It's funny - I hit the big four-zero last year, and while I wasn't psyched about the number, it didn't bother me too much nor did I feel that my life radically changed as I entered my forties. In fact, nothing seemed different except that I moved up an age group, which I viewed as a favorable change, (not that I'm winning any races, by the way).
The past month has presented me with more potential and definite changes than I've had in years, all brought on by buying a house. I knew that making the house decision would be a huge step for us, but I had not fully wrapped my head around all of the implications. Often, when I've made major life changes in the past, I went forward with the change, knowing that there was an exit plan, that I could go back - to where, I'm not sure, but a sense that I was not fully committed to the change. There are, obviously, a few exceptions to this. When I was 28 and, after spending 6 fairly miserable years in Philly, I moved to Seattle without a job, without connections and without much of a plan, I knew that it was a jumping off point, one of those "never-look-back" moments (yes, I'm being dramatic), but I needed an 'exit-less' plan so that I could move forward. The other major change was getting married - but that was a lot more fun and exciting, fortunately, and has remained so.
But most of the other changes have taken the form of moving and also jobs - either changing schools or taking on a new position at the same school (that is the recent paradigm, at least). These changes have a less permanent feel, which I definitely prefer. I think about just being in the LA area - I moved here almost 9 years ago with the idea that I would have my southern CA experience before moving on - maybe to the Bay Area, maybe back to Seattle? I wasn't sure about that next step, but I did know that I would not stay in LA for more than 2-4 years. Well, those years stretched out, and now I've lived in this area for more years as an adult than any other place that I used to call home.
After living in the Silverlake neighborhood for our first few years here and getting a taste of the urban experience, we've enjoyed an easy situation recently - living close to the school where I work, not worrying about much and not, perhaps, taking much responsibility for too much either. The decision to buy a house was somewhat prompted by financial reasons, but the idea of moving from the bubble in which we live appealed to both of us. Now that the bubble has burst, as we plan to leave this easy, convenient lifestyle, I've felt excited but slightly overwhelmed. We got the keys to the house last week, and just within the past 10 days, home ownership has been an education. How much does a fridge cost?! A paint job? What ELSE do we have to do to do the house - if not this year, the next? And then the next?
In addition to the sense of responsibility, I think the idea that there is no easy exit has freaked me out just a bit too. When we adopted Gus and Milo, our dogs, we recognized that the option to just pick up and move somewhere else had closed. Not that we couldn't do it, but it would be more challenging because we had to consider our pups. Now, not only do we have to consider the dogs, but we'll have a house to sell. It does seem that life has become more complicated and I feel that it is heavier, in a way. There is some added gravitas to our life, in one way or another.
As a friend said when I told her that we bought a house "Congratulations! You've become an adult!". She didn't mean it as an insult nor did I take it as such. But the Peter Pan days for us are definitely over. I suppose that's the identity shift to which I refer in the title. Not that I'm trying to be a 20 or 30-something cool cat, but embracing the changes that come with the house has challenged me and the image that I've had of my life - our life. Colorado or the Bay Are was always a decision away, if we wanted to make that move, and now it isn't that easy.
Michael has reminded me - the day that we got the keys and I thought to myself "Oh shit! What the hell have we done!" - that we can always sell. This isn't a no-exit change, but it IS a change. Especially now that I see a summer painting project in my future.
Oh, Peter Pan, where are you now?