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?


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5 responses

24 11 2008
lucretia

Here’s my not-very satisfying (to you)(probably) answer: there’s nowhere you can be that you don’t belong. Your life, of not feeling connected to your life? That’s your life.

I’ve been feeling pretty settled into my life since I turned 40. Not that I won’t grow (or grow up) any more, but I have some kind of sense of … settling into something. But I don’t remember feeling like I was missing out on something. Maybe in high school, until I figured out that I wasn’t. I’ve always made sure to appreciate what’s going on while it’s going on, and also understand why I’m taking the path I’m taking, even when the reasons aren’t good reasons.

Probably because I dealt with death when I was so young, I’ve always known that this ain’t a rehearsal. If you spend your life feeling like it is, well, that’s how you spend your life. Hey, it could be a lot worse. I believe worrying about it is a side effect of modern privilege, and feeling it at all is a side effect of being disconnected from other humans.

Just my opinion.

25 11 2008
absurdbeats

I get what you’re saying, but then, I don’t.

Yes, live my life, and that is my life. And it’s not as if I’m expecting happily-ever-afters or The Answer to some asked or un-asked question. (Not that I would trust those ever-afters or answers. . . .)

But I lack your ability to see your life in your life. It’s not about rehearsal; it’s about recognition. I don’t recognize my life. This (now) puzzles more than it pains me, not least because I don’t know how to see it.

I hesitate to call this alienation, not least because I do at least know what that feels like, but even ‘disconnect’ seems not-quite-right. Disconnect implies reconnect, but the problem is even more basic: to what would I connect? how would I do so? how would I know?

That, more than privilege or play-acting, is the issue: I don’t know, and don’t know how to know. Bumfuzzled on the basics.

Damned irritating.

25 11 2008
lucretia

What are you expecting to see, that you’re not seeing? A plot? This is a serious question.

9 09 2011
BJ

So glad you wrote about catching up with the history of blog posts on Bedlam Farm. Makes me think you are(probably) OK with someone doing the same thing at yours. In other words, it feels less creepy. So as I leave the comments on posts that are years old, it’s not creepy. I just like the way you write.

When do you know you’re an adult? For me, it just happened. I’m 40. OK, I’m 42, but I’ve always felt like a kid. College aged kid. In the past few years, people at work, whom I’ve known of (not known), that I’ve respected for years because of their expert minds, have started asking my opinion. And taking my advice. It’s startling to realize that someone you think is brilliant wants your advice, or your expertice. I cut my hair, started dressing the part, swear less and respect authority more often (but still get my jabs in because my tongue-to-brain connection is dial-up). Does that make you an adult? Not sure, but I’m starting to feel old.

10 09 2011
absurdbeats

“I’m 40. Okay, I’m 42. . . .” Ha ha ha. Yeah, I’ve done that, too.

I think there’s a part of me that’s still stuck in the university, but as a student, not a professor. You’d think my being in front of the class would fix that boundary between student and non-, and in some ways it has, but it also means that I haven’t had to make the kinds of workplace adjustments that you mention. I can still wear jeans and Docs and I don’t really have to defer to anyone.

Also, I’m a small woman, the same size (plus 10 or 20 pounds) I was as a freshman in high school. I sometimes look at men and women who present as ADULTS and I start when I realize we might be the same age. Man.

As for catching up, catch away! I did it with Bedlam Farm, with LolCats, and now, with the Bad Dates site. So yeah, I get it.

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