September 17, 2010

Three Weeks to Thirty

I turn 30 this October 8th. And I have no idea how to think about that.

As a teenager I so very much looked forward to this milestone birthday. In my mind, a thirty-year-old was so many things: a woman, an adult, a married person, potentially a mother and someone who is fulfilled. It was the stereotypical idea of "having it all."

It wasn't until after college that, looking at the wayward direction of my life, that milestone started to look a little less attractive. And by the time I was 26, I developed a full-on dread of the upcoming bday.

Becoming a Christian staid that fear, which was a very welcome change of mind. But a few challenging years went by and the "newness" of that renewal sort of wore off. [Which is probably a sign that my initial conversion, wasn't (or at least that it wasn't regenerative).] Moving four times, holding several different jobs and not having much time to make friends along the way didn't help matters. Presently, being isolated in Madison with no friends or family for 100 miles plus, isn't helping to assuage my worry about not knowing who I am.

I started writing the post below several months ago, I think before I knew I was pregnant. I went back and finished it today. It's just a jumble of thoughts about identity; who we think we are, should be, and/or how to understand when those expectations don't materialize on time. Let me know what you think in the comments. If you're willing, think back to the eve of your own 30th birthday (or even before that) and who you wanted to be. What would you tell the younger you about her worries?


After watching "Julie/Julia" last night, I feel even more convinced that I don't know who I am.

To tell you the truth I didn't care much for the movie. Maybe that's because I thought I would LOVE it and I only liked it. I found the scenes with Julie boring and her cloying. I know I'm supposed to identify with her but I just didn't. Funny, because I'm sure I fit the exact profile they were aiming at - almost thirty, a rag-tag existence, no goals, a half-written career in authorship. Of course my "foodie by night" self really wanted to identify with her, and share in the joy of cooking. But it's hard to look at a semi-fictitious life (the movie is based on a real person's story) which bears so much resemblance to one's own, to see its success and not recognize the obvious: my life is nothing like this.

This has happened to me before. There are a few movies in which I have seen similarity between the main character and myself so much that I almost lost it. Here are the movies, the character and the reasons why I identify.

* Lost in Translation - Charlotte

She's a recent philosophy B.A. grad (I have a Phil. BA also) who moves to Tokyo with her husband of two years while he pursues a dream of photography. But she just can't hang with the sensorally-overloaded Japanese culture, doesn't speak the language and doesn't have any goals. She meets a middle-aged man who is semi-famous (or once was), he befriends her and pays her a lot of attention. She feels mature in his presence, and they share intimate conversation about being married and being confused by it and life in general. It's nothing gross; the most sordid thing that happens is he kisses her on the cheek goodbye. He whispers some advice in her ear and she cries, but she ends up pretty much where she started, lost.

* Lost - Kate

Kate is a criminal in her past, yet has found a way to rationalize it to herself. She leaves family, towns, jobs and men with a sort of unequivocal ease of mind. She's torn about it, but not too much. At least not enough to stop behaving in her own self-interest while ignoring everyone else. She's even kidnapped a child and pretended it's hers. Kate loves Patsy Cline in an ironic way; she imagines that she (Kate) is the one being left behind. We know different.

* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Clementine

This grown-up girl seems to love her gyspy-like existence, flitting from haircolor to haircolor (or job to job) with wild abandon. She lives in the moment. She's a dreamer. But does she have any real thoughts, or are they just vapid, semi-sarcastic observations about a world she really doesn't understand?

Clem meets Joel, a depressed and needy man who needs to be drawn out of his shell but is satisfied to live vicariously through someone else who has no shell. That, predictably, is Clementine, who shows him an amazing, exciting world... with no real substance. After a year or so they realize they have nothing to talk about, and both end up erasing each other from their memories. Joel, however, decides mid-procedure that he wants to remember her. When asked later, Clementine simply explains erasing him with the comment that she's "impulsive," as if that is an excuse for being heartless.

* Fight Club - Marla

Truly a piece of post-modern work, Marla is simply trying to destroy herself one element at a time. In her effort to feign illness - not to get attention, because she actually wishes she was terminally ill, and this is an important distinction - she meets Jack, a man who joined groups just so people would listen to his ideas.

Unfortunately for Marla, she's dim-witted and only knows how to attract bad men. Jack is one of those, though at times he can be quite deceiving! He is appropriately clever and charming, and smart enough to coordinate and train a worldwide group of terrorist cells. He is, to put it mildly, pretty self-deceived. Marla likes the most deceived part of him who, eventually, wins over the mastermind but destroys the greater portion of a major city in the process. Marla, however, does seem hopeful that this could be the re-beginning of their relationship.

P.S. I'm sorry if I just ruined the ending of "Fight Club" for you. However, the movie has been out for ten years and if you were going to see it, you probably would have by now. No loss to you if you haven't, in my opinion. Chuck Palahniuk stories are pretty course.

I don't have a clever wrap-up to this post. I'm closer now to my 30th than when I began writing this, and in the meantime have discovered another blogger who was going through a similar identity crisis and started her blog, "New Dress a Day," after being inspired by "Julie and Julia" to quit bitching and do something new. Which, predictably, made me feel like my own concerns were contrived (since someone else used the same pop culture referent to spark a renewal). Darn it, I'm not even original in the sources of my concerns!

Perhaps the problem is that I have found similarities in pop culture referents at all; as a Christian I should be seeing myself how Christ sees me, no? I gotta tell you, that is a lovely platitude but often statements like that fall flat in the face of daily challenges to how one sees herself. Not to mention the internal dialogue; I don't think one can honestly say that what you think about yourself doesn't matter at all. I admire people who say they "die daily," but I confess I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

Throw into this whole mix the fact I am having a baby right around my 30th birthday. Talk about complicating the issue! In some ways, that fact validates my previous feelings about "who I should be" by this age and, in others, it completely obliterates them. It's a classic paradigm of asking for something, then getting it and realizing the circumstances of the gift are not ideal (meaning, not what you were asking for). So, you're essentially just as surprised as you would've been getting something completely different than your request. Back to square one...

Not to get too epistemological here or anything but.. a huge part of my current self-confusion stems from not knowing how to think about what I think. Which are valid concerns and which are the product of a sinful nature? And, even if they are the product of sin, shouldn't they still be considered, in order to understand how I relate to Christ?

Here's what I've come up with so far in my thinking:

1. I am someone else in Christ, specifically someone new.
2. I should listen to/read as much as I can about Christ so I understand who He is.
3. I should try my hardest, despite internal objections, to remain hopeful that, some day, I will know "who I am."

I may come back to this topic over the next couple weeks, after the baby is born, and maybe also in a year or so. I am not advocating a "m.o.s." ("moral of the story") or "do something" attitude about this either. If one gains nothing else from learning Reformed theology, one should at least know that one cannot do anything for God; that He has done it all for us. That's the purpose of His work!

1 comment:

Victoria said...

Thanks, Julee!

Oh, and if anyone has a longer-than-comment size response, you can e-mail me too!


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