I don’t know what it is about turning thirty but it’s something. Some publication just said the 30’s have now gone from the happiest to the unhappiest decade. It’s hard not to wonder, when you live in a culture that idolizes youth, when do you start losing value?
I still think a lot about different majors. About how my life would look if I’d taken a different path. I regret a lot and I know you’re not supposed to, so I regret that, too. I’m haunted by all these different versions of my life. I think about these ghost versions of myself and what their lives would’ve been like. Would they wake up in a studio apartment in SOHO? Would they drive an expensive car to work every day? Would they know more about shoes and clothes and make-up? Or would they have enough money that they could pay someone else to worry?
I think about what would’ve happened had I not gotten married. What LA would have been like single. Not because I wanted someone else, but because I could have lived in a one-room apartment and ate and slept and wrote. The fast lifestyle that ruins so many, safely regulated to outside my door, because the only high I was chasing was accomplishment. Was success. And all of that was too selfish not to do alone.
I think about how much easier it would be to not have a child. How much time I wasted not writing before she was here. How many hours of productivity she’s stolen and how late I have to stay up to win them back.
I think about how much bigger I wanted my life to be and kick myself because I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
And then I think maybe I’m not alone in this. Maybe even the ghost versions of Liza would feel this way, too. Maybe they would wonder at waking up next to someone. At what it would be like to feel a second heart beating, smaller and faster, but right alongside their own.
The ghosts keep me up late. Later than I should be. I walk to the bedroom in a subtle horror movie: a zombie among ghosts.
I hear my daughter stir as I shuffle down the hall. She hasn’t been sleeping well. She starts to cry and I veer off into her room. She’s crying for me.
I hoist her up and stand rocking her as best as I can. She’s so big now. I ask her what’s wrong. Is she hurt? Is she hungry? Is she scared? She doesn’t answer. She just buries her head in my chest. I think she’s too young for ghosts.
I hope she is.
I hold her and we sing a silly song we made up in the car about Lena and Momma and climbing trees. She rocks her sleepy head from side-to-side, as if she’s dancing to it, and suddenly my mind is empty and my heart is full. The ghosts have all backed away and even though we’re in the dark, we’re together and I’m not afraid.
Because the ghosts aren’t real, but she is, and somehow all the choices I’ve made led me to this — and to her. I hold my daughter close. Push her heartbeat next to mine and close my eyes.
This real, this is real, this is real…
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