If it seems like I’m posting an awfully lot lately about my fears of my adulthood simultaneously while being an adult, you’re quite astute. I am, it feels, either at a crossroads or the end of a formerly cyclical journey where I’ve gone through first-world chaos and landed back where I began.
At 17, I left home for college, not because I wanted to go to college, or knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew what I didn’t want to be. I knew I didn’t want to live in a house with parents screaming at each other night and day. But I also was well educated in the suffocation of stagnant suburban life. The long nights with crickets chirping. The circumference connecting one mall to another mall to another mall which stood for the area in which my life took place, sans occasional outings to the big city. Even New York felt small in comparison to the whole world, its looming skyscrapers twinkling into the night sky, and thousands of people dispersing from subway stations and walking every which direction, was just a speck of a world that was far from reach.
I under appreciated the simple luxuries of family, stillness, consistency, as most children and adolescents do. Those routine holiday gatherings where I, the oldest cousin, would make mischief with the extended clan, feeling connected to others by blood, a forced friendship, some common ground on our familiar half-Italian, hot-headed parents. And, as life works out, when you age family gatherings cease to exist – unless you go out of your way to make them happen – as blood relatives disperse and pair off into their own new stories. It takes a wedding or a funeral to bring people back together and even such events rarely feature a full set of healthy players.
The current of life will always get you, no matter how fast you run, or don’t run, in any which direction. I wonder if the seizure-like experiences I was having in the past year were just panic attacks, the result of being incapable of breathing as I ponder the escaping ebb of time. This fear, which smells of greasy pizza with cheese melting off the pie mixed with the foul tinge of accidentally executed lightening bugs on top of chlorine from long swim meets and bitter, sharp grass crunching under my toes, is real. It’s urgent. It’s primal. It cuts into my soul and takes out a huge chunk of nothing. Because that is what’s there. Maybe that’s what has always been there. But I never thought, after running so far, that life would bring me back to where I was, only to find no familiar faces, just a crowd of strangers.
It’s just that no matter where you go, you’re always in the same exact place. Perhaps the stench of firefly mutation evaporating into thick air is replaced with barbecues and freshness of a gentle breeze, but nothing is different enough to feel new anymore. I guess that’s why some people go on dangerous adventures or jump from airplanes, just to feel some remote ounce of difference, to feel alive again, to feel awakened and new, like a child. To feel afraid of losing one’s senses, not having them all tucked into a neat bow and served on a porcelain plate for dinner.
It’s vain to think that I was meant for something greater than whatever this is. Greatness, if there is such a thing, is achieved by tenacity and talent, and if I have any of the latter it’s suppressed by a void of the former. It is, in fact, a miracle that I’ve kept up with this blog for so long. I’ve never written this to help or inspire others, though some people have written to me stories along those lines. This has been my safe house. My place to discuss the two parts of my life which cause me my terrors — finances, and freedom.
What is freedom? I am free as a bird. I am an American. I am 30 and gainfully employed and pay my rent with money to spare for entertainment and shopping and the occasional trip to visit my parents or see a new part of the world. I am trapped. I am a slave to my job in order to obtain this freedom that I have so little time to enjoy. I am certainly much more fortunate than woman in other countries who are abducted for seeking knowledge, truth. I am fortunate on many, many levels and yet I return here, with this pit of emptiness raging in my stomach, an echo-chamber hollowing further in my veins.
Those who create are not always financially rewarded in their lifetimes for their creations. Those who help the machine churn on often are. Some are lucky to find passion and financial freedom together, but even in a world where your art makes you wealthy and successful, at some point that becomes old. At some point, the last mountain to climb has a view far less exciting than the one you had imagined it would offer from the bottom. So we see celebrities overdose. We watch those who have managed to climb high seek to climb even higher, when it’s actually impossible. And our society sets this up so neatly for us all, to worship our celebrities and their latest haircuts and poor dressing choices and baby bumps that disappear – poof – just weeks after a child is born.
Happiness seems to not be about having but about connecting, and if I’m getting closer to having it seems to push me further from connection. I know one day my parents will die and even with a dad with terminal cancer that doesn’t seem real. I also know that across my extended family and friends of people who I’ve grown up with and care dearly about there might at some point be a loss, the odds become higher the more people you know, and that loss could even be myself. If anything holds my sanity together it is going another day where those in the world who I love are safe, but that’s the extent of that connection. I watch the clouds slowly move across the sky, and I acknowledge with a shudder that one day, one day soon I will be staring at the clouds, alone, or nearly alone, with most of the people in the world just gone as fast as they came.
This is my depression. It is a cluster of fears which are based in truth, and exacerbated by the speed of time. It is the ironic sensation of sorrow in finding true love and stability, looking at my life now and saying “this is it” in both positive and negative, in that strange, off-putting feeling of being jolted about on a long, high-speed rollercoaster only to stop, get off, and stand on your own two feet again to walk to a food stand and order a basic pretzel and a coke. My own need for such chaos has led me to failing to fully appreciate what is the best part of life. I don’t want to waste the rest of my life caught up in whatever this is – this – manic depression – or some other non-syndrome which is what I am everyday of who I am. It is my thrill ride to pretzel equation. I lust after the thrill, where I’m most alive, yet I always revert to seeking solace in the salted dough.
Sometimes, I think I should just stop everything I’m doing, quit stability, quit the pretzel, and go out to chase the moon. Create. I don’t know. Write a book. Paint something. Do something more than being a full-time cog in the overtime machine.
But then I get my paycheck. Then I get a medical bill covered by my employers generous insurance policy. Then I get the chance to connect with my colleagues at the office which provide more connectivity on a regular basis to other humans. The reason I won’t go off to create is not actually because I’m afraid of being poor, although that would suck. It’s because when you’re an artist, you lack consistency, you are alone in a world of people who just don’t care to connect with you. So you suffer more, you feel more, you’re inspired to create more. That’s just not happiness either. Even if you’re good at it. Not that all artists are loners, but those of us who cannot generate meaningful, ongoing, connections with others in group form are typically left to a life of solitude. That’s not what I want either.
The ultimate fear is the return to suburbia, the return to a life within a circumference, to return to the pretzel, leave the park, and scare oneself into never again going on what was once your favorite ride.