Jealous of Their Sureness

My parents have many pictures from their life before me. They’re in their twenties, slender and tan, sitting around campsite picnic tables in the Adirondacks or sunbathing on a slab of concrete behind their apartment. Miller Lites are usually in hand. They were singular beings before they were parents.

Looking at these pictures as a kid, I saw their transition into parents as completely natural. In the future I, too, would be something different.

I’ve always wanted to grow up. You’ve got an old soul, people told me. I was excited to have life laid out before me: college, career, marriage, children. Adulthood.

I thought the person I would become was inevitable.

   I’d wear cooler clothes and bright, funky shoes. I’d be a full-time writer working on my third or fourth novel. I’d be married, a mother.

The older I got the more comfortable I became, no longer awkward in my youthful skin. Thinking of the future kept me diligent. I was thrilled to pay my own bills, buy my own furniture, wear the white dress, become the adult.

But lately, I’ve felt stuck. Everyone around me is moving forward while I am standing very still.

I’m still renting a home, rather than owning one. Still at the same company, no new fancy job title. Still lurking outside the creative career I want. Still struggling with the idea of motherhood. Still dreaming and debating about how I want my life to look.

A few years ago, I moved home. Unsure about my trajectory, I needed to touch base with my roots. A strange step backward in the hopes that it would propel me forward.

Living in my hometown, my childhood dreams and desires haunt me daily. When I run past the lighthouse and my elementary school, I’m choked by past dreams. I imagined visiting this tiny town as an adult: I’d relish seeing the historic sites, savor smelling the salt air and feeling the humidity stick to my skin. It would be temporary. I’d be visiting from a big city, one where I lived in an airy, sun-filled loft. I’d wear cooler clothes and bright, funky shoes. I’d be a full-time writer working on my third or fourth novel. I’d be married, a mother.

I thought moving back home would resolve my indecision. But as I continue to run, no matter where my feet land, I’m still here. For the first time in my life things aren’t happening in planned succession; the next thing doesn’t feel proximate. As a child I hurried into being a grown-up. Now I feel less like the adult I’ve always been and more like the child I never was.

   I’m jealous of my friends. Jealous of their sureness, their decision to invest in a new life. A life that in many ways will put an end to the one we’ve had together.

Recently two of my closest friends were pregnant at the same time. I remember both announcement phone calls vividly. They were ecstatic to share the news, and I could feel their happiness penetrate the phone line. I cried with them in genuine happiness. Their excitement could only be reverberated.

For many months before those phone calls, we had discussed their worries about conceiving, how much harder it was, and how tracking ovulation had taken the sexy out of sex. I’d even sent a fertility bracelet to one, hoping it might bring her some solace, a reminder that there were others wishing for conception alongside her.

But in my quiet moments away from them, I was struck with panic. How could these kindred women be so far ahead of me? I wasn’t planning a pregnancy, just nursing hangover headaches, staying up too late, and admitting that babysitting can be boring. As a child, I always thought I wanted children. “Four, maybe five,” I would casually shrug as a teenager. As an adult, four, maybe five children is absolutely terrifying.

I’m jealous of my friends. Jealous of their sureness, their decision to invest in a new life. A life that in many ways will put an end to the one we’ve had together.

Their big forward movements make me question what I’m doing. Things I planned to tackle later are happening all around me. I’m not sure I want the same things I used to. The indecision feels like a hint. Maybe I’m not the same person anymore. Maybe I no longer want that life.

Or am I just scared to admit that I do? At what point is giving in to something that scares you freedom?

Everyone I love is so encouraging, as if they’ve read my life’s road map and know its course better than I do. “You’re never really ready,” one will say. “There’s so much time! You don’t have to decide now.” It’s all going to be okay. And yet, there are so many days I want to retreat from this life that is forcefully propelling me forward. I know I can’t keep running backwards.

A photo of the author's parents and their friends before she was born

I also don’t want to let anyone down. My mother once told me with a smirk, “You know you can have children before you get married.” She’d reminded me and my brother how excited she was to become a grandmother. I have friends, too, who talk about sharing pregnancy and the passage into motherhood together. “Imagine how much fun it will be! Our babies will be besties!”

It used to bring me relief to think of the journey in tandem. Now it feels like a staggering responsibility. I have to provide grandchildren and best friends to unborn children.

   Will mine be the name someone can’t remember?

The people in my parents’ old photos are same people in their lives now, friends and de-facto family members I’ve known all my life. But there’s also a man in the pictures I’ve never met; he’s got a dark-haired ‘fro and a large mustache—he’s usually wearing a pair of tiny running shorts. I always forget his name and have to ask, “Who is this again?”

“He’s someone we lost touch with,” my mom will say. “He fell out of the loop.”

When I dig a little deeper, and asked pointedly why he didn’t become part of our lasting friend family, my mother hesitated and then shrugged.

“Well, he wasn’t married, never had kids. We all tried to stay close, but, you know, life changed.”

I think often about this stranger. His choice to remain childless might not have been the sole cause he’s no longer close to my parents, but it had to have some impact. I’m scared that not moving at the same pace and not making the same decisions will cause some of my relationships to crumble.

Will mine be the name someone can’t remember?

For the first time in my life, I’m questioning the why of my decisions. More importantly, perhaps, I’m asking what the answer to my questions might look like if I solely consider my own wants.

Can I build a life where I’m not doing what’s supposed to come next?


Photos by Oscar Keys via Unsplash and courtesy of the author




  1. I can relate to this SO much. This is something that isn’t addressed a whole lot, in real life and through the lens of social media. There is so much ambiguity in my life. I’m in my early 30s, and all around me, my friends are getting married, having babies, and making enough money to be comfortable in the Bay Area, while I still live with my mom. My current job is something I have zero passion for, yet, I still don’t know what I want to do. I know I know I know that everyone moves at their own pace, but it’s taking too long! But through therapy and me slowly learning to accept my imperfections, I see that I am living my best life, it just doesn’t look like everyone else’s best life.

  2. When I read your essays I am in awe at how you are able to look at and write about your life with such openness and honesty. Thank you for your your brave and beautiful words.

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