Growing up, I was friends with two really interesting twins. While I was rocking a mushroom cut and Club Monaco sweatshirt, these two girls were shaving their heads and wearing lots of mesh, camo and elaborate necklaces with snake charms. While my mom gave me tylenol for a headache, their mom practiced Reiki and ancient herbal medicines to curb body pains. My home was a standard homage Pottery Barn, their house was a collection of Star Wars collectibles, exotic pets and crystals the size of pre-schoolers. Sleepovers were an exercise in restraint as I practiced acting nonchalant as they fed their pet snakes and meditated before meals.
As a teenager, I was constantly in awe of these two girls and everything that they did. One started dating a construction worker who was working on our school, (and who was also 10 years older) the other twin took up rock climbing before rock climbing became a thing we all started doing. I was lamenting to my mom one day about my COMPLETELY AVERAGE AND ORDINARY LIFE AND DOESN’T ANYONE UNDERSTAND THAT I’M UNIQUE TOO?, when she gently reminded me that everyone is unique- the only common factor between all of us is that we desperately want to be different. I’m reminded of this simple statement anytime I’m on the verge of having a breakdown and it makes me sane again. We may experience life in different ways, but there are five hallmark life moments that everyone human goes through. You think you are the only one who has ever experienced them, but I promise- you are not. I find more comfort in this idea of shared life moments than I find in a bottle of vodka. And that’s saying something.
1. The “I’m-so-in-love-with-this-person-no-one-else-has-ever-experienced-a-love-like-this” moment.
This moment usually hits during the first phases of a new love. The whole “I want to be with you all the time and even your annoying habits are so cute to me” stage, is one you usually keep to yourself because you don’t want to smugly draw attention to this BRAND NEW KIND OF LOVE THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS EVER FELT. So you keep this one inside, like a little gem that gives you a glow anytime your magnificent partner is mentioned. You ignore the fact that this moment sounds a bit like a really bad Michael Bolton song from the 80′s and go to bed at night alternating between hoping your friends find this type of love and wanting to keep it all to yourself. And if you are one of the truly lucky people, this moment hits after thirty years of marriage. If that happens, you should be writing cards for Hallmark.
2. The ” I-am-never-going-to-be-happy-again” moment.
Maybe the “I want to be with you all the time and even your annoying habits are so cute to me” stage ended and you are mourning the loss of it. Or? Maybe the entire relationship ended. Or maybe your dog died, you lost your job, you got divorced, your hairdresser accidentally gives you a perm or someone close to you gets sick. Maybe your partner cheats. Maybe you do. Regardless of the cause- the reaction is still the same. The undeniable feeling that you are experiencing a level of sadness that no one else can possibly relate to. As someone who battles with depression, this moment has certainly kicked my ass. More than once. And has led me down paths I wouldn’t wish on anyone. When I feel this type of moment coming on, I immediately start chanting “Sandra Bullock, Sandra Bullock” because if she can find out her husband cheated on her WITH A BILLION WOMEN the day after she won the Oscar AND he saluted Hitler AND his claimed she wasn’t a minx in the sack TO HOWARD STERN AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE and she can make it through? I can make it through my day too. And you can too.
3. The “Am I still fun?” moment.
You quit doing tequila shots. Or maybe you quit drinking altogether. Maybe you got married, had a child, adopted a dog. Maybe you just quit finding costume parties fun. Or you took up yoga. Or subscribed to Psychology Today when your friends are only reading Us Weekly. There will come a moment in your life where you will panic- thinking that your fun days are behind you and you are wondering who is going to enjoy your company now. This is a growing pain, stretching into the person you are becoming, sometimes requires a look back at who you were. It’s easy to remember the good parts- how well you danced when fueled by vodka, the all night conversations, the ability to backpack on a whim- but let yourself be reminded of the hard parts too- the hangovers, the almost always empty bank account, the crushing regrets and hurts that accompanied the life you grew out of. There is a reason you moved on- you had a better place to get to. Just like everyone else.
4. The “My parents are getting old” moment.
For some, this one hits softly- a gentle realization hinted at by daily conversations and the sight of grey hairs making their first appearance. For me? This hit me like a semi truck. Carrying a load of cement bricks. My mom has an infectious laugh and a sense of style suited more for California than Alberta. She has a better shoe collection than me and is always calling herself fabulous. So when one day she told me she needed her glasses in order to read a message on her phone, I honestly thought she was joking. But she wasn’t. She needed glasses. And I realized that my very young at heart mom was not as young as what I thought. It made me feel scared in a way I had never felt before.
5. The “Is this it?” moment.
This moment usually comes out of a crisis, encouraged by a bad day or maybe just a quiet day- prone to too much self reflecting and not enough action. Or maybe it’s the complete opposite- it comes on a day where you hit an important goal, celebrated a meaningful milestone. And you are are left with this feeling of … is this what my life is going to be? A series of these days strung together, month after month, year after year. And then there’s this feeling of- what else could I have done? And you play the dangerous “what if” game, taking you back to dates turned down, travels not explored, careers you never followed through on. You usually keep this moment to yourself, because let’s face it- it’s as uplifting as a documentary on Charles Manson. But the truth is, this moment means you are alive. That you are human. That you are reflecting on your life. And chances are, that the feeling passes- the day ends and you wake up the next day thankful for the little things that make your life yours. You may not have traveled to Africa, but you have a life you earned and one to be proud of.