My Life is Much More Exciting on Paper

I’m rapidly approaching my 44th year – which makes me think a lot about how quickly time passes. Yes, I know – nothing earth shattering, everyone has these revelations but they always seem so profound when they happen to you, right?  Of course – we are all so clever and deep in our own minds.

Anyway, I don’t remember my post-high-school-before-marriage life as being all that thrilling and or exciting. But when I started to think about it in terms of a post, I was surprised at how much cooler my life on paper seemed to be compared to the reality I perceived at the time.  And I got to do things that I never ever thought I’d do – and I would not have done if I’d not met my then boyfriend/now husband.

Just fresh into my 2nd semester in college, I met my husband- I was 18 he was 24.  We started hanging out together and pretty much morphed into a couple within minutes.  He was a musician in a band.  A psychedelic-punk band…kind of Frank Zappa meets The Butthole Surfers kind of band. So needless to say, we went to a lot of parties, stayed out late, late, late…and I witnessed things I would NEVER, EVER want my mother to know.

We lived, in EIGHT YEARS OF GLORIOUS SIN, off campus in a house in an alley for a bit (FUN), walked all over the place everywhere, got tattoos in a guy’s house (the artist was flown in from SF so it wasn’t as cheezy as it sounds), had people hanging out at our house most every night or we went to someone else’s house to hang out, I belly danced, baked in a hippie restaurant, attended college and basically did nothing to ensure that I’d have a financially secure future.

All these years later – things turned out pretty good.  But looking back, despite how much more interesting my life seemed in retrospect, what I really did during my 20s was spend a lot of time catching up on sleep.  That’s what I remember the most ~ napping at 3PM.  But I’d not change one iota of that time. I loved my youth – I met a lot of fantastic people that helped shape me – and most of those people are still in my life.  My body aged, but I still see myself as a 19 year old and I still see my friends as I did the day we met.

So dear readers – when you reflect on your past, does it seem far more interesting on paper than in reality?

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
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83 Responses to My Life is Much More Exciting on Paper

  1. djmatticus says:

    I always think it’s been kind of dull, until I put it on paper, and then I remember all the amazing things I have done and feel better about it. I’ve visited some amazing places, I’ve survived some harrowing experiences, I’ve gotten to do things that meant a lot to me, I’ve met some great people… it’s all been one grand adventure.

  2. calahan says:

    The paper itself is generally more interesting than the life I put onto the paper.

  3. stephrogers says:

    Oh your life sounds like the perfect romance novel! Mine sounds like some really trashy B-grade soap. I don’t think any script writer could come up with that stuff!

  4. Hi! I’ve seen your comments on so many blogs I follow so I thought I’d come say hello and glad I did! I enjoyed this post and I never really thought about it that way. I did do a reverse bucket list once as opposed to writing down all the things I hope to do, I was able to see all that I have accomplished. It was quite eye opening! You don’t realize all that you have done until you write it down.

  5. leesa jackson says:

    so if living without thought of consequences or the future is an attribute of youth, what does that say about someone soon-to-be-60 who has yet to give either of those things a moment of serious reflection? if i start now will i get to be a grownup too? i guess that life was too interesting, and so i just forgot to do all those grownup things like finish school, get a real job, have kids…..then there are those days when i pass a mirror and think “who’s that old lady?” tho perhaps i’m not QUITE as impulsive as i was in my 20’s (won’t go into THAT) or my 30’s (when i got married to someone i’d known for 3 weeks because i thought it would be interesting) or my early 50’s (when i moved into a yurt off the grid in the middle of nowhere) or….hmmmm, well i guess i hope my friends will think i’m so much fun that they will be willing to take care of me when i get REALLY old and my profligate youth (and middle age) will have caught up with me…either that, or walk out into the woods and let the wolves eat me…now THAT sounds like a fun way to go!

  6. Karen says:

    Sometimes I think the opposite – that my real life has always been far more interesting than I give it credit for! That comes from being incapable of living in the moment, which I’ve always struggled with. I slept mostly through my teen years (with the exception of when my horrible boss made me sling bagels at the crack-ass of dawn…).

  7. Twindaddy says:

    No, my life has never really been interesting. I’m hoping that happens at some point in the future.

  8. electronicbaglady says:

    I wouldn’t say more interesting but perhaps a little less boring. I think I have led a very placd life but sometimes other people say that such-and-such a thing sounds interesting. Not very often though 🙂
    My mother (until her brain melted so badly form dementia) was always clear she felt like a 20 year old inside no matter how she aged,and I find the same. I am now 51 but still think I’m younger mentally. Except on days when Windows 8 messes with my head.
    I do know I would be horrified if my children got up to some of the stuff I did, so it can’t have been all boring!

  9. unfetteredbs says:

    Oooh the ability to sleep like we did at Twenty… Now that would be exciting.

  10. rossmurray1 says:

    Oh my god, the sleeping…!

  11. Great post and wonderful remaniscing and musings so far from the commentary. I think that I spent my youth grimacing about the past, clawing towards an unknown future and ignoring the present. I spent my 20’s and 30’s trying to live the life of someone that I thought I should be rather than being authentic. Being authentic was frightening, and I thought I was a fraud. Hence the drink factor…ha ha. So there may have been the occassional interesting moment, but even on paper my CV is rather dull. Work, school, early marriage. Even my worst drunken stupors and escapades don’t pack much punch. I don’t mean all this to be a downtrodden thing – it isn’t – but as a marker to where things are now.

    I feel that living authentically is about the best things we can do, to honour our selves and that which made us. My life now is just as it was then, but without the dulled sheen. The misery. There is way of being for me that hopefully gets away from looking back and wondering “ah hell, why didn’t I ________ ?” which I am apt to do, but doesn’t serve me.

    The funny thing, the ironic thing, is that those who I idolized or put on a pedestal or who I thought were crazy, fantastic and living life to the max…would often say what you and the others say here – there were some fab times, some nutty times, some rambunctious stuff going on, but in the end, it was life. Taking out the garbage. Cleaning the sink. Paying taxes. Clipping nails.

    20’s are fun. then again, 30’s are too. That’s what they say, no? But the grand thing about the 20’s is that most of us didn’t really have thet sense of fear, or of mortality. There is a refreshing thing I see in those who are in their 20’s. The equivalent of a child’s wonder in an adult’s body.

    Great post!


    • Hi Paul – I love you comment –

      I have spent a lot of time being bedazzled by someone else’s life/lifestyle only to find out that what I perceived on the outside was far different from what was actually occurring inside. Some of it was just mundane, like you describe and some of it was them living a hellish life behind doors.

      I totally believe in being authentic (now, I may have spent time not knowing how to do that but it’s a process – we ‘try on’ different personas until we find one that seems to fit us during the experimental years) – but I don’t know any other way but to be genuine or authentic. I have a friend that advises ‘never let them see you sweat’ but I cannot be that person – I’m not the type to pretend to know more than I do, to say, get a job – I’m honest to a fault. Or at least open about my abilities at the very least. Good thing I don’t want to run a company or manage a __________ (fill in the blank).

      Except for the jr high years, I’ve really enjoyed all of my live from 16 on – there’s been highs and lows, but overall, nothing has been a great disappointment (except for not getting taller than 5’4″ 🙂 )

      Struggling with alcohol sucks – as a great understatement. But i can see where alcohol can shield one from being ‘themselves’ if they thought that they were not any thing great to behold – which is so untrue, but we are frightened about not being _______ enough – so we think those things will make us more interesting, funny etc… but as you say – it doesn’t – it just adds a complication.

      Thanks for the great insight!

  12. Kylie says:

    That sounds really fun. And cool. I definitely can’t say my life at that age was cool, either on or off paper! Or maybe it was so cool, it was cold?

  13. Ah, my birthday twin…..I love this post. It really made me think about my youth and where I am today. I don’t think I was ever my true self in my 20’s. I spent too much time trying to be a person I wasn’t so I could fit in. Only in my 30’s and 40’s did I ever feel like the real me. I love looking back at my youth to see how far I’ve come.

    • 🙂
      I love when we reflect on our lives and see things that we missed back then. Someone commented that we all have unique lives and it’s true. We are all different yet the same – we move through life always doing, seeing, feeling, changing etc – yet sometimes we miss everything and sometimes we see it all – but once we allow ourselves to reflect, we can really appreciate what our lives are and how far we did come. I think we all come into ourselves at different points – but all those experiences have made us what we are. That’s the amazing thing about life. And it continues – I am not the same person I was yesterday but in a way I’m the same person I was at 16. We might be in the same pool but we are never stagnant.

  14. Mrs. P says:

    I think that I have always considered my life to be interesting, whether someone else would fell the same is another question. Of course, my first thought is that I don’t really care what others think…it’s my life. Now, more than 20 years ago (wink) when I was in my twenties, I did care what people thought and I let those feelings take a lot of the fun in life away. The one thing that I have gained with age is being content with who I am and not having to get approval, keep up with the Joneses, or live to any other standard than my own. That’s a freakin’ awesome feeling that I acquired from all the years of inexperience, fun, adventures and mistakes of earlier times!

    • Right? I keep coming back to this fabulous ability to reflect on what we have done in our lives and have ‘realizations’ about what we have experienced.

      I always felt strongly that there were things in my life that I didn’t want – I didn’t want to have an epiphany when I was 50 due to a heart attack b/c I’d become a work-a-holic… I had my epiphany early and decided that I loved working but I love having a life and if that mean that I would not have tons of money – then that would have to be the way it is. And also appreciative of those that strive for those stressful jobs – like doctors – b/c we need people like that to make this world complete.

      I still struggle with approval from a particular person – but that’s something I have to continue to learn to let go – but overall, I did my thing and am happy with the memories that I have made and feel the ones I’m making are just as special as the ones from the past.

      • Mrs. P says:

        I think the big difference for me is that when I was in my late teens and early twenties life was happening but I wasn’t making it happen. Now, I know that what ever I make of my life, it will be because I did something to achieve it. Now, I am enjoying having time to stop and smell the roses. From 1986 to 2002 I averaged 12 hour days 6 days a week. In 2002 I upped the work hours to 15 hour days, 6 1/2 days a week and by 2006 I was ready to enjoy doing nothing for 6 months. And in 2007 I started…a normal life. Working that many hours, whether you are doing good work for the community or making lots of money is not good for the soul. Balance…family and hobbies are much better. 🙂

        • Yes – I cannot imagine working 15 hours/day – I am all about balance!! I think a lot of people that work a crazy number of hours (when it’s not necessary) are probably using it as an escape – when you are always occupied -you don’t have to address what’s going on in your head or in your life. And of course it’s not like that for everyone in that situation – but I would bet for some it is.

          I love the hobby of doing nada 🙂

  15. Good question; my 20’s were a series of weird jobs, career missteps, grad school, traveling (although not as much as I would have liked), concerts, road trips, and irresponsible partying. That all sounds interesting, and I met fabulous people, but like you say, a lot of it was pretty mundane. Sleeping in, wasting time. The stories are great, but the time in between when those stories happened was pretty boring and filled with angst. My 30s have been all about responsibility, but in a way I finally feel officially grown up, which is nice. And sometimes terrible.

    • I skipped the ‘growing up part’ – I still feel like I’m waiting some sort of certification that I’m an ‘adult’ –

      I was always uber responsible – and it wasn’t until grad school that I threw off all the jobs and whatnot and just concentrated on being immersed in being a student (ok, I was responsible within that realm but not the same as when I was an undergrad and I was just going to my classes whilst I was working).

      I think it’s important to figure out what we DON’T want to do in our 20s rather than what we think we want to do and then find out years later that ‘oops – I don’t want to do that’ – I liked being open to many things but knowing I won’t stand for X, Y or Z.

      Please send me my ‘adult’ certificate so I can know I’ve ‘made it’… at least before I turn 50…

  16. JackieP says:

    My life didn’t get interesting till my mid twenties. Unless living with a dysfunctional family is interesting. Now I”my old and look back and think, ‘Damn, what a wild ass ride!’ Some was good, some was terrible. But such is life.

    • Dysfunctional is interesting – maybe not always ‘good’ interesting – but definitely a ‘wild ass ride’ –

      I loved my late teen years too – it was a little bit on the drama-agnsty side, but I was moving towards the person I became and stayed and a lot of what I deemed important then is still important now (I’ve changed, yes, but my core beliefs are still very much the same).

      I think being able to reflect on our lives is important – seeing the patterns and finding some joy in what we might have missed along the way when we were living it ‘back then’.

  17. ~meredith says:

    What a beautiful reflection. I like the way you found that niche of pure abandon and said, “well, I did this…” I thought, “cool!”

  18. Geo Sans says:


  19. My twenties? I graduated college, got married at 22, went to graduate school, worked as a TA, graduated again, had a baby at 24, had another one at 28, worked all sorts of weird jobs to try to make ends meet, was for a short time on gov’t programs, never slept cause babies and . . . damned if I can remember much else. Pretty boring, I guess?

    Well, okay, when I was 20 I went to Florida to visit a friend and had a crazy whirlwind long distance romance with a sailor that ended in absolute disaster but was good while it lasted.

  20. Hey I turn 44 this year! My life has definitely been interesting, on and off paper. I want to put it all on paper but not yet.

  21. Smaktakula says:

    This is something I think about all the time, and I’m glad someone put it in a post. Let me say that this is AWESOME, but I don’t think you’re quite reaching the right conclusion (I don’t know a way to write that without sounding pedantic and arrogant; what I mean is that I’ve come to a slightly different conclusion via a similar process). I don’t think it’s simply true that your life SEEMS more interesting on paper. I think your life IS that interesting.

    I think everybody’s life is extraordinary and unique, but almost no one ever sees it! We don’t recognize what is beautiful and awesome, even when it’s right in front of our effing faces. But in your act of recalling the story, you managed to recapture some of that magic, magic that maybe you weren’t ready to see the first time around.

    My contention is that it was always real.

    • Ah crap – I had a really long reply – and accidentally deleted it…

      But, I too, think a lot about this kind of stuff. I think what I meant to get across was that in retrospect, things were a lot more exciting than I actually realized at the time. But not for everything – there were really crazy things that we did and some stuff quite scary (I crave safety too – and going to a hardcore show where there are angry skinheads is scary scary scary) – but overall, I lived a really full life in my 20s even if I didn’t appreciate it until now.

      I think you’re right – most people just zoom thru life without really thinking about what’s going on – too much time is spent wishing for something in the future (or something greener on the other side) and miss all the stuff that its going on right then. I do have a vivid memory of the first night I spent at my boyfriend’s/now husband’s house – it was the most magical experience. I lived more than I would have if I’d found a ‘safe’ kind of person (more like me) – I’d never have ventured outside that cocoon and realized that there was so much more than going to school, getting a job, etc… and for some – that’s exactly right for them.

      Thank you – I love you’re take on my thoughts and experiences (and I mean that sincerely).

  22. Elyse says:

    Your 20s sound wonderful, actually. Mine were a mixed bag. I was very ill for the first half but had a blast during the second half and then got married shortly before I turned 30. But my life has been pretty interesting but not on a daily basis!

  23. NotAPunkRocker says:

    I don’t know about interesting. Unbelievable when I write it out sometimes when I see how much has happened.

    Frank Zappa meets the Butthole Surfers? Crazy, and very descriptive!

  24. El Guapo says:

    More interesting? No idea.
    In my college years through my twenties, I would take a long road trip (probably for a sandwich) at the drop of a hat. That morphed into the music junkie years, with up to 4 concerts a week.
    By the time I started going with my girl, I was ready for a calmer phase of life.
    I still manage to climb, ski, see some good music and occasionally defy gravity, just not near as often.
    But there’s a lot to be said for cooking a meal together, or going on a picnic (even if the picnic is on the living room floor), or even being ridiculous with each other while we run our normal errands.

    So it’s definitely still entertaining, if not as carefree…

    • I definitely would not want to be reliving my youth – but, like you, I still find joy in my current life and was ready to slow down when it was time to slow down. I still hang out with my friends a lot and play pool on Saturday nights with the same set of friends from my 20s – so I love the longevity of the people in my life – even if we’re going to be at 10PM instead of 2AM!

      • El Guapo says:

        The earlier bedtime is probably the worst part of getting older for me.

        • Well, I’ve always been an early go-to-sleeper, but now all my friends have finally caught up with me.

          Before I had to keep myself awake (but often just slept wherever we were – in front of a speaker, at someone’s house, on the floor in a corner etc) and then get up early for work then try to get some sleep around 3PM before the festivities started again.

  25. I love this post, Denise! Your question seems heavy to me today. I’m not sure I can answer it except to say that my college years were definitely a time of discovery and growth! That’s my whole life in a nut shell, so I still feel young at heart.

  26. Brigitte says:

    What a fantastic post and you’re right. My life seems way more exciting on paper, but looking back, I did some pretty cool things. I love that “living in glorious sin” thing you talked about–ha! Ah youth and our daring natures, huh? When life was just one big oyster to swallow up!

  27. Carrie Rubin says:

    Sounds like you thoroughly enjoyed your twenties which is as it should be. Mine were so full of work, training, and long hours, that my life seems far more fun now. Of course, had my med school and residency days been like what’s portrayed on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ well, then I would’ve been bedding attendings left and right. Oh, and they would’ve all been dreamy. Sorry to say it was nothing like that…

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