Throughout most of my twenties, I went through a few self-created “mid-life crises,” unsure of what the hell I was doing and what I wanted to do next. The common thread running through that decade was avoidance. Avoid responsibility, avoid maturity, and avoid anything that might inadvertantly lead to either of those outcomes.
“Act first, deal with the consequences later.”
My first “crisis” actually came at 19, a few months after I’d snuck out of my mother’s house in the middle of the night, leaving my family and the Jehovah’s Witnesses behind. Having been given three weeks notice of being evicted from the apartment I shared with my roommate [whose girlfriend had died the month before, a passenger on the infamous Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie] I checked into joining the Army for the first time, only to be delayed by the need for a waiver for my flat feet. I ended up moving in with my father in New Jersey, whom I hadn’t talked to once over the previous four years.
Nine months later I was in South Miami Beach, drinking away my student loan money and catching up on all the things I’d missed out on during my relatively sheltered High School years. The following year, broke and out of options, I finally made it into the Army on my fourth attempt, evading the waiver thanks to the combination of a purging of records every two years, a cursory physical evaluation, and the first Gulf War.
Two-and-a-half years in the Army meant mostly disposable income and a false sense of security. I came out with approx. $800 in the bank and was back on my father’s couch within a month of my discharge. I was back on my feet and in my own place six months later, but was no closer to growing up. I had a strong liver, though, and a perverse fascination with the concept of being a “functional alcoholic.” Over the next year, I fell into the publishing industry from 9-5, rediscovered my love for creative writing after-hours, and developed a high tolerance for/attraction to stress around the clock.
Fast-forward to last Monday and turning 35 years old, happily married with two kids, and I can’t say I ever saw any of this coming.
Back in 1996, I wrote an essay for my zine, zuzu’s petals, called 30 With a Bullet. It was about how I was planning to kill myself when I turned 30 if I didn’t like where I was at the time. That was the summer of 1999, one year into marriage and still practicing avoidance, but relatively comfortable with where things were headed.
I finally got rid of the gun in early 2002, right before we headed down to Virginia and what was hopefully the final crisis.
If I look at the past five years as borrowed time, I’d have to say I’ve used it pretty well, bumps in the road notwithstanding. But there’s always room for improvement, and I think the next five years should see a lot more of it.
I still haven’t come up with a formal list yet, as one of the things I’ve come to understand/accept is that they’re no longer my goals to set alone. Hasn’t been that way since July 18, 1998, really, but I can be slow to realize these things sometimes!
What I do know is that, psychologically, I’ve reached that point where I’m ready to stop avoiding things. Am extremely tired of it, to be honest. Avoiding is as tiring as doing, and much less rewarding in the end.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”–Henry David Thoreau
Amen to that!