Diary of Surrender, Week 4: What’s the Assignment in Middle Age?
I’m writing a diary about my year of giving up, although I may give up on this too. Who knows? You can read about why I’m giving up here, and the previous week of saying fuck it here. (The term “week” is used loosely).
Life has been easy for me because I was dealt a good hand — healthy, born in the United States to well-educated parents, you get the idea — but also because I’ve always been a good girl and paid close attention to the assignment. The assignments: as a kid, obey the adults and stay out of trouble; in high school stay out of trouble and get into college; finish college; get a job; secure a career; buy a house. Check, check, check.
I dutifully did all these things, although I skipped the marriage and kids assignment. Some assignments I did better than others. I didn’t stay entirely out of trouble in high school, and I’ve probably had more sex than a good girl is ‘sposed to, which some corners cite as the reason I skipped the marriage and kids assignment. (Cow, milk, etc). Now, a bazillion years after high school, I own a home and have a stable career and you know, it’s great. I’m secure. I even have (humblebrag) health insurance. No more assignments for me, because I did all the things.
But as a good girl, I find this extremely confusing. What, exactly, am I supposed to do now? What is the homework? I need an assignment.
If you have kids, it’s easy. Your assignment for the rest of your life is to make sure they thrive, and barring that, that they stay out of jail and don’t die. But if you aren’t responsible for other humans, and you’ve locked down one of those soul-crushing but stable careers, what is the assignment in middle age exactly? I have no idea, and the question has been annoying me ever since I decided to basically give up on finding a guy and losing weight.
There are still things I should do, of course, and I do them like the good girl I fundamentally am. Outside of work, I exercise (never said I was giving up on health), manage to repair the house enough to keep it standing, cook, clean, take care of the dog, take care of my aging parents.