“Are we (screw) ups?” Right away in the movie Away We Go, Virginia asks this of her boyfriend, Burt, while they’re sitting in a shack of a house. She’s anticipating their first child and feels the raw emotions that come with stepping into it.
“What do you mean?” he asks?
“I mean, we’re 34 and we don’t even have the basic stuff figured out.”
“We’re not (screw) ups.”
“We have a cardboard window.”
Is there anyone who hasn’t felt this way at one point or another, cardboard window or not? I remember standing in the bathroom at 20 with a positive home pregnancy test in my hand, tears running down my face, telling my husband, “I’m not ready to be a mother.” Or during “kindergarten round up”, when they said my daughter needed glasses and I believed only a clueless parent wouldn’t have noticed that first. I remember challenges in our marriage, decisions about jobs, college, where to live…let’s get real…at pretty much every fork in the road and even in between the worry about whether we’re doing this “right” can haunt us.
In Away We Go, Virginia and Burt take a cross-country trip and see several relationships and parenting styles and slowly realize the truth. Everyone is a screw up. There is no perfect way, choice, guaranteed recipe. Someone recently asked me if I was glad I had my two children close in age. She was wrestling with how long to wait before getting pregnant with her second child. Another person, who was considering pregnancy mid-life, recently commented that we must be glad we were such young parents because we are now young empty nesters. I’ve answered questions about how long I stayed at home with my children before working. And others about whether I believe in soul mates.
People everywhere second-guess themselves and their decisions, compare themselves to others and wonder how “they figured it out.” It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 40. I talked in a previous blog about how I’m changing the scripts in my head. Scripts that say the goal of this game of life is to reach a certain age with a big retirement account and a house large enough that the children and grandchildren will come over all at once. Enough stuff saved from our past that we can pull things out from time to time and gift it to our heirs. A passport stamped from exotic countries and a library of photo albums. I struggle regularly with the rewriting of these scripts. Not because I wonder if I should…just because they’re so ingrained. For now, I’m letting go of the script that says we’re screw ups for not following traditional paths of measured risk and planned futures. And I’m working on the new scripts that say, like Burt and Virginia realized, there’s only so much we really can control. And the best we can do is relax, love, and enjoy life.