Beware of Middle Age (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-Two)

Sometime during the second year of my relationship with David, I went out of town. I was gone for about a week.

It was the longest we’d ever been apart.

The people that were renting my house had just moved away, so I had to go home to do some repairs. I didn’t mind leaving, though, and I didn’t mind the work. I wanted to remember what it was like to be there again, living in the house that I was so proud of for so long, and to remember what it was like to be alone.

I took the train into town, then took a bus the rest of the way. When I got there, it was about five in the morning and I was tired, so the first thing I did was to put some blankets on the floor. Then, I fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up and there I was in my house again, just like old times.

I was alone, and yet, it wasn’t like it used to be.

As I worked on the house that week, I kept trying to figure out what had changed. I tried to remember what it was like when I lived there before, when I was still lonely, and writing a lot of poetry, and feeling strong and independent for living in my own house that I bought all by myself and that I loved. I remembered how I used to tell myself to never get married because if I did, it would change me forever and I’d become like everybody else.
Was I right? I wondered as I painted and hammered and cleaned. Maybe I was. I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I am rarely lonely and I love being this way so much. But I’m not the person I used to be.

These days, I’m almost like everyone else.

Then, the realization: This is the very beginning of middle age.

I never believed it would happen to me.

But I don’t want it to, I thought. I want to keep growing.

I need to find a way to keep growing.

The repairs went well and I worked hard. After the week was over, on the way back to Seattle, I made a decision: I would not live only for David anymore. Instead, I would do what I wanted to do, too.

I would be more of me.

And so, that is what I did. I started working harder than before. I started doing more of the things I loved. On my next trip to my hometown, I visited my mother and slept alone again for the first time in a long time and, that time, I enjoyed it more than I had before. I enjoyed having the bed to myself, and staying with someone other than David, and waking up to them instead of him, too.

For the first time in a long time, I was glad to be alone.

It felt like a betrayal.

It reminded me of a story by Albert Camus called The Adulterous Woman. She was married, but she didn’t cheat on her husband.

She just took a walk alone at night.

When I came back from that trip, David and I lay in bed for a while talking. He said he really missed me when I was gone, and I said I really missed him, too.

“But you don’t normally miss people,” he said. “You never missed your husband after he was gone.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But it was different. With him, if I ever did want him back, I could just remember the bad things and change my mind. With you, though, there wouldn’t be any bad things to remember.”

But the truth is, I am sure I would think of something.

Of course, I wouldn’t be as happy without him as I am now. And I’d probably start looking for another man again eventually. But not right away. I’d need time—probably a lot of time—to get over it.

And that’s something, after all.


After Rachel and Matthew had their first child, they had a couple of fights. Well, okay, more than a couple—they fought for over three years. They fought about schedules. They fought about bad habits. They even fought about the lawn mower. And besides actually having their child, it was the best thing that could've happened. Get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Story on Amazon now.