The Sevens: When a New Decade Dawns
When I turned seven on the cusp of the 1990s, I had my first experience bonding with a Very Special Teacher. You know those teachers. The ones with Fred Rogers energy, the ones you don't just like but love, the ones that feel like parents or counselors, the ones who know just what to say to truly make you feel valued, safe, and capable. I hadn't had much luck bonding with teachers in preschool or kindergarten (which I repeated), but here's to Mrs. McNeil in first grade. Everything about school changed for me because of you.
When I turned 17 right before Y2K, I experienced my biggest heartbreaks back-to-back. One was an ordinary breakup with a high school boyfriend. It was my first "serious" relationship that consisted of more than going bowling a couple times or making out in a movie theater. And right after that, I experienced a much more profound loss, the implosion of my most important friendship at the time. It was an intense, tender, and fragile thing between me and another boy who was not my boyfriend. It wasn't sexual, nor was it anything like my (also sometimes intense) platonic friendships with girls. Earlier this year, when I learned the word "queerplatonic" and saw that there is a flag for it, I wept. That was exactly what I had lost, which I could never properly grieve because I didn't even know its name. And it's something that sounds stupid and fake to anyone who hasn't experienced it, so I won't try to explain it here. But the grief sent me into a multi-year dissociative episode and changed my sense of self to the core. I also gained certain kinds of strength and wisdom moving forward. I grew and matured. I opened myself to new friendships, and some of those later high school friends are my most cherished people to this day.
When I turned 27 at the end of the Naughty Aughties, I had been married to one of those high school besties for several years. We were already homeowners, which we managed by having a stream of roommates, sometimes a bunch at a time, pitching in on the bills. As our life stabilized, I felt a sudden and needful urge to have my husband's baby. So I told him, and he got me pregnant that spring. Need I say anything about how my life was about to change in that moment?
This week, I turned 37, and I can see the glow of the 2020s dawning above the horizon from here. My parents have just retired and are moving into their dream house in my neighborhood as I write this. I've been helping them clean the beautiful but dirty house, and next week I'll be helping them move in and unpack their things. My daughter is growing up at a shocking pace, more tween than child already. I've completed two fat, juicy novels during her childhood, and it's feeling good for me to take a novel-writing break through the holidays and focus on supporting my family and celebrating happy transitions. Helping my parents create and tend to their literal living space is inspiring me to start renovating my own house so that it will continue to sustain me and my family and our neighbors and friends heading into the brave new future.
I'm no clairvoyant, but I sense the natural shifting of my interests, tastes, friendships, and family relationships. My marriage is stronger and deeper than it ever was. I have a cat now. We're financially stable with no roommates, and I'm looking forward to learning and doing more physical work with my hands as I transform into a super cool middle-aged suburban mom. The whole world is changing as we enter a new decade, and some of the signs are ominous: climate change, political divisions, disrupted economic systems, decreasing human interaction in our youth. No one really knows what will happen over the next 10 years, but to me it feels like a good time to stay flexible, keep learning new skills and technologies, and at the same time settle back a bit into old-fashioned ways of living and loving to preserve our humanity through the changes to come.