“We dance around in a ring and suppose,
but the secret sits in the middle and knows.”
~ Robert Frost
I distinctly remember my AP Psychology teacher in high school talking about how well he understood the tendency for people to experience mid-life crises. Here we all were, teenagers with our lives ahead of us, but someday we would get to a point where we had made certain choices that led us down individual paths, and at some point we would wake up and realize we hadn’t accomplished all we imagined we would, that our lives hadn’t turned out as we expected, and we would feel a deep void of regret at missed opportunities.
Can you imagine speaking such heavy words to a group of 17 year olds? This man was clearly experiencing his own mid-life crisis, and his words certainly hit home for me. This was a formative experience in my life, one that made me realize the needs to grab hold of opportunities or create them for myself.
I have always lived my life a bit against the grain, making choices despite forewarnings from parents and friends and a healthy dose of eye rolling. Yet, these choices make up the grain that is who I am, my one life on this planet. I sit here in Alaska, and it is January 2, 2011 – a new year. Is this significant? Will 2011 be the year I make choices based on my happiness alone? Are we capable of such great change?
Old habits die hard, but the draw to call my husband and tell him comforting words of hope is dwindling. I am 29 and a half, and if I do not now choose my own happiness above all else, when will I ever? I still feel moments of uncertainty. My life feels surreal, I feel on the edge of this community, looking around my home and wondering if it is all just a tenuous vision of reality.
Yet more and more, I experience moments of profound depth and beauty, of community and joy, and of peace and the desire to grab on to the most precious elements of life in Southeast Alaska and beyond. If not now, then when?
I geared up and forced myself to go on to a new year’s eve party a couple of nights ago. It was my first traditional Gustavus dance party, I have since been told, and it was an experience in hilarity, replete with friends and neighbors dancing with sheer, unadulterated joy and even a xmas light wrapped new year’s ball drop with countdown from a tiny space above the garage.
A few weeks ago, I sent a link to my blog to a friend in the community who is a seasoned, published writer whose written works I greatly admire. We spoke for a few minutes at the party about writing, and he shared insights from his own experience. He suggested that I try to find a challenging topic to write about from different perspectives, and voice different arguments to engage and captivate my reading audience. He asked what inspired me to write, what drove my passion and to begin there, searching for a theme from which to expand and weave throughout my writing.
I responded that what interested me most was exploring and writing about the human condition, the roller coaster of emotions and changes we experience, ever in search of a tenuous happiness, love, and the chance to fully experience life. I told him that I never wanted to be a person with the bumper sticker “I’d rather be fishing”.
I want to be fully alive, to harness every bit of life that inspires me, to feel pain and joy, to dance with abandon no matter how ridiculous I may look. At times, Gustavus feels like a foreign planet, yet it is a community where one can reinvent oneself or better yet be fully oneself without worry of embarrassment or judgment.
What better place to be than where I am, embracing the present and choosing to truly live?