Whilst driving home from work recently I was forced to realize a truth that is only surprising to me: I am middle-aged.
Oh, this little pest had been flying around for a while. I swatted at it from time to time with the gestating and bearing of children at an age when most of my friends were getting ready to put their own kids in middle school and some *shudder* high school or college.
I thought of myself as an early starter but late bloomer "A Girl On Her Way," to quote the title of a Maia Sharp song and the reason for this inarguable new wisdom.
An interview with the rich-voiced Sharp was airing on National Public Radio as I steered my Civic home … (which are both key signs, I’ve learned, that a woman has reached a certain age: I came to this understanding a few years ago while attending a gathering known far and wide as a "Stitch and Bitch."
The term alone should have cued me in to this new lot in life but it was the husband of the host, after he’d found himself shuffling cars in the driveway, who enlightened me.
When he returned from his chore, he jovially announced that he’d been able to hear an NPR story in its entirety behind the wheels of seven different Hondas).
But I digress.
Sharp was telling me (and thousands of other listeners also somewhere along their evening commutes) that a girl on her way has only has so long before she become a woman who never arrived.
And there I sat, slack jawed, alone in a Honda, listening to NPR – a woman who never arrived.
The years really did go by that quickly.
Promise doesn’t fade so much as it lingers around, seemingly inexhaustible, before it just suddenly disappears.
You tread water waiting for your first "real" job. You get your first promotion. Then a second. Maybe you are named to the post of leadership before you turn 30 … like I was.
And then, perhaps, you get laid off. Financial cuts. Downsizing. Synergy. You adopt whatever catch phrase makes it seems less personal.
Maybe they’ll tell you how horrible you left things, even if you inherited the mess, as a parting gift. Don’t want you getting any ideas about your worth.
For a while you might spend some time thinking you are unemployable. But sooner than later you find yourself employed again. This time you are grateful. Fearful, too. Unwilling to take chances.
You try new things eventually because you can’t help yourself.
And for a time you are on your way again.
People call you. They ask for things. Things look promising again.
But nothing really catches on. The phone stops ringing the inbox stops flagging for your attention.
Then children come and your interest is renewed. Your voice gains a new resonance. A new meaning transcribes your words and your thoughts. You have another chance.
For a time there are people asking for things.
You are encouraged. But again, same as before, nothing you spark catches fire.
And then one day a song comes on the radio. And the woman singing it, who finally feels she’s arriving at the place she intended, is younger than you.
And you look into the corner of the rearview mirror that you have angled toward your face. Finally you see the truth. Damn vanity.
And you swat dead that fly that was buzzing around you. It hurts. But turns out, it was not as painful as you thought it would be.
You tell yourself: If you had only sought to arrive you might have missed out on all the sights along the way. Maybe one day you will believe it.