Someone once told me that by the time women hit their mid-twenties, they were too damaged for relationships.
Hearing that filled me with rage, though at the time, I lacked the depth and emotional awareness to express a reply beyond “fuck you, that’s messed up.” It’s a memory that pops up from time to time in my head, usually when I feel low or bad about myself. Liz, you’re damaged goods; just give up. It’s an easy narrative to play into; after all, we live in a world that values youth, purity, and Mary-like behavior over wrinkles, scars, and Magdalenas who’ve been through the wringer.
A few months ago, I turned 34. It was a surprisingly lovely birthday considering the shitty-shit-total-shit-did-I-mention-shit of a year I’ve had. Nowadays, it seems like all my friends have loving partners. They’re often on their second or third baby and have mortgages and regular paychecks. I’m 34, and I’m still sleeping on an air mattress. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others, but I can’t seem to help it. I’m ready for an upgrade, I don’t know about you guys.
As humans, we seem wired for comparison. As women, well, do I even need to finish this sentence?
My perspective has changed so much every year that goes by. I was speaking recently with friends and remarked how self-conscious I was in my early 20s; I dreaded even taking my t-shirt off over my bathing suit at the beach. A decade and a lifetime later, I care so much less.
As time flows, I settle into my skin more and more. I’m flawed. I’ve made mistakes. But I’ve also learned to say sorry and grow from them. While sometimes I find my asked falling into that familiar troupe of negativity, of hating myself, I’ve learned to myself and say, “Liz, we don’t play that game anymore.” There’s always hope.
I’m not damaged. I’m educated, experienced, empathetic, and above all, self-aware. All the crazy, awful, painful moments I’ve gone through in my life inform who I am and strive to be. Call me crazy, but I think that’s a good thing.
While I’m still very much in the post-breakup-rage-phase-of-all-men-are-awful-I-chose-to-be-alone-forever, even I, in my heartache, know that I’m worthwhile and I’m not damaged, and my hardware hasn’t crashed. I’ve upgraded.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to feel like the world is losing both empathy and patience.
Lately, I feel like people are grumpier, more selfish, and less generous. Sometimes, I even notice it in myself. Is it because of COVID? Inflation? It feels like things that used to be easy are now hard. Prices have gone up a lot, and finding people to help or work with is much harder than before. I even feel like I’m noticing people and businesses trying to take advantage in ways they perhaps wouldn’t have done before.
This strikes me as interesting because it seems like the hard yards of lockdowns and border closures are over, yet we’re only just beginning to get a taste of the past few years’ impact on us. Are we hardening to match a hardened world?
God, I hope not. We could all use a little more kindness, I believe. And we definitely could all use being a little kinder to ourselves too. What do you think?