There will be times in your life when you feel lost. When you look around and don’t recognize where you are. When you question the choices you’ve made and find yourself at a loss for which direction to go. I’m not going to lie, it’s a horrible feeling but, one I believe all those searching for true meaning in life find themselves facing at some point. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about a crossroads or one of those moments where you need to make a leap of faith. I’m taking about a no man’s land of fog and oblivion. A place of near debilitating uncertainty where your path is nowhere to be seen and you’re dominated by fear and confusion. It’s an ugly time and I know exactly how it feels because I’m there right now. I may not have the answers to fix it but, I can tell tell you no matter how painful it is, it will eventually pass.
I know because I’ve been here before.
Every six years or so I seem to find myself in a bit of a “what am I doing?” quandary. When I was younger it was infinitely less frightening as there was always a higher power I could lean on to get through…namely, my parents. No matter how despondent I felt, how scared or unsure I might have been, your grandparents were always there to pick me up. To love me while I struggled to find my place. My loss of direction and overall sense of confusion were always buffered by their protection.
As I aged, I came to realize – painfully, I might add – that this was no longer the case. Increased awareness and autonomy allows you to see your parents for the fallible, human people they truly are and, even with the best intentions, it’s impossible and honestly, unhelpful for your parents to protect you from everything. Your father and I want your life to be truly wonderful but your decisions are ultimately yours alone and, as much as we hope to help, it’s your path to follow not ours to dictate. If you’re true to yourself, you will find that some days – weeks, months or even years – will be truly difficult as you search for a life that means something to you.
How I feel now is how I felt after graduate school when I found myself in a job that wasn’t my calling. I’d ignored my dreams in favor of a life with less struggle and, ironically, was now struggling with the consequences of that choice. I’d redirected my path to conform to someone else’s standards and was, not surprisingly, miserable with the results. After crying every day for three months I came to the conclusion I must be clinically depressed. An acquaintance who had recently been committed seemed to be doing really well at a Toronto clinic so I called to see if they would take someone like me. They wouldn’t. So, instead, I partied, complained and worked out too much. I made strange decisions and found pleasure in very few of them. Ultimately, it was a movie that changed my life. Sitting alone in the dark on a hot, summer afternoon I realized I was unhappy because I was ignoring who I was and what I really wanted to do. It didn’t matter how “cool” my job was if it wasn’t the job for me and it didn’t matter how “amazing” my life seemed if I wasn’t happy living it. With the clear realization I was never going to be happy unless I wrote my own story and followed my own dreams, the fog lifted revealing the path I would follow without hesitation. Four months later I was living in New York, a student at an amazing conservatory and fully committed to my lifelong dream of being an actress.
It wasn’t until that dream began to falter that the fog rolled in again.
Living in LA, my career stalled, my plans adrift, my bank account empty and my face far older than was required for my profession I once again found myself crying every day. My shame compounded this time by the fact I now had a witness to my unravelling, your father. Things clearly weren’t working out. All the efforts and dreams and hopes I’d poured into my career were falling short. It didn’t matter how hard I worked or how good I might be, the fact was, it wasn’t happening. I just didn’t know what to do with that information. The reality was I’d become an incredibly overeducated, full time bartender who could barely look herself in the mirror for all the disappointment and self loathing. Who was I if I wasn’t who I thought I was going to be? Where was I going? To what purpose? I focused on photography because it made money but it didn’t reveal my path. I hid in the planning of my wedding, behind the success of my husband and in the excitement of my pregnancy but, I remained without direction. For a long time I tried to convince myself I could find happiness and fulfillment in other’s success. I wanted to believe I could be satisfied just raising you and playing a supporting role to your father’s dream but, when his dream started to waver and I allowed myself to finally admit my love of being a mother wasn’t extinguishing my own ambition, I had to face what I’d put aside and acknowledge how off track I truly was.
It was a painful time but, there’s a lesson in pain if you’re willing to look for it. Something to learn from unhappiness so you never have to deal with the same distress again.
Getting sick was the best and worst thing that could have ever happened to me. In the blink of an eye I was reminded, without a shadow of a doubt, who I was, what I wanted and what I cared about most. I recognized what was important and immediately stopped feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I realized, should I be lucky enough to live longer than expected, I was damn well going to live a life that mattered. I knew I wasn’t going down without a fight and discovered the best way to express that sentiment was through writing. Suddenly, there was my path again. I wasn’t just a sick person, a wife or a mother. I was me and I still had something to say.
The fact that six years later I’m still alive but once again lost is pretty classic. I have a blog that doesn’t make money, a book that’s yet to be published, art pieces I can’t afford to make and a political itch I’m unsure how to scratch. I’m also fully ensconced with your father as he goes through the exact same thing. It’s an uncomfortable time for us. One full of uncertainty and, in my case, quite often despair. I’m questioning everything: my talent, my direction, my mothering, my marriage, my history, my path and every time I come up wanting.
My friend Betsy says you “have to ride the horse in the direction it’s going” and though I don’t currently know which way that is, I rest in the knowledge that if I can just hang on, keep working, keep believing, keep listening I will eventually learn the lesson the universe is trying to teach me and all will become clear. I’d LOVE IT to just be easy but, history has shown me, it never is. Despite the draw, the option to sit down and give up is not one I’m interested in. I know the fog will only lift if I continue to move forward, if I don’t make decisions based on fear and if I stay true to myself and the life I want.
Maybe we’re all phoenixes and, in order to create the ash to rise from, we must allow ourselves to burn. I’m in the fire right now but I know something new and better is coming. I just need to hang on until it does.
Even if it takes longer than you want, if you listen to your voice the path will always reveal itself. Pain and uncertainty are simply a necessary part of growth and rebirth.
I love you always.