Standing in line at airline security this morning, I met a young guy wearing a backpack. Apparently eager for conversation, he asked where I was headed. I told him New York and he said he was headed to San Diego. On a one-way ticket. Never coming back.
Me: “Do it now, while you’re young. Life gets more complicated as you get older.”
Him: “Yeah, I decided it was time. 40 is sneaking up on me.”
He looked about 20-something, I wasn’t sure.
Me: “Make these moves while you can. Once you have responsibilities, like a family, it will only get harder to make any major changes.”
Him: “I actually have a child.”
Him: “Back in New York. I had him when I was 19. His mom and I broke up while she was pregnant. He’s 8 now. We were too young. I wasn’t ready. But he’s a great kid and it’s going to be hard to live away from him.”
I had to digest this for a moment. I’m not the kind of mom who could ever just pick up and leave my kids. He told me about his future visitation rights. He’ll have 30 days with him, twice a year, and later after he’s settled, he’ll return to court to gain more access to his son.
Me: “It won’t be easy, but the time you’ll have with him will be precious. Enjoy every minute, they grow up fast. My daughter lost a tooth last night. My son graduated from cub scouts. I wasn’t there either.”
Him: “Sounds like you have a lot on your plate.”
Me: “Do you surf?”
Him: “Not yet, but I plan on learning.”
I was in Los Angeles last week and as I drove around the City of Angels, I wondered about a road not taken. When I was around 26 or 27, I was offered a job at a film studio out there. I didn’t take it. I felt too attached to NYC, and I wasn’t ready to leave. At the time, my sister lived out there, as did my closest friend from my youth but there was nothing as glamorous as NYC. Last week, the city looked particularly beautiful. I was staying in Santa Monica. Our first day was spent walking along the beach in Santa Monica. I gazed at the palm trees and open space as I drove around town. I relished every meal of kale and quinoa and wondered what my life would have been like had I taken that job all those years ago and was now living in a L.A. bungalow, producing independent films.
But I have responsibilities now and I take them very seriously.
I am not judging this young guy, but I after being a way from my family for the last several weeks for several days at a time, I realize how important my time is with them.
A few weeks ago my daughter fractured a finger and I was there to take her to the doctor (s) and deal with her injury. We stayed home together for a few days while she recovered. A week later my son broke a front tooth (adult, of course) and I was there to take him to the dentist to have his tooth repaired. It was stressful for us both. But I was there.
I have been there for everything and I always will. My husband is the same way. He’s an incredible partner who puts them first. Last week while I was traveling he had an important work function and my daughter had a concert at school. He put her first and made it home in time for the concert.
I should have told this young guy that 40 isn’t the end of time. That life can also begin, or continue, after you hit that age. But I didn’t.
I still haven’t figured it all out at age 43. I’m not necessarily proud of that. But it’s okay.
Hopefully he’ll figure it out himself.