Musing On A Past Life, Pre-Kids

I have these moments of intense nostalgia, usually triggered by one of my senses. A summer camp smell, certain songs by Phish, or a glimpse of The Breakfast Club on cable can recall a time and a place when I was a different person. So pure in their ability to create longing for a past life, these moments feel like the impetus for an artistic epiphany or something – like I’m supposed to do something tangible with these powerful memories. But I can’t paint or sculpt or write a song or make a film. I wish I knew how.  Or had the time.

Recently I was waiting for my husband to meet me in Chelsea for a friend’s art opening. It was a Thursday, late afternoon, early summer, and the kids were home in Brooklyn with a sitter. I planned to walk around and check out some galleries, since I never do that kind of aimless cultural wandering anymore, but I was thirsty and ducked into an Irish pub instead. I sat at the bar and drank two beers and got kind of buzzed as the place started to fill with people. As I listened to conversations around me, couples and clusters of friends having their first drinks of the night, getting ready to go to a show, a party, a restaurant, I felt a pang of envy for my younger self. There was a time where I regularly sat in bars like this one, alone, sipping a whiskey, reading a magazine and waiting for a friend or a boyfriend. There was nothing this twenty-something unencumbered self had to accomplish, short of getting to my job and doing my laundry. Go to the gym, maybe.

A night like this — the first warm one of summer — would be languid, anticipatory, pulsing with potential. Maybe I’d meet someone hilarious or make out with a stranger. New York, and the world, was open to me. I didn’t know where I would be in ten years.  Looking back now, my only anxiety was: who and where do I want to be and how in the hell do I get there?

I wouldn’t have guilt about leaving the kids. Or worry about ruffling a babysitter’s feelings by staying out too late. Or wasting money on a stupid night out. Wondering if I bicker too much with my husband. Or if my kids will be as lucky as I was to enjoy a mostly happy childhood.

I likely know where I’ll be for the next ten years, and most days I feel incredibly lucky.  But now I have the worry of staying lucky, not screwing up. Being an example. Keeping my marriage strong. Being a good mom. Trying to enjoy my blessings without the crushing anxiety that can go along with having them. Because at a certain point all that languid, pulsing-with-potential business begins to get tired, and you start looking for the next thing, which begets the next, and the next thing you know you have a mortgage, two kids and four kinds of insurance (health, life, condominium, auto).

So sitting in a bar every once in a while is a definitely a good thing. It’s just a very different thing if you don’t get to do it with regularity.


(Photo: Goodshot)

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  • Stokely

    I can’t really relate b/c I was sooooo broke in my 20s and already coupled up permanently anyway, lol. And I had my kid at 26.

    But I really enjoyed this article–well written and astute.

    I agree with 212 Baby though–my life has NEVER been better. I think part of it is I’m living my fairy tale “20′s life” now, complete with international travel and other fun past times. My child has actually made me a lot more curious and engaged in the world around me, definitely more fearless than I ever was as a 25-year-old. I do waaaaay more cool stuff now than I ever did in my 20s–I feel like I’m living life in reverse now, thanks to her. It’s amazing.

  • lisa

    Great piece.

  • iceberg

    Girrrrrrrrrrrrl. I already have the nostalgia pangs and I only became a mom at the end of January this year. Mainly nostalgia for that lack of responsibility ; )

  • Marlisa Kopenski Condon

    A loud Amen, Mallory. I am right there with you. Then and now.

  • KM

    This is great – I’m actually a single NYC 20something, prepping as we speak to wait for my date at a bar with a whiskey and magazine (checked out this blog b/c I’m a nanny) – but I have a ton of anxiety about “who and where do I want to be and how in the hell do I get there?” Reading this was nice to help me keep it in perspective – with any luck, there will be *real* worries in my future!

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