I like to keep most things under cover. Like most people I prefer not to reveal too much. I’ll tell people seemingly personal open things but not reveal anything. It’s so strange to be able to tell people random tit-bits about my personal or private life and yet have it mean nothing. All the important stuff, all the real stuff stays under wraps. I have it all parcelled up and neatly packaged. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. Feelings are oh-so important. They define our actions and the value we place in different aspects of our life. They put colour in life and let us fall apart when we don’t want to face up to reality.
Well I have been feeling all the feelings lately and I am also comfortably numb at any given moment. There is nothing like the end of something important to put you in a tail-spin. Now don’t get me wrong. I have been stalling on these feelings for nearly 3 years now. They have always been in the rear-view mirror and gaining speed for ages. Now they hit me and I have to manage the trauma. All the bloody feelings. And not just the grief and anxiety of feeling like something big has gone missing, I am talking about owning up to the horrifying reality that you can’t remember who you are anymore. That you don’t recognise the person in the mirror. We often feel like frauds, in our jobs when people think we have all the answers, in relationships when people praise our bravery or strength cause lets face it we are all mortal, just trying and failing and trying again until something sticks. What surprised me was that I can’t remember who I am or at least who I thought I was. I still follow my plan, still get stuff done, still tick the boxes but something is amiss. Somewhere in the last few years my values and sense of self changed and I let it.
Our life changes us and we change to suit the life we want. Now I am unsure if I ever knew what I wanted or if I have been guessing all along. So the answer….. I have no idea. I don’t just want a rebranding. Same product, different label. I need to try everything until I find that light bulb moment. I’ve spent years saying I didn’t like this, that and the other. Full of all the things I hate or don’t do. And looking at it now through fresh eyes I think maybe I have been lying to myself without even knowing it. So I did what any type A personality does and I made lists. Many, many lists. Full of all the stuff I need to do. Now some of them I have no control over in reality but I make lists cause I love lists. Dear god I love making lists and plans. So that’s one thing I do know about myself. I got myself some energy and now I have to start ticking off boxes. Updates to follow 😉
The rusted ladder screeched under her weight as she made her ascent. Step by step with an even keel. The peeling paint scraping on skin and staining her palms. The street was silent all around her. A few lights coming on in the distance but most people still blissfully asleep and as of yet unaware of the day. Seventeen steps she recognised without looking. The rooftop wasn’t much. Black tar and bad patch jobs. A water tower and an up-turned bucket for sitting. She didn’t come here for the décor. She came for the view. A different outlook on the world. It was quieter up here out of the street. A vast expanse of buildings and rises that stretched in every direction for miles. It was cathartic. It solidified her place in the world. The sun was coming up and would soon burn the morning dew off the surface of everything. It couldn’t remove her demons as easily. It could only illuminate all the cracks and crevices where all the dark is hidden. All the hidden parts that no one sees could be exposed in this light. Here on top of a deli and a few apartments where people did mundane daily things in an unremarkable fashion she came to feel exposed. The heat on her skin at the dawning of a new day. That monstrous power and energy outlining her very being. Cradling her and bathing her in something new, something that wasn’t there before.
Many times and experiences in your life may give you pause for thought and make you realize your humanity. I have had moments in mine where an experience will open my eyes to the fragility or futility of life but its only recently that I have started to feel like I have moved further in my life than I previously thought. I have become acutely aware of time and its rapid movement. And I can’t say its terribly comforting.
I have always been young for my age. I’m the eldest in my family but always a baby. I’m not always naive to the ways of the world but I have often ignored the reality to remain shielded from it. I had my first real relationships late, I never partied much as it wasn’t my forte and I follow rules religiously. Even I think I’m a square sometimes but I am mostly happy that way. Having just turned 28 (society teaches me that thats scary) and being torn about my career future I suddenly feel like I am hurtling through time.
Quite literally, last week, between one day and next I have gone from young for my age to rapidly running out of years in my life. And ironically I know this is just a perspective shift. I have previously blogged about my despair with the future of the academic science career. I am literally a proverbial neuroscientist out of water. Fear of poor career choices has lead me to consider (again) a career as a doctor, something I have always wanted and often postponed due to financial commitments or other opportunities. Well now that the option is looming again and having decided to bite the bullet and take the plunge it has dawned on me that I will be 34 when I graduate again and move into gainful employment. I can feel my blood pressure rising as I read that sentence. Thirty-four is not old in the slightest but having lived in New York for 6 months now my awareness of marriage and families is far more acute than it was in Ireland. My colleagues here are married younger and starting families young and while I’ve never given marriage and kids much thought, the fact that I will be in debt and up to my eyes in work well past 34 has made all these never-before considered life milestones seem like choices that need to be made now.
Increasingly nowadays they are publishing articles about women and work and the family life situation. The ticking biological clock and the choices facing women in this generation are presented to me daily in social media and popular culture. Suddenly something I thought was for the grown-ups of this world to decide and was so far from my consciousness is now creeping into my mind. I am getting ahead of myself but for a planner and linear thinker this modern world where everyone can have it all while the economy bottoms out again and again is changing the landscape for what makes for success. And if truly happiness is the only real goal, what does having it all really mean anyway?