.  Non-negotiable.  Then your carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

It was, perhaps, a misguided approach.

But, I value the past me.  I value the me who was the frisbee MVP (most valuable partier), and the one who secured wedding invites for the entertainment value I could provide.  I value the me that was utterly ridiculous and would ask police officers seductively about their handcuffs while my fake gun was being confiscated.  I value the me that pretended nobody could see her white butt while skinny dipping in a cold Northern Wisconsin lake, hiding under the pier when urged to get out of the water.  I like to think that version of me has a fair amount of comedic value to contribute to the world.

But that’s not me anymore and I don’t know where that me has gone. It’s not a bad thing.  It’s good to be a grown up, and I think my dedication to real life rather than a wild, escapist existence of seducing police officers and swimming naked probably indicates a maturity on my part that may have been lacking before.  So kudos to you, Kat.  You’ve become mature.  It only took 30 years.

The real reason I’m thinking about this, I suppose, is that I’m just approaching a year of having been here in Australia.  It’s been a huge change in my life in some very obvious ways, but also in more subtle ways.  Last year at this time I was in Nicaragua learning to surf and building a house for a family in Granada.  I was waiting for my Australian visa, and with the free time that gave me, decided that a trip to Central America was in order.

At the same time, I was in the throes of some deep soul-searching, wondering what this move would mean for me in my life and whether it was the right thing.   It was a scary time and I was emotional.  Moving to Australia was a decision borne out of so much more than a sense of adventure.  It was also sort of like releasing a safety valve on my life and letting the chaos of me spill over oceans and continents far-removed from where it could do too much harm to anyone.

It’s hard to fully explain what I mean, but as much as I loved my life in Colorado, it was reinforcing some patterns that needed to change.  I needed to get out of the line of work I was in as it was breeding an inner cynic I couldn’t turn off.   It was killing my soul.  I needed to stop the slow death of my soul so that I’d stop slowly pecking away at the souls of other people I cared about.  I needed to make some changes that were going to be painful. Hard.  And, lacking the spiritual, emotional, and/or physical ability to change my life in the place I was, I had to pick up and move as far away as humanly possible to make it happen!

Anyway, enough teetering around sensitive subjects for now.  The bottom line is that I placed myself on the other side of the world, for adventure and to change my life and here I am now. So what have I accomplished?  A year later, I have a job that I like and which is meaningful and fulfilling most of the time.  Check.  That was the first goal on my list on the wall.  Second goal was pursue writing projects – yeah, haven’t really done that.  I want to do it, but I have been suffering from a malaise-y sort of writer’s block that hasn’t made writing about anything all that appealing.  This has never really happened to me before.  Third goal – set better personal deadlines and stick to them.  This is going pretty well, minus that sticky writing thing.  And lastly, set a new marathon PR.  That one I eeked out by a slim margin.  I’ll take it.  I’m kind of over running for the time being anyway.

But checklists and goals aside, my year so far has actually changed me a lot more than even I anticipated. Most notably, I am becoming domestic.  THIS is probably the biggest, weirdest change to date.  I cook a lot, and garden, and hang my laundry outside and find my time to be increasingly consumed by domestic pursuits.  It’s weird.  I have friends who think I cook well.  I have living plants.  These may not be big accomplishments for many people, but let me tell you – for me this is major stuff.

Also, another mind-blowing but obvious thing:  I have been living with my de facto partner (here that’s as good as marriage!) for almost a whole year.   Me!  I once said I’d never get married.  I wanted a non-traditional relationship.  I wanted to overturn the hierarchical structures that bind women into marriages that suck them dry and hold them back.  Damn the man!   And here I am, living the dream!   Yeah!

I am 29, and in a committed relationship with a guy I love.  I’m so subversive.

I think I came to Australia and turned into an adult. It freaks me out a little bit. Somebody get me a beer bong STAT!

But I really wonder what catalyzed it all.  There have been so, so many changes in my life since moving here that it’s hard to pinpoint causation.  Am I an adult because I have grown up finally?  Am I an adult because I have nothing better to do?  Am I an adult because I have removed people/things from my life that were problematic?  Am I an adult because I have spent the last year committing myself to some personal and spiritual growth?  Impossible to say.  All I know is that a reality once presented to me of a life with a garden and babies, no longer sounds so unfathomable. And though just the other day Rick looked at me, smiled and said, “Kat, you look so young!” with my freckles, big cheeks, and unruly curls, I feel old—in a good and peaceful way.

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