I think I can pinpoint the moment the madness began. It was about six or seven years ago in my mother’s family room, and I was watching an episode of Ally McBeal. It was the episode where Ally was freaking out because she was turning thirty and she was really upset because she felt like she hadn’t accomplished a lot of the goals she had set for herself at that age.
Correction – and Elucidation
The turning point really happened not long after I turned twenty-one. Yes, the aforementioned episode came along later and pushed me a little bit, making me want to work harder for my own goals, but they were there long before the episode aired. I decided, at the ripe age of twenty-one, that I was definitely going to be married with a child or two before I turned thirty. I wasn’t sure how I was going to meet the ‘right person’ in the the designated time period but I knew that it had to happen, or else. Or else… what? The consequences, I decided, would be unthinkable.
Here we are, nearly nine years after I made this earth-shaking decision, and my feelings are mostly the same on the matter. The only difference is that I am aware that if I would want to have a couple of children and be married before I turn thirty, I would pretty much have to get married and adopt a couple of children within the next 17 or so days.
Not at all realistic, and not even what I am going to try to do at this point – it wouldn’t exactly be a marriage with odds of success, given how it started. Who would want to be involved in that kind of marriage, anyhow? Certainly not me. Even being able to say that I actually made it and succeeded at what I set out to do would not be worth the inevitable long term failure of the marriage, not to mention the children resenting the fact that they were adopted just to meet a deadline. I would bet Father’s Day would not be a day to look forward to.
Thirty : Big Deal
That’s what the majority of my friends told me, anyhow. Why was I making such a big deal of this? So what if I turned thirty and didn’t meet my imaginary deadline for my ridiculous goals? Why did I care so much that I absolutely had to have children and be married by the age of thirty?
I suppose some of it must have something to do with my role models growing up. I knew that my parents had gotten married and my mother was under thirty when she had me, her second (and last) child. My father had just turned thirty. My grandmother on my father’s side, on the other hand, did not my father until well after she was thirty but that had more to do with a rising power in Eastern Europe and an angry man with a mustache she correctly suspected would be causing a lot of damage before he would be put down. She told me that she wanted to wait until things definitely calmed down to have any children. That, I think, was pretty wise on her part.
Then there was the article I read one day – I’m not sure where I found the article but it was in a major news magazine my parents subscribed to at the time. The article was all about Chasidic Jews in New York and described various aspects of their lifestyle. The one thing that stuck out to me, of course, was how it mentioned that the majority of them were married and had children by the age of 25. That really struck a chord with me because it was something that I was aspiring to, and yet I didn’t want to suddenly live my life as a Chasidic Jew, living in New York.
I think at the time my mother told me that I shouldn’t be so desperate to get married and the general message from my parents was that it was better to settle down, get a good education followed by a steady job, and only then should I consider the marriage thing. A few years later, after my engagement ended and I moved back from Australia and was living in a basement in Highland Park, my father repeated that message to me. I guess it must have stuck a little more with me then because I am a couple of weeks from thirty and am not married and am, as far as I know, without children.
Better Goals? No Goals?
There’s a classic episode of the television show Friends where everyone reflects on what it was like to turn thirty. The best part, I thought, was a little after the character of Phoebe crossed the finish line of a long distance race she had decided she had to win before she turned thirty. The tricky part of the race was that she had to ride on one of those large balls with a handle.
She declared that she had finished everything she had wanted to do on her list of things to do before turning thirty. When she told her not-so-friendly twin sister this information she was informed that they were, in fact, about to turn thirty-one. Perhaps my goals are much like racing myself on a large ball with a handle on it – only really significant to me. I mean, does it really matter to anyone else in this world if I turn thirty and haven’t had children? Maybe a couple of rabbis I know, but they are apparently in the minority in this issue with me.
Naturally, for me it seems that not having any goals makes life feel rather pointless. I won’t go as far as to say I’m just going to remove all goals regarding getting married and having children. Perhaps, however, I should make the goals a little bit more flexible, more accomodating and ready to change if necessary. Otherwise I will be just left with shattered dreams at the end of the day.