Saturday, December 30, 2023

better places

One of the funny things about being relatively early to the blogosphere (to give you a sense of how early, I started this blog and BrokeAss Gourmet in 2008, and still use words like "blogosphere") is that my blogs serve, to me anyway, as sort of a public record of what was going on with me--food-wise, of course, but also creatively and emotionally, whenever I dare to scroll backward. 

In general, I have avoided doing this, mostly because I find it hard not to cringe when I read my old work, whether it's an old blog post, an actual edited, published book, or one of those obnoxious Facebook "memories"--an emo song lyric, a thinly-veiled yet vague reference to whatever incredibly specific drama I found myself embroiled in and/or caused, or a joke I thought was hysterically funny fifteen years ago, but which absolutely did not stand the test of time. It's so tempting to look away, to shut my laptop, to pretend I never was the person who had those silly thoughts, who wrote that deeply imperfect thing, who thought it was a good idea to share it with the world. 

Lately though, I've found that, as I've aged, branched out to work on other things, settled fully into nearly a decade of marriage, birthed and raised children, etc., some of my memories of those early days have begun to fade together into one big, soft bundle of post-college-early-adulthood mush. Suddenly, I find myself eager to conjure them, in all their clunky, awkward, sad, or embarrassing glory. As my identity coalesces into this newly mid-life, wife/mom, fine-lines-and-wrinkles version of itself, love it though I do, I don't want all the previous ones to end up on the cutting room floor. I don't want to be the same person I was when I was nineteen, or twenty-four, or twenty-nine, but I don't want her to be entirely lost to time, either.

One thing about having kids is that you become increasingly aware that, while many of the people around you might know who you are, fewer and fewer people know who you actually are, and in the process, you start to forget too. You are Mom. You are Mommy. You are so-and-so's mom. Your children find out you have a first name other than what they call you and they think it's absolutely hysterical and maybe a little bit upsetting, which is how it sometimes feels when you remember the time before they existed, when you were someone else.

Another thing about having kids, is that, while your children are absolutely their own unique and wonderful selves, there's no escaping the fact that, probably, they'll inherit at least a few of your own traits. And sometimes, if you're lucky, one of those traits will be something you've never liked about yourself. Something you tried desperately to hide from the world when you were young, or maybe even after you grew up. Maybe even now. But in your own beautiful, perfect, amazing kid, that terrible, awful thing suddenly doesn't seem so terrible or awful. In your child, not only do you accept it as part of who he or she is, you actually love it about them. You see how it fits into the whole picture of who they are--maybe even how it makes them better, and you're grateful for it, because you wouldn't want them to be any other way, and suddenly, you wonder why you were so committed to hating those things in yourself.

For years I've been hearing that, as you get older, you stop giving so many fucks. Like, the morning you turn forty, you're reborn as fearless, headstrong and unconcerned with what anyone thinks about you, but I think that, for me at least, it's a bit more subtle. It's not that you stop caring what anyone thinks, it's that, you officially realize that time is not slowing down, and you might as well learn to like yourself, because what point is there in living any other way? This annoys your inner critic and makes it harder for outer ones to hurt you, which makes it seem like you care less, but actually, it's that you care a lot more. You don't lose the fucks, you just reallocate them to better places.

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