My Life As A Peony

As the news of another close friend getting married arrived in my inbox this week, I couldn’t help but wonder: How are all of these people’s lives THERE when mine is HERE?! Six years ago, “these people” — my best friends from college — and I were in the same exact place. In fact, I was ahead of the crew with a serious relationship of two years that showed no major signs of wilting. Emails like these — the “Guess what? We’re getting MARRIED!” emails — are like state-of-your-life grenades that get randomly detonated throughout one’s twenties, just to keep some of us feeling like we’re never 100% on track to becoming a “true” adult. Not yet at least.

Orchids from The Orchid Show at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. March, 2010.

Don’t get me wrong: I am so happy for my friends and so excited to be a part of every wedding that I can be (can’t you tell?! HA. N0, but, for real). I am sincerely excited and in awe of my friends’ happiness and I am amazed how grown up they all are (seriously – I’m just impressed!). But it gets me thinking of course…

What does it mean to be “full-bloom” in life, anyway? Who’s to say one person’s bloom is better than another’s? Why does everyone pay so much more attention to the bloom than the blooming process? Alright, alright. I know. And I do the same.

One second I’ll be reading my email, getting revved up for the next two years of being an undergraduate science student again, and the next thing I know, I am being jolted into someone else’s life-time-frame and feeling like I must have done something completely wrong or gone way left when everyone went right. I get this sudden overwhelming spark that tells me I’ve veered off-course and while some people are thrilled and excited to see it, some are worried about me. For the record, I’m not worried about me! It’s like I’m a puppy jumping around in a field, trying to play in the great unknown, and then I run myself across an invisible fence and get sparked, which would be society trying to tell me No, no silly puppy. Just go back in the house where it’s safe. Sometimes I feel like my deck has been shuffled one extra time, and maybe my cards are turning up just a little more jumbled than the rest. Am I the outlier? I can live with that. (Annnnd then I realize I am in the majority, afterall. Weird how the prevalence of certain announcements can play tricks on the hard numbers, which are actually working in my favor.)

Then I’ll come across something like this YouTube video that my friend Allison (ex-intern at Viva Travel Guides) created of our trip to the Cotopaxi Province of Ecuador (you can watch it again at the link above, or read about this trip through my previous post, Pain in the Cotopaxi. And for all who may have wondered why my back hurt so much during that six-hour horseback trek, well, turns out I compressed a thoracic disc. Why am I not surprised?!) After watching this video and getting a quick rush of nostalgia (I’m such a sucker for nostalgia), I go… OH yeah, THAT’S where I’ve been… And do you see me complaining? NOPE. (Just to be extra clear, this post is me NOT complaining. Hehe.)

An imperfect orchid. Bronx, NY. March 2010.

At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to make myself feel better (which, I kind of am doing – oops) about not being one of those “real” adults with jobs and fiances before thirty (as we are supposed to do, apparently), I think about horseback riding up a volcano in Ecuador and how awesome it was (uhh, minus the back pain). A salary would be fantastic, of course, but that will come later (panic panic panic). Maybe I’ve had some speed bumps on the ride to my thirties, but when those speed bumps come in the form of zip-lining through cloud forests in both Ecuador AND Costa Rica, and dipping my toes in the water of many seas… it aint so bad to take a detour.

Ok ok, here it is: The truth. I will admit with my little tail between my legs that I want all that — the love, the engagement, the I DO, the commitment to one person, the family, the salary, the blah blah blah that we’re all supposed to want… EVENTUALLY. I’d take it right now if it was right. But, while I want it (I do. I really do.) I’m glad I didn’t get it at the cost of all this. Please tell me you understand what I mean.

Gardenias. If you could only smell them... Bronx Botanical Gardens, NY.

When I watch this video from my trip to Cotopaxi, I can’t help but smile. I am genuinely so, so happy I had the chance to live out all these adventures I’ve had in my early- to mid-twenties. I feel so lucky. The past six years, I got to swig life down in giant, uncertain gulps. I may have suffered a bit of indigestion here or there, but man has it been (mostly) delicious so far. Sometimes I can’t believe all the incredible places I got to travel, all the kisses that were kissed (oh boy have there been some good kisses), all the unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences I was able to accumulate and share. I know that when I get there, to that place where it feels many of my friends have already gotten and to that place I still believe in with all my heart, all of these experiences will become an even bigger gift; not only will they have made me who I am, but they are also the experiences that – back then – I didn’t know that, now, I wouldn’t be able to live without.

On Sunday, I go to Puerto Rico for a week. It will be the last travel adventure for who knows how long? My new priority is school, but don’t you worry! I will tell you ALL about Puerto Rico upon my return.

Waterlilies. Bronx Botanical Garden. March 2010.

Maybe, as it turns out, I’m just a late-bloomer in life. I mean, I’m 27, not currently in a serious relationship, I don’t have a graduate degree (yet!), I’m attending seven weddings this summer and none of them are mine (ha!), and I’m just not putting all the pretty little pieces together the way the world seems to want me to do it.

But peonies are one of my favorite spring flowers. And, just like me, they are late-bloomers. Does that make them any less wonderful than the orchids or daffodils that come out first? I don’t think so. They’re all beautiful once they’re in-bloom; each flower just has to bloom on its own time. Only then do they smell the sweetest.



Filed under Life Stuff, Uncategorized

15 responses to “My Life As A Peony

  1. missy

    your entry makes all too much sense. rock on for going at your own pace. you get to experience things that all the “early-bloomers” don’t! 🙂

    • travelswithtavel

      Yay, glad it makes sense! It’s important to come off as whining or jealous or worried when talking about this stuff, so I hope that came through. I’m absolutely happy and content with where I am at… it’s just funny how ingrained in our systems certain expectations are. But the truth is, every person over 30 always tells me I’m doing the right thing, and they admire it… So whoohoo for that! (Now I just have to pull it all off!) HUG! Miss you. And, AMEN to all you said!

  2. missy

    and amen to all YOU said! i think you meant “it’s important NOT to come off as whining or jealous or worried…” here’s to many chais and conversations about non-conformity in our future! buen viaje — let’s chat for real when you get back!

    • travelswithtavel

      Haha. DOH – yes, it’s important NOT to come off that way… Gahh…

      Sounds like a plan! A post-Puerto Rico chat is in order. 🙂 Abrazos!

  3. Tom H

    Seriously, who are these jerks who keep getting married?

    This reminds me of a quick story from my youth. After college I went out and got a real job right away. After a year or so, my college buddies tried to convince me to quit my job and move to Utah to be a ski bum. I asked my dad for advice, and I could see the longing in his eyes. Not only should I go, but I could tell that he wanted to come too! So I pulled off the highway of life and skied the rockies for a winter. I’ve never regretted that choice.

    • travelswithtavel

      Hehe. I was hoping you’d chime in T-Hizzle. 🙂 Please, please understand that I am really happy for you and excited for you! I just feel like I’m on a totally different time-frame than some of you guys, and it’s crazy how this happened because I was the one “settling” – or so it felt – first! Leave it to my life to have everything flipped on its head!

      So, so happy, proud of, and excited for you 🙂 Congratulations again. Just don’t forget the good ol’ days in Stowe when none of us had any of this figured out…

      You go, boy.

  4. Stephanie (swdcfan)

    This reminds me of that sunscreen song by Baz Luhrman! I think if you listen to it, you’ll feel better about life –

    Everyone goes their own path according to what works for them. I’m 24 and single, while most of my friends are getting engaged/are in long-term relationships. I have to remind myself that I’m still very young, and I’m pretty sure 10 years from now I’ll look back and think how silly it was to worry about such things.

    • travelswithtavel

      So, here’s the thing that’s tricky about talking about this stuff: I’m not worried, I don’t feel bad about myself, and I’m not jealous or any of those things. But I fully acknowledge that I am just in a different place and my path has been a bit more, shall we say… ornate? Hehe. So, I appreciate all your thoughts but I promise you I’m great and lovin’ my life 🙂 Just need to tweak a couple things here or there, but I’m on my way to where I want to get…and happy exactly where I am. No rush. No rush at all 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading!! I hope it at least made you feel like you’re not alone. And ha – 24 is SO young. (I can’t believe I just said that…)

  5. Geordie

    Hey T, couldn’t entirely related to the opening of the email (lot of late blooming friends, I guess) and then BOOM, just today I find out that one of my best friends from high school is getting engaged, and I was like “Ohhhhhhhh, I see what Tavel means”. Single late-bloomers unite! It’ll be all the sweeter when it works out.

  6. jackiel15

    I get it. Maybe we’re not late-bloomers, maybe others are early bloomers? Good for them. Good for us. Life is sweet.

  7. I loooooved this post! And peonies are my absolute favorite flower as well. Love will come to you, I have absolutely no doubt, but only when it’s the right time. Obviously the Universe wants you to become an awesome Doctor 1st! 😉

    • travelswithtavel

      So glad you enjoyed it. Agreed… Believe it or not, I’m not worried 🙂 And I always trust the universe, evenwhen it flips me around a little.

  8. Ben W

    Ah yes, I know the feeling; opening those too-expensive envelopes trying to resist the temptation to feel that this envelope contains some commentary on my life. Then I open it and smile, because I knew it was coming anyway… Like you didn’t know Kate and Andrew would get married?

    Then, I sit in awe at the expensive envelopes and think: “I will never marry a woman who wants a fancy invitation. ” And this thought only solidifies my decision to hold out for the right woman, the woman who fantasizes about neither engagement rings nor gaudy statements of love.

    All of this eventually leads to feeling happy for my lovestruck friends and an urge to show my unconditional support takes over, whether or not I think the marriage will last. Statistically, at least one of those 7 weddings you’re attending this summer (your support is perhaps more unconditional than mine, I’ve only got 3) will end in a divorce. oops. there. I said it. Care to place a bet? ok. ok. Now I’m just being mean.

    To confirm your choice in how and when to grow up (and mine) and make us both feel better, I’ll refer you to the following table of divorce rates for different ages at the time of marriage: as you can see, it’s only getting better for the next 8 years…

    Age Women Men
    Under 20 years old 27.6% 11.7%
    20 to 24 years old 36.6% 38.8%
    25 to 29 years old 16.4% 22.3%
    30 to 34 years old 8.5% 11.6%
    35 to 39 years old 5.1% 6.5%

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