I remember my mom at 45. Frosted hair. Aviator glasses. Matching polyester 1970s pant suits. Carpools, Bowling on Wednesdays. Mah Johnng on Monday nights and Thursday afternoons. Tennis thrown in there somewhere at Tennis Time in Amityville. 45 was solidly middle aged. Boring, conservative, stuck, I imagined her life had always been like that and would always stay the same. Repetitive, endlessly doing everything for everyone else and having nothing of her own (except for the aforementioned hobbies). I was often so incredibly angry at her for not having a life of her own, not ever using her intellect or her education to create a life of her own. To be honest, I was a hormonal teenager—most have profound issues with their moms. And I'm not sure who I was comparing her unfavorably to. In most of the families we knew, the dads went off to work and the moms stayed home. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I knew, on some level, without understanding it, that my mom battled deep depression and disappointment, but was never willing to do anything about it.
She gave up her dream of going to medical school so that my dad could attend. She worked as an assistant to a professor to pay my father's tuition. She had been one of a handful of women accepted, but no one questioned the decision that he go instead of her. After he graduated, she had kids and was content to be a doctor's wife. She lost herself in games, food, and mystery novels. Sometimes, often, I thought she had no idea we were around, she was so immersed in her cocoon of denial.
I only knew what I saw as a way for a woman to exist in the world, but I knew that I'd go crazy if that was my life. And so, I'm still figuring it all out. At 45, I'm on the verge of the biggest project I've ever done being launched into the world. I feel anything but stuck or conventional. I see unlimited possibilities ahead—the polar opposite of what I imagined middle age to be.