Note: This publishing is a bit delayed. I originally wrote this piece on July 2, 2017. Not that it matters except I like people to get my birthday right 🙂
Photo credit here
In two days, I am turning 36. I’ve never thought about this age specifically. It’s a good age, I suppose – a nice, divisible, thirty-something number of no particular importance. Except that’s now how it feels to me at all.
I dove headfirst into a pile of life changes at the start of 2017: I stopped drinking and, by the third week of January, smoked my last cigarette. I found out I was pregnant and will be birthing a girl child in September. I started this blog, which deserves more attention than it gets (but hey, get in line on the list of things for which that statement is also true). I’ve read more books for my own personal development and leisure this year than I have in the last five years combined. A “sane” person would look at this list and say, “Wow! Look at God! Won’t He do it.” Me? I panic.
I cannot say for sure if it is my daughter’s impending arrival, the hormones raging through my body, the anxiety which has been nesting in my bones for the better part of a decade, or the proximity to this completely false milestone of forty years of life on this Earth (or maybe all these things mix together to form the Long Island Ice Tea of personal crises in my brain), but I am FREAKING. OUT.
Awhile back, I read an article about famous people who didn’t hit it big until they were over 40 and I thought to myself, “Girl, you’ve got time! See, you’re just like Vera Wang and Samuel Jackson.” I needed to read that article. I needed confirmation that if you are still fairly mediocre in your mid-thirties that it isn’t a life sentence. These days, I tend to exist in a state of semi-panic where I fixate on what I should be doing with my life and how it is seems so vastly different from my current reality. I desperately yearn to hit rewind and go to back to my twenties. Why didn’t I do that research project with my professor when she asked and go a different route? Why didn’t I take advantage of Brooklyn while I was there and explore more creative avenues, find a job I actually wanted? Why didn’t I buy bitcoin in 2007? Why didn’t I stop drinking sooner?
I needed confirmation that if you are still fairly mediocre in your mid-thirties that it isn’t a life sentence.
If I’m not scrutinizing the rearview I am desperately trying to make heads or tails of the right direction moving forward. Okay, I accept that I cannot go back to twenty-seven-year-old me. What’s done is done. But looking to the future, what am I going to do with this one precious life I’ve been given (thanks, Mary Oliver)? What is the goal? What do I want? I mull these questions over, read books that are full of exercises I don’t actually do, written specifically to help lost souls such as myself find the big answers, and I shut down. I read, I learn, and then I self-paralyze. It’s too much.
I’m able to somehow step back and see the madness for what it is. I’ve got a kid on the way and the older I get, the less plausible “starting over” feels. I surround myself with messages from the likes of my beloved Gary Vee and Tim Ferriss – successful people who live life constantly on ten. I vacillate between heightened states of motivation and urgency, and debilitating fear that I may never really hone in on my true North Star and discover what it is I’m meant to be doing. If I were a clichéd forty something middle manager right now, I might be compelled to go buy a ridiculous car.
Perhaps the modern-day equivalent of the gaudy, red sports car is to quit your job, take your savings and go travel, chronicling your exploits on Instagram or a blog, and pray you somehow cut through the social media noise enough to ratchet up a sizable following and some sponsorship. At thirty-six, I don’t think I can hashtag my way to happiness. I’ll be needing a different way.
I vacillate between heightened states of motivation and urgency, and debilitating fear that I may never really hone in on my true North Star and discover what it is I’m meant to be doing.
In an effort to cut myself a little bit of slack, I think a lot of what is driving this frantic pursuit of what comes next is the fact that I haven’t drank in so long. Sure, the pregnancy has helped protect my sobriety, but I know that I’ve wasted a lot of really good years being lethargic, frightened, and sloppy. Now that I’ve reached a level of clarity that’s been lost to me for a long while, it feels like I’m trying to quickly make up for lost time – an impossible task. I haven’t fully forgiven myself for making a muck of things. Perhaps a part of me thinks if I can pull together a clear vision for my life, achieve it, and be successful, it will be a sort of redemption and anything short of greatness will not do. The fact that I still feel lost and can’t find satisfaction in what I have actually done so far is just making the path forward more difficult. There is a part of me that thinks that letting go and accepting what is, is another form of surrender (not the good kind) and apathy. How ironic then that all this panic and worry confuses me to the point of exhaustion and I wind up not even trying at all.
I do not know what my plans are for the future. I don’t know where my family is going to put roots. There are a lot of unknowns keeping me up at night, things I cannot control no matter how much I try. What I do know is that I have no desire to continue making myself crazy. There is a thin line between drive and madness and I’m tilting a little too far to the right.
Perhaps a part of me thinks if I can pull together a clear vision for my life, achieve it, and be successful, it will be a sort of redemption and anything short of greatness will not do.
In about two and half months, my daughter is going to be here and life is going to turn upside down once more. She deserves a stable mama who’s not completely absorbed in personal crises every other moment of the day. There’s work to be done. And maybe that work starts with a break. Get off social media. Unsubscribe to Gary Vee (sorry, boo). Read books just for fun. Silence the noise a bit so my brain doesn’t constantly sound like a Billy Mays OxiClean infomercial. Something.
And maybe this too shall pass and I will read this article in a few months and think, “Calm down, girl. Get a grip.” It’s happened before. There is an energy brewing around me that I struggle to make heads or tails of. In many ways, I’m surrounded by inertia and it’s not what I want for myself. Perhaps bigger changes are on the horizon, the kind that make or break a future or heart.
At thirty-six, I don’t think I can hashtag my way to happiness. I’ll be needing a different way.
When we come to these crossroads, it’s critically important that we come armed with a clear head that can distinguish between our own little crazy and genuine intuition trying to save us from more mistakes. Right now, that is where my focus needs to be – getting clear (and no, not in the Scientology sense). I don’t know if that means I’ll be writing and publishing more or entering a period of radio silence, but it’s time to go on a walkabout of sorts.