"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Those Were the Best Days of My Life?

New Year's Day chez nous
Welcome to 2012! Gil and I spent a quiet New Year's Eve watching hockey by ourselves. My husband has been struggling with a flare up of tendonitis in his ankle, so on New Year's Day we just went to church and spent the afternoon at home, him reading and me tackling the Globe and Mail's massive holiday crossword puzzle. At some point, a song came on the radio that brought back a ton of memories and made me think about how many changes I've gone through in the last ten years or so, and that was the inspiration for this post.

It was August, 2001, and I was at a friend's cottage for a last few days together before I was to leave for a study-abroad year in Germany. We decided to break out her family's 8-track tape player and had a mini dance party to the Bryan Adams song “Summer of '69”. I was having a great time until I was suddenly struck by a sudden sense of gravity. I turned to my friends and said, “Wait a minute. What if these ARE the best days of my life, and it's all downhill from here?”

It seems a bit silly in hindsight, but in those days, I was often concerned about missing opportunities. Popular culture screamed that life is only fun when you're young, so you ought to be partying hard to enjoy every minute of it. When I was in my last year of high school, a slightly older acquaintance warned me that everything was downhill after EIGHTEEN. (Seriously? I think even my worst times as an adult have been better than the awkwardness and self-doubt of the early teenage years.) In university, I felt almost a sense of obligation to be having a wild time, even while I was also stressed about good grades, finances, and the other issues you juggle as an emerging adult. In addition to all the other pressures, how was I to ensure that I made the most of the “best days of my life”?

Those words would come back to me again and again while I was abroad, in part due to the immense popularity that Bryan Adams enjoyed in Germany at that time. “Summer of '69” was frequently played when we would go out dancing. At the end of the year, when my friends and I made up our own yearbook to commemorate our time together, I listed it as my “song to sum up the year,” noting that 2001-02 had really been the “best days of my life”. Of course, the unanswered question still remained: If these are the best days, is the best that the future can hold still second rate?

The change from singleness from married life has in some ways been part of a bigger transition that has been going on in my life since my mid-twenties. I don't know whether to call it a move to adulthood or domesticity, or something else, but basically I have been less and less tempted to go OUT to seek fun (not just partying, but whirlwind trips, concerts, frequent dinner outings, etc.), and more satisfied with the simpler pleasures of home, or the homes of good friends. Part of that came with permanent employment, as well as the realization that going out in Ottawa costs a whole lot more than the student scene in Kingston. Another part of this transition was being more satisfied with who I am: When I was 19 and 20, a lot of going out revolved around having the stories to tell afterward. (“Crazy time last night! I can't believe what Y was doing!”) You just had to be there... otherwise you were missing out, and I was never sure that I would fit in if I wasn't there for all those experiences.* Today, I worry less about these things because I am more confident in myself and my friendships.

All the same, I was still very busy in my pre-married life. Maybe I wasn't going out to parties all the time, but there was Bible study, youth group, soccer, coffee with so-and-so, etc., etc. Marriage has slowed me down a lot, partly because I'm in a new city without all the church commitments, but also because my husband is more of a homebody and we find joy in just being together. And yet, what my 20-year-old self didn't understand was that this life is not really better or worse, but just good in a different way. Part of maturing in life (and in faith) is understanding that great truth that there is a time for every season. Even when I look back at the hardest times, the ones that would never be counted among “the best”, I can be thankful for what God taught me and how I grew. Even though I know that this stage quiet of domesticity that we are now in will not last, I trust that the next stage, and the ones after that, will also bring their own joys. My hope is that when I look back at my life, I will never be able to choose the “best” because I will have enjoyed them all for what they gave.

* I don't mean to imply that my friends somehow made me feel this way. My own issues were to blame.

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