As a child, I used to watch my parents fall asleep in their rocking chairs after dinner. I could never figure out how they could sleep sitting upright like that, heads dangling, often snoring which never worked out well for TV watching for us kids. That was okay though, because their nap time equalled more outside play time. Growing up, I spent as much time outside as possible and only came inside when called for lunch or supper, followed by the mandatory half-hour rest period. Did my food REALLY need time to digest? Being stuck inside was like a form of torture. Why waste time inside when I could be out riding my bike, playing basketball, skipping rope, hanging out in the neighbour’s yard, you name it?! I had no time for sleeping in chairs, which was just an overall ‘weird’ concept to a young gaffer like me.
As a teen, my day was just getting started after school let out. I was a night owl like my mom and despised having a bed time of ten o’clock. It was waaay too early and it often led to arguments of the sort with my parents. Why couldn’t they understand that I just wanted to be: on the phone with my friends, which was 99% of the time; listening to my boom box–there were no IPODs back then, although we did have Sony Walkmans); or watching late night TV shows, such as 20/20 with Barbara Walters or the latest Hallmark movie feature? Of course, when morning came and it was time to get up for school, I struggled terribly to get out of bed despite my “ridiculously early” curfew. Imagine if I had been able to stay up as late as I had always wanted? On occasion, I did get to stretch the ten o’clock thing to eleven or sometimes midnight on weekends, even some Sunday nights when the movies were usually a later start. I like to think that my two older brothers helped to ‘break my parents in’ in that regard. By the time they got around to parenting me (their third and last child some five years after the first), they more readily caved in it seemed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was probably because they were dog tired and wanted to catch up on some much-needed shut-eye in their favourite recliners. That being said, being the good parents that they were/are, they only gave in to my repeated pleas on more trivial matters. When my dad put his foot down on something, that was that! “And, no belly-aching either,” he would say once he’d made up his mind. Even though I was never quite sure what ‘belly-aching’ meant, I knew better than to ask.
In my late teens/early 20’s, I would get off of my shift as a drug store cashier around 9PM, and could count on getting out to my truck around 9:30PM after helping to cash out and lock up. I would go straight home only to shower, get changed and let the night out begin. I was usually off to close down one or more of our local bars of choice with friends, followed by food and/or a party at a friend’s house afterward. They were fun times indeed that led to early morning hangovers (not so fun) and daylong sleeps if I didn’t have classes to attend at University. And, well, let’s be honest…even if there were classes, especially the 8AM ones, I didn’t think that they would miss my number in amongst the two thousand other kids who were there. Naturally, my other number, the one on the stanine scale upon which my marks were based, suffered just a tad bit as a result of that negligent attitude. Was it worth it? Yes, it was actually. Those years were an ABSOLUTE blast and I still managed to get my degree. How, I will never know, but hey! I did it. (Ed, my former colleague & longtime friend/WP follower, pretend that you didn’t read that part, deal?). Then, I spent the remainder of my 20’s working crazy hours to establish my career, but playing hard also. All in all, it was a crazy, memorable mix wherein I had tons of energy for both things, thank goodness.
In my 30’s, I was fairly settled into my chosen profession, I was freshly single, and I began to get the travel bug. Less was the focus on partying (at the bars anyway), since I had actually grown up a bit by then. I owned my own home and I was my own breadwinner which meant that I had a new and surprisingly welcomed set of responsibilities. Suddenly, blowing a hundred dollars on a night out versus paying house bills and saving up for a trip seemed pointless. Besides, there were still house parties and campfire get-togethers to enjoy. Instead of living for the next two-for-one drink special, I lived for planning my next getaway, which ranged from Vegas to Mexico to Caribbean cruises to UK/European explorations. I couldn’t have asked for better experiences as I got to see a little bit more of the world around me with dear family and friends. Long live my 30’s and all that I gained from that decade, including my now husband. 🙂
Now, that I am well into my 40’s, life has changed yet again as one would expect of a new decade encompassing the concept of middle age. Middle age?! Sometimes, I will admit that I still grapple with that terminology, mostly because it’s hard to believe that I am now associated with it. Me? Little Sue, turned little, ol’ Sue? Yet, gray hairs, wrinkles, and the reality of things sagging tell me that it is so. Indeed, it has become more and more clear that I belong in this ‘distinguished’ group of individuals wherein no one asks for your ID anymore (thankfully, I haven’t been asked about receiving a senior’s discount as of yet), and youngsters in particular tend to refer to you as Ma’am. I am a Ma’am?!? Yes, Ma’am, I am. I guess that I could be called a lot worse things, so I best accept the respectful form of address as is. Being a Ma’am now, I will say that I better understand a few things that I didn’t think that I would come to understand in the first few decades of my life as just recounted from childhood up. Upon reflection, this point in my life seems to have brought me around full circle in some ways. Wait, maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve come a half circle, as in a 180-degree turn from the younger versions of myself.
Unlike my perspective as a child, I know all-too-well just how it is that my parents came to the habit of sleeping upright in their chairs, heads dangling and all. While I don’t think?! that I snore, I know that it’s likely just a matter of time before I do. I have, however, seemed to perfect the art of drooling all over myself, as I have awoken to on many an occasion. NOT the most prideful admittance in my life, I will say. But, what can you do?
Unlike my teen years, staying up until ten o’clock or just past is now my preferred norm. If my husband and I manage to stay awake until 11PM or midnight, we are doing good. “Party on!” Yah, not really. By the time, we complete our endless beddy-bye routine and don our ‘old fogey’ implements for sleeping (eye masks, mouth guard for me, and sleep machine for my husband), it’s usually pushing 10:45 or later and that’s pretty much our daily limit. Good thing for today’s PVR devices or else we’d miss a whole lot of endings to some of our favourite TV shows, which “seem to come on so late for some reason”. Now, who else do I know of who used to use those exact same words? Mom and Dad?! Dare I also point out to myself that our ten o’clock cut-off is a far cry from when I used to beg my parents to let me stay up “just a little bit longer” to watch a program.
Given that we are in bed “at a decent hour” (Dad, is that your voice?), it is safe to say that how we operate these days is the exact opposite of how things went for me personally in my early to mid 20’s. Gone… actually long gone, are the days of when parties were just getting underway around 11PM and all-nighters were more common than not. Unfortunately, my idea of an all-nighter now consists of a half-glass of warm milk and some magnesium sometime before bed with the distinct knowledge that I will be using the bathroom ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Hmmm... not *quite* the same version which once-existed of as many rum and cokes and shooters as I could fit in until who knows when, leaving me to sleep it all off without a bathroom trip in sight for hours on end. Can you imagine a bladder like that now, after a night of drinking nonetheless, and how much better our ten o’clock sleeps would be without multiple nighttime water closet visits. “Like wow!!”, as my twenty-year old self would have said back then.
As for my 30’s, my settling in of sorts during that decade seems to have done a pretty good job of preparing me for what was to come this decade. I slowed down my pace of life considerably, ditched the all-nighter scenes, and learned to enjoy my own company–a hard and fast recommendation for all, by the way. In the process, I grew up even more, gleaned a clearer picture of who I was, faced some past demons and reduced my working hours to achieve a healthier balance. I valued having the opportunity to extend my horizons beyond the same old by travelling elsewhere and getting to know more about other people and other cultures. I purchased an old ’76 Vanguard motorhome, bought into our family lake lot and enjoyed camping during the summers and some international travels in the wintertime whenever I’d saved up enough money–no lines of credit allowed for ‘wants’ (my parents taught me well). Most importantly, in my 30’s, I learned to let my guard down, get out of my own way of success, soon thereafter meeting and marrying my husband, and moving out to the countryside where I still happily reside whilst continuing to enjoy my love of camping/travelling as well as gardening.
By all accounts, each decade lived thus far has helped me to come into my own as I sit here typing this all out at the ripe ol’ age of forty-something or other. But, I’ll take it! Even though, I tease myself and others about being middle-aged, there really is no place else that I would rather be or no other journey that I would have taken to arrive in my right here, right now stage of life wherein each day is precious, good health is valued, family/friends are key and nothing else much matters. Despite the fact that life events aren’t as quite as lively as they once were in some regards, I’ll gladly take the aforementioned along with the gray hairs, wrinkles, sagging and, yes, even the armchair drooling. 🙂