My mother is full to the brim of adorable little idioms. A couple of months ago after I threw a tantrum about owing so much money in taxes because of my freelance career (keep in mind, my dad spent endless hours doing my taxes so I wouldn’t have to pay an H&R Block dude), she hugged me and said, “I’ve been pregnant with you for 28 years. It’s time I give birth.”
One of my favorite things my mom ever said to me was when I was in the thick of post breakup guilt. I didn’t know if I had done the right thing, and I was caught in an endless cycle of drinking too much, texting him, and then immediately regretting it. This routine, embarrassing in and of itself, drug on for two months.
I remember I was on the phone with my mom and crying about this guy for like the billionth time when all of a sudden, she said, “Don’t feel guilty. You aren’t Catholic. I raised you better than that.”
And all of a sudden, I had one of those retarded ah-hah moments that Oprah and housewives the world over are always talking about.
Guilt is a tricky little thing. It’s slippery and stubborn and sits on your shoulder whispering bullshit into your ear. It makes you put others constantly before yourself and feel like a horrible person when you take the time to do something solely for you.
I’m constantly feeling guilty. I feel guilty about not hanging out with this person and not calling this person back and saying no to this person and not working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I feel like a criminal when I don’t go to the gym religiously or forget to floss or don’t drink eight glasses of water daily or don’t stuff my face with lean, organic chicken and locally grown lettuce.
The worst kind of guilt is the guilt you feel when you betray yourself or let yourself down. See, I had this timeline in my head of what I wanted to accomplish before I turn thirty. I’d live abroad, get my MFA, travel, write a book, work as an editor at some prestigious publishing house in some expensive city, meet a really great guy, get married, pop out a few kids, buy them ponies, and retire to a house in the ‘burbs.
The realty is, I’m single, still rent, own a bulldog, work at a real estate magazine, and travel only when I have the money, which is like, never.
I was shattered when I chose a job I moderately liked over going to England for two months. I felt beyond guilty. I felt defeated.
But slowly, very slowly, I’m beginning to see that my life is so, so rich right here in Philly. I have a great job, I still freelance on the side for a bunch of wonderful clients, I have beautiful friends, a supportive, adoring family, a kick-ass roller derby team I need to get back to, and I still get to go to Europe for a month in the summer.
We need to start being more gentle with ourselves. We need to accept that the life we have planned usually won’t unfold exactly the way we want it to. But that’s okay.
I made a promise to myself a month ago. I will be living in Europe by the age of 30 by any means necessary. And I fully intend to keep that promise to myself.
Life is too short to feel guilty. Even if you’re Catholic.