Once in a lifetime

23 11 2008

I have a little problem with reality.

Mainly, it’s something that’s out there, a place where I ought to belong, but I can’t quite come up with the password or secret handshake or underground tunnel or whatever the hell it takes to gain entry. I can see it—I think—but then I fall back and wonder, Hm, is that it?

And if reality is over there, and I’m over here, then where the hell am I?

I blame my confusion on (at least) two things, one of which was my, ahem, extended stay in grad school. As high school and college friends were off doing the things regular people do, I was buying pizza at 2am to eat with fellow grad students in the computer lab. They took out car loans; I took out student loans. They bought suits for work, I washed my jeans.

Yeah, that’s a little glib, but not much. They were becoming adults, and I was becoming. . . a grad student. I got older, sure, but plotzing over a stalled dissertation is not the usual path to adulthood. And I finished—yay!—but then what? A coupla’ post-docs, and resignation from a profession I never got the hang of. A move to Bummerville, an escape to New York City, and. . . this.

Not that I have a clue what ‘this’ is.

So: When did you know you were an adult? When you left home? Got your first apartment? Moved in with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Got a mortgage? Got married? Had kids? Got divorced? When you look at your life do you say, Yep, this is mine? Or do you find yourself in the midst of a Talking Heads song: Well, how did I get here?

I know, we don’t all have to live the same lives, and it’s not as if anyone’s life is going to make sense all the time, but shouldn’t I be able to recognize something in it as mine? Or, more accurately, shouldn’t I be able to recognize myself somewhere in all of this?

Yeah, the second reason may play into this, namely, that long personality-destroying depression, but, really, how long can I continue to point at my voids and blame them for my. . . voids? Besides, don’t people without a history of self-destruction gape at their own lives, too?

So, what do we do? How do we know we belong where we are, or where we’re going?