A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 33rd birthday…celebrated being a euphemism for what I ACTUALLY did, which was spend a significant portion of the day crying while getting royally drunk on red wine.

33 roared up on me, presenting itself in motorcycle leathers, demanding the goods for its payment at my birth.  It had given me enough time, it reasoned, gesticulating with a cigarette, to DO something, BE something, SHOW something, and it wanted proof—just the facts, man—that its loan had been put to use.

My lower lip trembled.

I hadn’t, in fact, done anything with the gift, and was standing there–With nothing as proof.

Instead, I look back at a long road, a tough one, and me, a terminally miserable, ever-dissatisfied wastrel; a mess in her quest toward the unnamed and ill-defined.

Standing in my place, in these shoes, this body, there was supposed to be a bohemian traveler.  A jaunty soul.  An accomplished….SOMETHING.  I was set to see the world, to take lovers, to fit my life into a backpack.  I was to lie on beaches, stroll museums and bazaars, to teach small children English As A Second Language, stopping each day by the box to send the postcards I now beg off of others.

Would have.  Should have.  Could have.

Youth is indeed wasted on the young.

Somewhere along the line, it became too late for those things.  Somehow, the small setbacks got the better of me.

The successes that I push myself toward are only illusions to fool the unwitting onlooker.  “But this!” they shout, “You’ve done this!  And this!  And THIS!!”  Smokescreen, I tell you.  Sleight of hand.  Shadows and mirrors.  For if they knew the image of myself that I hold in a secret pocket, the shock of the disparity would silence the room.

How do I reconcile this failure?  How do I make it okay that my end point is here, rather than THERE?

In truth, I cannot.  And that is the bottom of the well.


5 thoughts on “33

  1. Try answering those questions staring 50 in the face. What you and I both need to do is tell that voice that is demanding more, more, more to STFU and go on. I am trying (and believe me when I say I know how trying I can be) to be more at peace with myself, where I am in life and most importantly who I am. I mean, there are plenty of people I think well of who return the favor. They can’t ALL be wrong, can they? I didn’t think so, either.

    For all of that, I love the way you write.

    1. I think that this might become a series, so that I might answer those questions. Where was it I thought I’d go? What was it that stopped me? What is it that I’m looking for?

      Much of the problem lies in the fact that the decisions I’ve made involve actual people. With actual feelings. And to have made different decisions affects different people in ways that could be construed as harmful.

      I’m struggling now. With many things. Chiefly, that I have no idea what will make me happy. How can you start if you can’t even answer that?

  2. Seriously. I don’t know many people anymore that approach a birthday and say, “Woohoo! Look at all the good stuff I’ve done!” Most of us come from the other direction…the direction of “Crap. Will I ALWAYS be this mediocre?” There ate about 8 million things that I wish that I had done in my life. I thought I would have traveled more, been more cosmopolitan somehow. Instead, I am vanilla.

    I don’t know that there is too much to say to make you feel better, other than to say that you are not alone.

  3. I feel for you Jen. I’ve written a version of this post at 30, 33, 35, 40. Written it on my blog, in my journal, in my head. I’ve been writing something along these lines in my head a lot lately, truth be told. I’ll be 42 this year, and I’m only now realizing that what’s at the heart of this struggle, for me, really has nothing to do with age. Even at 23 I felt pretty much the same sense of anguish about how I was living my life, and it had (and has) to do, I think, primarily with how it feels–in one’s body, heart, soul–to hold intentions inside, unexpressed. As soon as I become properly aware of those contracted, constipated places inside me and I then allow them to move (so to speak), the age thing sort of disappears. The moment I start expressing myself cleanly and fully, I no long care what it amounts to. I’m living, and that’s enough. More than enough. After all, we’re all going to be dead soon enough, and I doubt that a long list of accomplishments is what brings a sense of joy at the end of life. I suppose I’d have to ask an elderly person who’s lived their lives to the full just what the secret is. If I can find one. I haven’t yet. But my best guess is that the most important thing is simply to express that which needs to be expressed right now, today. Whenever I manage that trick, the sense of ickiness goes away. Until the next time I put the cork back in and bottle myself up. And once the cork is back in place, it doesn’t matter at all how many great things I accomplished yesterday or in the past five years. All that matters is popping that thing and getting the juices flowing again. Not that I know precisely how to make all this good stuff happen. I don’t have any answers, or else I’d be living them. Maybe. I’m just hoping to make some sense of all this, for your sake and mine. Hang in there, Jen. You’ve written a shit-load of awesome stuff on this blog. If it were suddenly all published tomorrow and then you made millions from it and had a million people telling you how great you were 24 hours a day, that would be cool for a while, but it would wear off. It’s always about right now, corny as it sounds. 33 is pretty friggin’ young. Our boy Henry Miller struggled through the entire decade of his thirties to free his true voice. This is life. We can do this thing. We can climb out of our wells, or be pulled out of ’em.

  4. “a terminally miserable, ever-dissatisfied wastrel; a mess in her quest toward the unnamed and ill-defined.”

    Yes. I know this. Interesting thing is that feeling of subtle hope: that at some point we (that’s you and me… a people like us who feel this way) believe that one day we’ll wake and NOT feel like that. Anyway, yes there are days like that, the good days. But more of life is spent (between now and later) learning that this is who we are. I was JUST thinking about this this very morning: Why didn’t I get the happy gene from my Mom that my sister got? I got the glass-half-empty gene from the long-line of Germans on Dad’s side. (That sounds like a bunch of boo-hoo WHY ME?? and it is.)

    Anyway, it takes work, as you know. Thinking differently takes work. One thing I can reassure you about is this: If you decide to “work” on thinking differently, don’t worry or fret that it will make you “worse” or “lame” or “too cheerful.” It doesn’t and it won’t. That’s the worry I think I had anyway– that I’d lose my edge if I tried to be too “happy.” Well, I’m 42 which equals about 28 years of working at being “happier” and I haven’t lost the edge yet. In fact, it only gets better.

    I do heartily recommend this book… read it very, very slowly. I promise: it won’t break you. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2571146-taking-the-leap

    Happy birthday, lovely.

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