Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is age appropriate?

I just went out for a girls' night with my old college roommate. We had a blast. We usually see each other once a year, are Facebook friends, and keep up by phone a few times a year. We were quite the party girls in college and she hasn't stopped. I've never known anyone quite like her - she bar hops all the time, throws parties, goes to parties, travels with friends, and carries on like a 20-something. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I chalk it up to my friend just being who she is and don't rate myself in comparison. But I have to wonder if that lifestyle isn't why she has had many more relationships and dates than I have even thought of! She has a child who is in college, but her kid's age never slowed my friend down. This is not an empty nester going wild (ooh - cool video series idea!), but someone who has been fun-loving and energetic her entire life.

Though I don't live my life in the fast lane like her, we are very much alike. We both believe in doing what we want to do, and living life to the fullest - in whatever manner we want. She parties and socializes. I work on causes and politics. Her style enables her to engage with people constantly, and she is now in marketing - seems reasonable. My style enables me to be somewhat isolated but engaged in meaningful activites. This suits my career choice. However, it does not do much for my social life.

So as I rode the train home this morning (no propositions on this trip, thank gawd), I thought about how my life needs to change again. I am in a career that is considered solitary in style. It takes up all my time (and most days I don't work enough). So if I stay with this career, as I have been doing for the last 20 years, I can't expect to be engaged with a big social whirl. I am very good at what I do, but increasingly dissatisfied with it as a personal choice. It has it's frustrations, as most careers do, but these are really bothering me these days. I have so much ambition and drive, interest in the subject matter that I take on daily, but am constrained by the conservative environment of a large organizational structure in which I work.

I'm thinking of breaking out - but feel completely hemmed in by my benefits - retirement contribution, health benefits, steady income. In this economy I can't give that up because I chaffe at my frustrations, can I? Yes, I could, but what really hit me was that I would be putting myself in a vulnerable position without retirement and health insurance. At my age - doesn't that sound awful! - but it is true. At my age I need a safety net. I don't have any inheritance coming and no husband to catch me. I am frightened that I am so frightened! I want to be that carefree college girl who was ready to take on anything and had plenty of time. Now I don't feel like time is on my side. There is an air of practicality that fills my space and I don't like it. What's next? Will I take up with whoever I can find so I have a safety net? Will I become compliant and milquetoast to ensure I keep my job and not rock the boat? These behaviors would require a personality transplant on my part! I'll keep thinking on it. Tough choices - but that's what I like - a challenge!!

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