This morning, on the train, a young man — twentysomthing — sat down across the aisle from me, a few seats away. I looked up as he got on the train, and went back to the book I was reading. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him reach into his backpack, take out a rather large book, and start reading. I was curious, and glanced up every once in a while to see if I could catch a glimpse of the title, but he didn’t look up from the book and I couldnt’ see the title.
The train came to what turned out to be both his transfer point and mine. As he closed the book and stood up, I finally caught a glimpse of the title: "Civil Procedure." I chuckled to myself, reminded of my own indefinitely postponed law school ambitions, and went on my way to the train that would take me to work.
As I was sitting down on the second train, another young man — again, twentysomething — was getting off the train. Under his arm was a book similar to the one the young man on the first train was reading. Again, curious, I caught a glimpse of the title: "Criminal Law." Again, I chuckled to myself, and thought of my own twenties.
I’ve written about this before, but there’s a kind of virtual marker on the timeline of my life that divides everything into before my ADD diagnosis/treatment, and after my ADD diagnosis/treatment. I haven’t thought much about it lately — being more focused my my life now — but it came back to me this morning, brought one by these brief encounters with apparently twentysomething law students.
What was I doing in my twenties? It all seems like a blur now, but what I mostly remember was spending a lot of time and energy trying to keep my head above water, and not always succeeding. I remember watching other people advance in their careers and educations, while I seemed to be working hard just to tread water, and still occasionally went under. Now I look back and I wonder what happened to my twenties. What happened to those years? They happened, but what happened is something I’m still not sure about.
I tend to look at them as "lost years," because it’s literally as if at or around 32 years a curtain was suddenly pulled away, and there was light where I’d previously been stumbling around in the dark. The obstacles I’d struggled with in the past were still there, but I could see them clearly now, along with paths around some of them. At thirty-six, I’m finally making the progress I felt I should have been making at twenty-six. It becomes obvious to me when I look up and see people around me doing incredible things at an age when I was stumbling around in the dark.
I’m not sure whether or not I wish I had those years back, knowing all I do now, mainly because there’s a lot in my life right now that I wouldn’t trade for anything — mostly my life with my husband and son. Whatever else might have worked out differently had things gone another way in the past, that is something I wouldn’t want to change. As far as I’m concerned these are the good years; very good years, in fact. What I found myself thinking about this morning is just what those years of stumbling in the dark were for.
What did I learn from them or gain from them that has value now or might have value in the future? How am I better for having had the experience of those years? What is the good that has come out of it all? Those are questions I don’t have ready answers for.