The Value In Taking Your Time
Impatient for your lesbian life to begin? Some words of wisdom from an older lesbian.
For most of my life, the idea of finding someone to love and settling down in a fun and interesting life didn’t seem possible. I never imagined even being acknowledged, much less whole-heartedly accepted by people around me. Growing up in the suburbs of Northern California, I saw few people who looked like me, and absolutely no one living in an openly lesbian relationship. It felt grim, to say the least.
Without role models or images in which I could place myself in my daydreams, it wasn’t easy to see a road ahead of me. As a result, I spent most of my 30s as a fairly scared, unambitious person. As I moved into my 40s and the world began to change, I regretted having spent so much time partially hidden in the shadows, longing for a rich, authentic life. If I had felt brave and confident and secure as a lesbian in the world, I would think, I wouldn’t have had to wait so long to have what everyone else has been enjoying for years.
Certainly I would have loved being raised in a world that embraced all people and that saw me as just as viable a member of society as my straight sisters and brothers. But in many ways, now that I’m in my mid-60s, I realize how much I got to learn during the slowness that came as a result of the bias in which I was reared. I’m not saying I’m grateful that I was not seen and not acknowledged; I’m saying that having to make my own rules on my own time made me a stronger and richer person than I ever could have been without the struggle.
It turns out that our tendency as humans is to jump through all of life’s hoops rather quickly, always aiming for that perfect scene ahead of us. We choose a major during our first week in college (whether we’re really interested in it or not), we graduate, get jobs, find partners, get married, have kids and buy houses. We obviously learn things along the way, but we’re moving fast, checking things off our lists. I’m learning that the choices I made, the decisions that faced me, and the development of my relationships all actually ended up benefitting from me taking a long time to get to them. I got to try out a few jobs and career possibilities until I kind of fell into the one that was perfect for me. I had my share of early relationships, but the settling down that I longed for didn’t come for a very long time. In the end I realize that it allowed me to be in the world on my own and to find my lifetime relationship when I was actually ready for it.
I don’t think people should have to live secret lives in shame in order to experience the strength that comes from having to make and follow your own rules. But I do think it doesn’t hurt any of us to slow the pace of our lives a bit and decide what we really suits us and how we truly want to live. When I look at young lesbians, I love the sense of freedom they have. That was never there for my sisters and me when we were their age. But I also know that young lesbians today feel the same urgency to get their lives going that young heterosexual women feel.
My best advice is to slow down and pay close attention to what you want and how you feel. You don’t need to study the first subject that looks good to you or the one your dad thinks would be best. You certainly don’t want to select your career based solely on prestige or salary. What you want is to get to know yourself. What do you like to do? How do you want to spend your time? The same is true with relationships. When someone likes us it’s hard to say, “This isn’t the perfect person for me,” but maybe she isn’t. Give yourself time, trust your instincts, and believe you are worth it. Your life is a long, delicious meal, a winding drive down a tree-lined country road, a spectacle to be enjoyed fully at every turn. Don’t get locked into the image that lies ahead. Instead, pay closer attention to the voice inside of you. You’re lucky that the world is ready for that voice. You be ready, too.