A Gen X Girl Who Grew Up (but doesn’t sell out) – Part Four: Trying to Be a Grown-Up

In my thirties, I thought I’d try being a grown-up. I had my own apartment, car, decent-paying job. But I still had no social life and was afraid of having one because I was still a caregiver to my widowed father. Yes, like the idiot I was back then I thought if I somehow developed a social life that word would get back to my father that I intended to run off to Bora-Bora and live in a hut with my loser hunk of a boyfriend. Or some bullshit like that. Or worse than that, I’d run off to Bora-Bora with some hot woman I’d fallen for.

(My sexual orientation definitely leans heterosexual more than anything but I’m more than open and accepting of other orientations including in my own life because if I met someone of either gender and they were a good person and attracted to me, I’d pursue that relationship. If this freaks anyone out, get over yourself.)

But when I look back on thirties in the first decade of the twenty-first century, I see a shit-ton of missed opportunities. I thought I was doing the right thing by working at my soul-sucking call-center jobs and piddling around on my writing and not making waves of any kind. In reality, I wanted so much more and I had the means to pursue that.

So why didn’t I?

After my mom died, I became my father’s sole caregiver. He gave me all the legal power to do so in the event he became incapacitated (which I had to exercise when he had a stroke two years before he died). I felt like I was the only person other than my late mother who could truly handle him and I think I was even better than my mother was considering what I had to do for him. I miss him terribly with all of his stories and advice (but I don’t miss his mood swings and lashing out at me, either). But he was also over-protective as hell of me and I felt like if he was told enough shit about me he might not believe me over the lies and misinformation. I never wanted him to think I would ever abandon him. And it wasn’t just because I made a promise to my mother to take care of him after she died. I knew how to be a caregiver and I was damn good at it.

But also I still felt like I was a useless sack of shit and not worthy of a social life either. I know now that was due to a lack of self-confidence that I’m just now starting to regain. Back then I just felt like a social idiot.

Also in my early thirties I got a case of baby-fever. But because of my physical issues (scoliosis and weight) a pregnancy for me would have been very high-risk so that put the kibosh on that. And fostering and adopting were very expensive and difficult and I didn’t have the financial wherewithal for that. So I had to nurse this pain alone and I’ve dealt with it in private ever since.

I think us Gen X women knew the shit our mothers were told that they could have it all was a lie. But I think we wanted to believe we could have the good job and the family and somehow balance it all out. In reality, I think you juggle as best as you can and learn to let go of things that you can afford to have fall and bounce.

In my thirties, I got the best-paying job of my working career without a college degree but left after five and a half years. About a year and a half before I quit that job, my dad had his stroke and if it hadn’t been for a manager who really cared about me, I would have lost that job then. I told myself not to make any decisions for a while but a little over a year later there was talk of a reorganization. That didn’t feel right to me and in a decision I didn’t talk about with anyone, I decided to quit that job with nothing else to go to. Looking back, I’m glad I did it because I later learned the reorganization did not go well.

I ended my thirties on what I thought was a pretty good note- a little apartment, paid-off car, and still piddling around on the writing. But little did I know then that when I began to realize I wasn’t such a fuck-up like I’d believed for so long my life would change in the way it has been over the last few years. I had no idea I was about to start breaking my silence once and for all.

The Rest of the Way, Part Four: Putting On Grown-Up Clothes

Recently I’ve begun to tell myself something that helps to quell some lingering anxiety and it’s this:

If someone has a problem with me, they can put on their grown-up clothes and come talk to me about it.

One of the things my anxiety does to me is get me thinking people are wanting to land on me but holding back waiting for the right moment. In reality, I’m over-thinking crap I shouldn’t be and that unless someone is madly in love with me or obsessed with me, they’re not going to think about me very much.

Now the roots of this date back to my time in call-center Hell. There I was mostly ignored until I did something wrong or when some customer decided to grind an axe on my back and give me a low rating. Then it was off the races and I felt like I was always looking over my shoulder. But that rat-race in my mind ended six years ago after being told I should have known better when I made a simple mistake that anyone could have made when I realized this about people in general and myself:

Everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but I’m not a bad person either.

What this means is that no one has all the answers all the time even if they act they do or say they do. I used to think if I made a mistake that it made me the worst person in the world and it wiped all the good things I’d ever done. I thought if I could beat the crap out of myself first then no one else would do that to me. In reality, if someone mouthed off at me five minutes after they were done, they’d forgotten what they’d said to me in the first place.

I know I’ve been talking about a lot of negative shit here these past few days but this has been a large part of the work I’ve been doing on myself over the last few years. As an anxious over-thinker, I internalized way too much bullshit like this and have been working to extricate it from my psyche ever since. And one big thought is that I don’t need to sit around and clench my hands in nervous anticipation thinking someone is gearing up to make my life miserable. If someone is hesitating to come to me with some problem, that’s on them.

Now I’m not good at dealing with people or coming at them with something. And I’m absolutely terrible at asking for help. But I hope to overcome this to some small degree someday. But at the same time, if someone does have a problem with something I’m doing, they can come and talk to me about it. I have vowed to own my shit and blame no one else for my mistakes. All I want is to be given an opportunity to know what I did wrong and to fix it as much as possible.

Yesterday I talked about misdirected anger and one way this manifests is by passive-aggressive behavior. This is when someone hints at something then gets mad at you when you don’t put the rest of the pieces together even though you don’t have all the information you need. People who do this are freaking idiots at best and assholes at worst, including myself. With me, it was a fear of putting what I needed to on the table and getting blasted for it. This goes back to not being good at asking for help or stating what I want or need very well.

So I’m working on putting on my grown-up clothes (nothing stained or torn as my mother would advise me to wear) and doing my best to state my needs or ask the questions I need to. In turn, I’m also telling myself when I get anxious about someone lying in wait to land on me (when they’re definitely not doing that) is to tell myself that if someone does have a problem with me, they can put on their clean grown-up clothes and come talk to me about that. I’ll listen and take ownership of any mistakes I make.

But under no circumstances is it justified to make people think they have to be mind-readers when telepathy is still confined to the realm of science-fiction. And if someone does come right out and tell you what they want, need, or give you the information you need, don’t blast them for it. This ties back to yesterday’s piece of advice not to make someone your personal ass-cream. Clean clothes and all the words needed will do just fine. Or as my dad would say, “Grow the fuck up.”