As I approach the big “three-oh” this year, I can’t help but wonder how I’ve matured in my twenties, and where life is about to take me in my thirties.
Turning 30 is a big life step, and commonly synonymous with becoming more of an adult. Adulting to the next level.
And much like many women my age, I find myself slowly turning into my mother. Oof.
I catch it in glimpses in the mirror. In conversations with colleagues and friends. In my reactions to the world around me. Every day, I am becoming more and more like her.
Throughout my childhood, while there were certainly lovely and goofy moments with her, I mostly remember a mom who was too tired to have fun. A mom who didn’t have time or energy to play outside because she was busy working full time, supporting us as a single mother, and constantly doing laundry. I remember wishing I had a stay-at-home mom who had time for arts and crafts and made me ants on a log for an afternoon snack.
Once a teenager, I noticed all the ways in which we were different. How contrasting our personalities were, leading to many inevitable disagreements. I remember going after straight A’s and working extremely hard in school, only for her to tell me once that she would still love me even if I got straight C’s. How could she not push me harder? How could she not want me to succeed?
In college, I would tell her that I wanted to study abroad. To go to Southeast Asia on a 5 country excursion over 30 days. I had never left the country before. Had never lived outside of the suburbs. Never traveled without a parent present. She didn’t even consider the culture shock, responsibility, and heavy experiences that would be thrust upon me while on the trip.
She simply let me go. Helped me go. She herself had never left the country, how could she be so reckless and encourage me to?
Now at the end of my twenties, I’m yearning for more outside of my profession, and am exploring every opportunity I can when I’m not at work. I’ve taken up hobbies and activities and have work life balance. And honestly, I have a very “gray” plan for my future. No more living in black and white. I laid this all out for her recently.
Her reflex reaction?
And yet, despite our differences, I fear I am becoming my mother in so many ways.
Turning into my mother means creating to do lists for fun. Turning into my mother means having mild anxiety in social situations. It means calling bad drivers a “Bozo” while the windows are still rolled up in the car. It means making groan-worthy puns until people ask me to stop. It means being the “mom” in my friend group and making sure everyone gets home okay. It means saving gift bags. Soaking pots in vinegar. Taking vitamins. And getting indigestion from too much garlic.
It has gotten to the point where family friends I haven’t seen in ages cannot quit remarking how alike we are when bumping into me at a backyard barbecue.
“It is uncanny” and “like talking to her from years ago” are frequently uttered.
Boyfriends I’ve taken home to “meet the folks” are blindsided as they meet her, and claim they finally understand why I am the way I am. Bad puns and all.
But how did this happen? What was the tipping point?
When did I start acting like her so much?
When did I start turning into my mother?
Could it have been when I decided to take the commuter train to the city of Chicago for my first big girl job after college? The way she trekked downtown in her twenties to start her career after business school?
Maybe it happened when I realized I was empathic? When I noticed I was turned up to 11 on the metaphorical empathy amp, and could feel the way others felt and take them on as my own feelings. Making me both vulnerable and strong at the same time. A super power we share.
Was it the breakups with some people who were all wrong for me? Realizing I was just as great, if not better on my own, as an independent woman? Much like how she took care of us as a newly single parent, and adapted to her new normal like a freaking pro.
Or perhaps it was it when I shifted my focus to my mental health? The way that she got “healthy” for us. Cutting out toxic people from my life, developing boundaries and standing up for myself – using my voice for the first time. Shifting my yearly birthday candle wish to “I just want to be happy!” and focusing on self care and love in the universe. Just like her.
I think it might have been when I realized how humor saves lives. While cynicism and sarcasm are closely related, it takes strength to keep laughing. To laugh and sing and giggle and dance in the face of adversity. To smile in the moonlight during dark times.
And to this day, she is the person who can both make me laugh the hardest, and who falls to the floor cracking up at my insane jokes. Silliness embodied.
I can’t imagine how she did it. I’m just so grateful that she did.
Approaching 30, with her closer to 60, I’m only half the woman she is now. Quite literally.
I have no clue what the next 30 years have in store for me and my journey, but I can only hope I turn out exactly like her.
I’m turning into my mother, and I am 100% okay with that.