Monday, November 23, 2009

age, adulthood, and other funny things

I'm 24, self-confident, and still experience those moments when I feel like a middle school girl getting shunned in the cafeteria. Today at my practicum, I watched as the post-docs gathered by the front door, waiting for two of our staff psychologists to join them to go out for lunch. I remembered last week them saying that since we weren't having our regular training meeting that they would go out for lunch this afternoon instead.

And no, I wasn't invited. There was no reason for them to invite me. I'm only here two days a week and even my supervisor didn't expect me to be here today since it was optional because of the holidays. But here I am, and I was disappointed to realize that instead of eating lunch with the post-docs, three youngish women who I have come to get to know these past few months over lunches, meetings, trainings, and supervision sessions, I would be eating in the break room without them while they went out to lunch.

It felt silly, but suddenly I felt the age difference. I felt like the little sister, watching her big sisters go off together, hoping that one of them would invite her. I walked in an out of the break room a couple of times, watching them gathered, saying something to one of them, then only making eye contact the second time. How I hoped that one of them would say, "Oh hey, we didn't know you were going to be here today, why don't you join us for lunch?"

Even though I'm only a third year doctoral student, completing a part time practicum here, in the past few months, I'd come to feel as an equal to the staff here. I'm always aware that the full time staff have more experience than me and I have a lot to learn from them, but recently interacting with the postdocs, I'd come to feel like one of them, eating lunch together, talking about our clients, our families, dates, etc, sharing our frustrations and excitements with one another. I'm going to be sad to leave these new friends. I hope that we'll keep in touch, but it's unlikely that I've established any deep, lasting connections with them. At best, they'll be good professional contacts to consult with when I'm applying for internship and post-doctoral positions - good contacts to have, for sure.

Now I understand why coworkers in full-time office jobs often become close friends. I've never worked a job when I took lunches with coworkers. Just two hours a week, plus meetings and trainings and consultations together, and that's sadly sometimes more time than I spend with many of my other friends during the week. And though we're of different backgrounds and life stages and personalities, there are some qualities that counseling psychologists share together that make it easy to connect.

And so, I'm sad that I'm not really their equal. That they go out to lunch together while I stay behind. That I'll be leaving this practicum in a few weeks, and will be saying goodbye to them, goodbye to lunches together, goodbye to laughing about weird diets and fashions, goodbye to informal consultations about client frustrations with them.

Maybe it makes today's experience all the more sad because I've been realizing more and more how little things like age and life stages can matter when it comes to adult friendships. I have friends 3-4 years younger than me still in college, friends several years older than working or in graduate school, single friends, married friends, friends who are mothers and fathers. One of my friends calls this an "urban tribe." Why do many churches divide people up into "homogeneous" groups of Young Singles, Young Marrieds etc.? I threw a well-attended party Friday night, a house show in which three of my musician friends played, and it was wonderful to look around see the diverse friends around me. Friends, strangers, college students, grad students, single, married, fathers, pregnant women, two of my pastors, coworkers, neighbors, friends of friends little sisters, mostly White, but also black, Indian, Turkish, people who see me as an authority figure, people who see me as a mentee to shepherd, people who see me as their friend, sister, equal, all eating queso, drinking beer cider, listening to music, having conversation, telling stories, imitating Obama, singing songs. All seemed more equal that night, any normal power differentials (for lack of a better term) seemed to blur as we all enjoyed the music and company.

Our church elders last night spoke about maturity, recognizing that we're a young church, and we need older adults with more life experience and maturity, but also recognizing that age and experience doesn't always equal wisdom and maturity. I'm thankful to be growing into maturity, I'm thankful to have people in my life who are more mature than me in different areas. I have no idea how to wrap up this blog post, it's taken a turn that I didn't expect. This often happens when I'm writing. I have in mind to write one thing, and then discover that it's related to something else, something more important to me than the thing I first set out to write about. Usually I like to connect this back to the beginning, but maybe there's not a need for that.

I'm 24, self-confident, and still experience those moments when I feel like an adult.


Emily said...

Friend, I'm glad you are still mulling all this over... and that you still have moments of feeling like you are in middle school. Me too. I frequently have flashbacks to the "don't know where to sit first day in the cafeteria" moment. Why is that so powerful?? We have such a need to belong.
Anyway, I'm really excited about the posibility that we can have some belonging/bonding time over Christmas. Much love.

Amy Simpson said...

I love reading your blog! Thank you for writing and reminding me that I'm not alone in thinking that adult friendships can be even more confusing than middle school ones. Keep on creating opportunities for real community where the power differences are less visible and the love is stronger. If we all try to do that, maybe it will happen.

I'm glad we're blog buddies.