I had my mid-life crisis when I was 19. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I had a not-so-great experience in high school, and I wanted nothing more than to get out. Everything would be better then. However, upon getting out, I realized that life was still the same. There was no grand epiphany; there was no sudden success; there was no sudden glory. There was just the day-to-day efforts of living, and, at times, it seemed so mind-bendingly pedestrian and dull that I could barely sit still without feeling utterly panicked.
I recall sitting next to my step-dad, fidgeting, squirming, and generally losing my mind while watching television.
“This can’t be all there is to life?” I said. “Sitting here watching tv while the minutes tick by?”
“This is all there is,” he said. “Get used to it.” (He was never one to sugar coat things.)
How could he be so comfortable in this knowledge when I was on the verge of an existential meltdown?
Things improved once I had a direction for my education. Part of the breakdown had to do with the notion that I wanted nothing more than to leave my hometown, and I couldn’t afford to. My then-boyfriend, however, and a friend from high school both left–he to Boston and she to upper New York state. And I felt like I was falling behind. I wanted to be the one moving.
I had a hard time recognizing the need for small steps. Understanding that picking up a pen doesn’t make you Gertrude Stein. That picking up a camera doesn’t make you Cartier-Bresson. That picking up a guitar doesn’t make you Jimi Hendrix. Before I could take big steps, I had to take small steps by staying home and attending the local branch of Ohio State.
When it was time for me to take a big step and move away from home to attend Ohio University, my focus became clearer and my existential fear subsided (though it rears its head still to this day). I had goals; I had creative outlets; I had critics (professors) to keep me on my toes.
I’ve always known that I wanted to dedicate my life to my creative work. I didn’t want children. I was neutral about getting married (though that feeling changed when I met my husband, and for whom I am eternally grateful), but I knew I wanted to dedicate what time I had on earth to creating things—photos, stories, essays, poems, etc.
And I have been fortunate enough to do those things and to make a living out of it, too. When I was younger, I had the grand goal of being “famous” for my creative efforts. Happily, that desire has subsided, and my goals now are to create work I like; to create work that might resonate with others; to find beauty everywhere I look; to help people; to be kind.
I enter my forties feeling happy.
I’m grateful everyday for people in my life and experiences I’ve had and have.
I’m thankful I can run farther than I’ve ever run before.
I feel strong, and I’m thankful for my health–I’ve seen my mom and dad struggle with cancer, and I’m a believer in the notion that it’s not a matter of people being healthy or sick, but of those who are sick and those yet to be sick. Cynical, but true. My wonderful parents were once young and healthy, too, after all. It’s a humbling reminder and I’m thankful for it.
I feel inspired. And though I sometimes wish I had done things sooner, or learned things earlier, I am happy to be where I am, and to recognize that the minutes are always ticking by, so enjoy them, even when you’re on the couch not doing much of anything.