I'm sulking this week because I'm facing another birthday. I stood in line at the license bureau and contemplated my driver's license. I swear I've aged too much in the 4 years since the last picture. It was so different when I stood in line to get my fake ID as a teenager. This time I paid $80 for a little plastic sticker for my license plate and a crappier picture than I had before. It just doesn't seem fair. I'd like my $80 and 20 years back.
Of course we can't undo or redo things we've already lived through, but I wonder about some of the decisions I've made along the way. Where would my life be if I'd taken the job at Hallmark? What if I'd moved out after I threw the engagement ring across the room? I'm living with all the "afterwards" of my decisions. I don't really regret them, but sometimes I've just got to pause and wonder what if?
Part of the thing of youth is that "afterwards" don't get considered very much. If it sounds fun, let's do it! Experience let's me know drinking too much causes hangovers, spending too much causes debt, and most importantly, I'm not immune to those kinds of things. Wisdom makes life somewhat less fun, and I'm not even sure it makes us any more secure a lot of the time. There's got to be a proper balance between taking chances and hanging onto security.
When I was in Girl Scouts, my troop went camping in winter where there was a swimming pool with a thin layer of ice on top. One of the brilliant counselors suggested breaking the ice and "polar bear" swimming. A line of skinny little girls stood shivering in our bathing suits and looked at her like she was nuts. Eventually I decided I was cold either way, so I jumped in and started swimming. A few girls followed my lead, and the rest watched from the sidelines. Good thing we didn't die of pneumonia while we were led back to the lodge wrapped in towels, shivering hard enough to cause an earthquake, while listening to a lecture about "character building".
Since it didn't kill me, I think maybe it did build some character. I learned I had some leadership abilities, could make my own choices, and it's okay to take some risks. Sometimes we do have to jump into the ice, and even though I'm faced with another birthday, I'm not so old I can't jump in if I feel like it.