Something’s Gotta Give

I’ve had a song stuck in my head all day.  We all experience this issue every once in a while where a song that we kind of know the words to runs through our mind non-stop.  You sing the words that you know and make up others along the way, humming the tune until you want to stick your hand into your ear and attempt to manually extract the song from your head.  Today, for me, that song is Something’s Gotta Give by Christian Kane.  However, I’m okay with the tune in my head.  In fact, I think it should take off its shoes, put up its feet and stick around for awhile.

Let me first start off with a confession/disclaimer.  Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that when I find something I really like, I will obsess over it for a bit.  Now, I’m not a stalker, I don’t do anything illegal (I’m too neurotic for that), and I don’t bother anyone.  But when I find something that I enjoy, I will immerse myself in it.  My husband says that I have an addictive personality.  I respectfully disagree with his assessment.  I  like to categorize my obsessive spurts as me showing my appreciation for something that may, or may not, be worth appreciating.

For example, when I was a kid, we’re talking elementary school age, I loved the movie The Three Amigos.  I watched it over and over again, which was hard to do back in the era before DVRs and DVDs.  I watched the movie so many times in such a short period that my mother decided to hide the video tape from me so I couldn’t watch it anymore.  I can’t explain why I loved that movie so much, but I know that something about it made me happy, and I wanted to experience that feeling as many times as I could.

Why am I telling you this extremely embarrassing story?  Because old habits die hard.  I’m almost 31 years old, and here I am, slightly obsessing over this song.  I play it on repeat, listening to it over and over again, finding comfort in the lyrics.  It’s as if the words describe everything I feel right now.  Not the part about working blue-collar jobs in Texas, it is a country song after all.  No, it’s the overall message that we shouldn’t sit idly by and watch our lives and dreams go by that strikes a sharp chord with me.  Right now, I feel as if I am nailed to my office walls, looking out my window at all of the possibilities that await me, yet I remain immobile.  I could be a lawyer, a baker…a candlestick maker.  I could be anything.  That thought in and of itself is overwhelming.  But mix that it with indecision and fear of change, and I’m sitting on that fence right next to Christian Kane, mourning the hole in my favorite boots.

After reading my first entry, one of my girlfriends brought up a very interesting point.  She said that we spend so much time working toward things when we’re young that we think once we achieve certain goals: a career, a marriage, kids etc., we’ll be happy.  Then she said that it’s not necessarily about achieving the goals we set, it’s about being happy on the journey.  A good point, one that I definitely need to be reminded of from time to time; however, it is a point that is easier said than done.  It can be hard to enjoy the journey when we face so much uncertainty in who we are, where we are going and what we want in life.

We’ve been told our whole lives we can do anything we put our minds to.  That’s one of the hardest about being this age.  When we were younger it was so easy to dream about who we wanted to be and what kind of impact we would have as an adult.  But then we grow up and realize that not everyone can be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court or win an Academy Award.  The time comes to decide between going for your dreams or accepting your fate and settling for stability and a two car garage.  So what do we do ?  Do we stay on course and hope our dreams will happen, or do we make a change and try something completely different to see if that will make us happier?  Is it better to be unsatisfied sticking to what we know?  Or should we enter unfamiliar territory and completely change our original life plan?

Unfortunately, these are not easy questions to answer.   They only become harder when we realize that we are too old to be young and too young to be old.  So we struggle with our uncertain status in society, trying to wade our way through the deep end of the kiddie pool and figure out what and who we are supposed to be in this world.  We also have to get over ourselves, changing attitudes and habits we have developed during our journeys over the last thirty-something years.  A very hard obstacle to overcome.  As the song in my head says, “it’s hard to turn a wrench on a rusty bolt.”  And I totally agree with that, clearly as I am a creature of very weird and old habits.  Then again, maybe it’s time we spray some WD-40 on the damn thing and give it a good hard twist.

This is something I struggle with everyday, trying to decide what my next move will be.  But for now, I’ll just hit repeat on my iTunes and listen to the song again.

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A Letter to Future Me

A few months ago, my mother brought over all of my old papers, school work and art projects she had kept over the years.  Six boxes of old book reports, science projects and math quizzes sat in my bedroom for months until I finally had nothing better to do than sift through the endless mound of papers.  After hours of sneezing and constantly putting lotion on my dry hands, I found a letter I wrote to myself when I was a child.  I couldn’t tell you how old I was when I wrote it, but I had to be really young because the spelling and penmanship were both pretty terrible.  It wasn’t so much a letter as it was a list of 100 things I hoped to achieve when I got older.  Now, I say 100, but it was probably closer to 70 because I had listed a few things more than once.  Of course, meeting Dylan McKay was clearly not realistic, but at the time I thought it was, so I wrote it down as goal numbers 27, 53 and 89.

It was not easy to read that list.  Some of the goals were very attainable.  Visit New York City and perfect my cursive so that I could write with a pen – I had achieved both of those very early on in my life.  Learn French and travel outside of the country were also listed.  I have been lucky enough to travel a little, once I figured out how to deal with my hatred of flying.  My French is not so good, but I do know how to order a good glass of red wine, and once I fooled a real Frenchman into thinking I spoke fluent French just by pronouncing “bonjour” with a proper accent.  So I’m going to count that goal as met.

The hard part was reading the goals I so badly wanted to achieve but didn’t or haven’t yet.  Drive a Mustang.  I’m working on that one, but to my chagrin, it’s very slow going.  Own my own horse and stable.  Still a dream I hope to attain one day, but is really feasible?  Only time will tell.  Become a famous ballet dancer – that one hurt the most.  I have danced my entire life.  I really believed when I was younger that I could be like one of the famous Bolshoi Ballerinas.  It was a beautiful dream.  One I was sad to know that I had not only given up on, but that I never actually pursued after I got to high school.  Too many other things got into my way – school, friends, boys, moving – I just gave it up.  I remember right before my parents and I left the Midwest to move South, my mother offered to enroll me in dance classes at Ruth Page, a legendary dance school in Chicago.  But I brushed off the offer, more worried about my social life than my dream.  I’m pretty sure that if 8 year old me were a part of that conversation, she would’ve smacked me and said I was being a stupid head.

This old letter to future me became more apropos recently when I started receiving e-mails from friends with a link to a website where you can write a letter to your future self, just like I did when I was younger.  But everyone who has sent me this like has expressed hesitation and fear in writing themselves such a letter.  I started to wonder why. One of the things that really creeps into our lives at this age is regret.  It’s so easy to look back and think of what we would change and how things would be better or different because of that.  I think this is why we are so scared to write these letters to our future selves.  We are frightened of letting ourselves down.  We have goals for our future selves, and we’re afraid if we don’t meet them that we’ve somehow failed at life.  More so, it’s easy to set a goal and say it out loud, but when we write it down, it becomes more real, like a looming deadline.

But we shouldn’t be afraid to set goals for ourselves, both hard to reach ones, and ones that are a little more attainable.  More importantly, we have to be able to cut ourselves some slack if we don’t reach all of them.  So, in spirit of facing our fears and hoping for things to be better in the future, I’m going to write future me a letter in this post and come back to read it in one year.

Dear Future Dee:

Congratulations on keeping up this blog for a year.  You may not have posted as much as you wanted to, but you’ve kept it up and that’s the most important part.  Hopefully you’ve at least gotten some of your shit together and that you’re in a new job where you’re happier, respected and appreciated.  Keep saving up money for that Mustang, you’ll get it one day.  Also, I hope by now that you’ve taken a nice vacation with your husband somewhere that required you to be on a plane for at least four hours.  Finally, I hope you are taking good care of yourself and have gotten your lazy butt off of the couch and started training for that 10K you keep saying you’re going to run.  You aren’t getting any younger.

If you haven’t achieved any of these goals in the last year year, and you’re still stuck in the same place, struggling to figure out the meaning and purpose of your life, I can at least say this.  Your boobs look great in that top.

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The Beginning

About six years ago, when my older sister turned 30, she warned me about this milestone of an age. 

“I don’t understand it,” she said to me.  “I have friends getting divorced, getting married and re-married.  I have friends who never wanted kids getting pregnant.  And I know people who have quit their jobs, packed up their belongings and moved halfway across the country.  I don’t know what it is about 30, but it makes people do weird things.”

I laughed at the time.  I was a lowly 24 year old entering into her third year of law school with a job in hand and the world at my fingertips.  Of course I laughed.  The idea of people doing anything because of their age made no sense to me.  Even when I turned 30 almost one year ago, the number didn’t want to make me do anything crazy.  But I noticed that what my sister had said was coming true.  I had friends getting divorced or having babies, I had other friends quit their jobs and move from the place they had lived their entire lives to places where they had never been and knew no one.  I thought they were crazy.

And then it hit me…I don’t want to say like a ton of bricks, because that is so very cliche, but it did.  I didn’t see my quarter life crisis coming, but it smacked me in the face right before my 31st birthday.  This urge to leave the law altogether and do something different, like starting up a grilled cheese and tomato soup food truck, or becoming a full-time fiction writer, creeps into my mind on a daily basis.  I feel as if I need to keep myself bolted to my desk so I don’t march into my boss’s office, tell her to shove it and storm out in some dramatic fashion best fit for a movie.  The desire to pack up my clown shoe of a car, with my husband in tow, and drive around the country, working as a waitress or a dog walker, just so I can say that I did it – that I lived my life before I couldn’t anymore.  Before responsibility, mortgages, and babies made it impossible for me to do anything but work, eat and sleep.  I find myself fighting that desire regularly, usually by having a few drinks and then looking at my bank account.

I know I’m not alone in this thought process, but it feels like it sometimes.  Like I’m living in my head on this fantasy of a journey all by myself.  Nothing angers me more than when someone older than me says something like, “well, you’re still young, you can pick up and go if you want.”  But while 30 years old isn’t anywhere near retirement age, it’s still NOT young.  Plus, no one tells you what happens when you come back from this fantastic once-in-a-lifetime journey all us thirty-somethings are supposed to be taking.  What happens to your career, your friends, your belongings, your money when you come back to the real world?  It’s not like everything you leave behind gets placed on pause and is there waiting for you upon your return.  We can’t all “Eat, Pray, Love” our way through a year of our lives. 

So what are we, the lost generation, to do?  Me?  I decided to start this blog, thinking that somehow posting self-indulgent ramblings will, in some way, impact the world. And, while I may not be able to safely drive a food truck around a huge metropolitan Southern city serving hot soup in 100 degree temperatures, I can do the other thing I love to do, which is write.  But, most importantly, I want to try to figure out what is it about this age, this number that makes us feel so old when we are, in fact, so young…

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