I’m often left wondering where my life might be had certain events not taken place. Or specific decisions. Because, in all honesty, I get frustrated that I am where I am. Which, in my heart of hearts, feels like nowhere sometimes.
Let me preface the rest of my post with a few disclosures. First of all, I’m not unhappy. I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a roof over my head, and a car parked out front. I have a partner who loves me (inexplicably for almost 18 years now), and a little girl whom we both adore and cherish. I’m smart, funny, intelligent, relatively healthy, and I’m really good around other people. I’m…content.
With that said, I’m still stricken with a sense that my life isn’t going anywhere, and I feel it’s natural – and perfectly ok – to feel that way.
(<<<when I was an wee tot!)
Sure, we all have made decisions that altered our lives. We’ve all experienced moments that steered our lives in one direction or another. My father left when I was 8 years, and I often wonder what kind of person I’d be had he stuck around. At 18 I was in a life-changing car accident that halted pretty much everything I’d had planned for my future. Also, I stuck with an education/career path that I never really wanted, yet moved forward with regardless.
I wonder: did any of these events lead me to be here, sitting at home, dissatisfied with my life, writing about it while drinking a tepid cup of coffee? No prospects on the horizon. No footprint left on the planet. Nothing noteworthy in the marginal pages of my life.
At 8 years old my father left. Abandoned, really. Up and gone, out of our lives forever. My mother was left to care for my older sister and I, often working two jobs. We were poor. Food stamps, powdered milk, thrift store clothes. We didn’t starve, but times were tough. I like to think I became a better person for that time, because it taught me to appreciate what true work means. My father, from what I remember, and from what I’ve been told, wasn’t paternal in the slightest. Had he stuck around, what type of man would I have become? I’m gay, after all, and he would not have taken that lightly. Would I have kept it secret, tried to be a man, ultimately resenting life, and myself? Or would he have provided? Maybe life through my formative years wouldn’t have been a struggle. Maybe I’d have graduated from a real high school and gone to a real college and gotten a real job. There’s simply no way to know.
(<<<blonde and bright-eyed, when money was tight and things were tough)
Honestly, I’m glad my father didn’t stick around. Strength through adversity, I firmly believe that. Life moved forward, and it got better.
During the summer of ’93 I was 18. I was working in a sandwich shop. I’d graduated high school and I was planning on going to a local community college in the fall. General education to start. I was saving money, too, for a road trip to Oregon because I’d heard great things about it. The world was wide open to me, it seemed. Then, one night, I was followed by a guy who had assumed I was a girl because of my long hair. I fled quickly. Speeding, I slammed my car into a telephone pole, flipped it, and essentially ended any and all plans to proceed with my life. I wasn’t hurt, but I was put into serious debt, and a mild case of depression. Oregon trip? Gone. School? I lost the desire when I knew how broke I’d be. Instead I just worked and became bitter. And that bitterness lasted a good 15 years, and I carried it with me in my back pocket at all times. It was oddly comforting, and I still wonder how I managed to hold onto it for so long.
I did go to school eventually, took a class here and there, but nothing that moved me toward a degree. I met my partner. We moved in together and started to build a life. Little by little things began to look up.
When I was 31 I really took the idea of school more seriously. Through general education I became intrigued with American Sign Language (ASL). It was the first time I felt skilled at something. Teachers encouraged me. I decided to pursue interpreting. About halfway through the four-year program, the doubts rumbled. Am I good at this? Do I really want this? Maybe I should give it up and study something I actually like. But no. I figured, stupidly, I had gone this far so it was only common sense to finish. Which I did. I passed the necessary certifications, found work in the school system. And I knew, several months into it, that I simply wanted nothing to do with it. There was no passion. That certainly wasn’t benefiting me, or the students I was interpreting for. At 37 I felt like I had wasted 6 years. 6 years I could have gotten a degree. 6 years I could have been working a job I might have actually liked. 6 years of blaming myself for not having quit when I had that first pang of doubt.
(<<<me and my honey – I’m the pale Irish boy on the left)
It was hard. Trying to figure out what I wanted. Now I’m almost 43 and I still have absolutely no idea what to do. Still living paycheck to paycheck. Not getting younger. Raising a child and maintaining a relationship. Renting an apartment. Not feeling sorry for myself, no – that’s the distinction between 43 me and 18 me. Back then I blamed the world for my problems; now I have no one to blame but myself.
Yes, changes can be made. And they will. Are. I’m finding little things I’m passionate about, and tackling them.
Health: at my age, it’s becoming a necessity.
Writing: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but now I enjoy the informative aspect rather than fiction.
Food: I love to cook, and eat, but doing it in a more healthy fashion has become a passion for me.
Life: it’s no one else’s but my own, and any changes have to come from me.
I can’t stress enough that I understand that last statement: any change I want to make has to come from me. If I want to better my life, and myself, I have fuel the fire to do that. I think I am. Little by little.
The first step, I realize, is recognizing how the past creates who we are now. “Forget the past,” they say. Why? We learn from our past, so it stands to reason to hold on to your past to at least build a solid foundation for your future.