When I think to when I've felt the most myself, I remember the year after college, the year before I was married. I had my own apartment and worked breezy, carefree jobs. I had a TV but no channels. I spent my free time hanging out with friends or writing. Back then, I had dreams of becoming a writer. I have the same dream now, of course, but back then I was determined to make something of it, turn it into a reality. Now instead, reality has crashed my dream into a whimsy of my youth.
Everything I have done since then has forced me to grow up, to become a responsible adult. I got married, bought a house, finally have a dependable car. I took jobs because of stability or health insurance, rather than scheduling. I have two little boys and a dog to take care of. I am an adult, yes, but now without those carefree smiles I once had.
This week I read A Drinking Life, by Pete Hamill. When I read his sentence, “I would lie alone in the dark, feeling that I was a character in a story that had lost its plot,” I inhaled deeply, words now assigned to something I myself have been feeling. And then, after he decides to enroll in art school: “…After months without a narrative line for my own life, I felt the story again.”
I have been going through a midlife crisis of sorts, just a tad earlier than common. I have been back at work for months, but this time a job that works with my life scheduling-wise, just like those jobs of yore. Perhaps it is that that has got me thinking about what it is I want to do from here on out. Perhaps it was considering going back to those adult jobs, the ones far removed from my passion. Perhaps it was Holden turning 18 months old, the age where he is cheaper in daycare and when daycare becomes an option. Perhaps it has been what I’ve been reading. Perhaps it is all of those things.
“You can do anything you want to do. What is rare is this actual wanting to do a specific thing: wanting it so much that you are practically blind to all other things, that nothing else will satisfy you…I mean it. There is reason for you to give this statement some of your best thought. You may find that this is just what is the matter with most of the people in the world; that few are really wanting what they think they want, and that most people go through their lives without ever doing one whole thing they really want to do.” ~The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
That specific thing has always been writing for me. I remember being a ten-year-old who wrote angsty diary entries and silly, juvenile short stories and dreaming of one day writing more – writing words that other people would read. I remember changing my major in college from education to writing because that was what I loved. I knew that as a major, it could be worthless, but I also knew that it was what I was interested in, what I enjoyed. I remember moving to Omaha and trying for a hot moment to land a job somewhat related to writing, but after one interview that I bombed, giving up and going back to what I knew – working in a restaurant until someone found something else for me to do. I remember the thoughts and dreams, I’ve just never put them into motion.
But now, with this mid-life crisis, I am rejuvenated. I am motivated to find the carefree, happy smiles that I had before I gave up on what I love doing the most. I have had a lot of distractions in the past decade, but although they detoured me, I haven’t completely lost my way. A few months ago, I applied for UNO’s MFA program. A few weeks ago, I wrote out a rough draft of a children’s book. Today, on a day without the children underfoot, I picked up my novel again, brimming with ideas for it. Steve texted me, “Getting some writing done?” And I replied that I am and I’ve missed it: “I feel the most myself when I write.”
Finally, I am feeling the story again.