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Posts tagged ‘who am i?’

Lost: The Six Year Fog

Dear Loch,

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.

feeling+lostEvery 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.

etsy.com

etsy.com

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.

imgkid.com

imgkid.com

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. What-success-looks-like

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.351333

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.

xo Mommy

life

 

A Field Guide to High School

Dear Loch,

I’m one of those people who really loved High School. Yes, it’s a period of your life rife with insecurity but, for the most part, I thought it was marvelous. I often wonder when I hear people talk about High School as if it was “time served” what made my experience so different. How, even with the ups and downs that inevitably come with adolescence, I really was incredibly happy. Was it just dumb luck? Was I supremely clever? I don’t think so. I know a number of other people (your Dad included) who clearly found a happy route through a time otherwise fraught with strife, so at this the milestone of my 20th High School Reunion (of which I just attended!) I thought I’d attempt to crystalize my own personal “Secret to High School Success”. Take what you will out of it, but understand that no point in your life has to be miserable. Uncomfortable and awkward maybe, but not unhappy. You deserve happiness. So, here are some ways to go about achieving it from ages 14 through 18 (maybe even beyond).

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Ninth grade.

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25 years later.

1. FIND YOURSELF A FRIEND. I realize this is easier said than done but all you need is one person who really “gets” you for the world to become infinitely better. I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends in High School but even more blessed to have one special friend who was truly on my page. A person who shared my interests and insecurities and had a strikingly similar outlook on life. There was power and security in being part of a team. We could be keeners without irony joining things like choir and theatre and being enthusiastic without fear of ridicule. We were able to commiserate about the acne only the two of us seemed to have, go to parties as a unit and spend hours on the phone debriefing our emotional turmoils. Despite the fact I was always single and she almost always had a boyfriend, we had each other’s backs. When we were both elected student leaders – a job neither of us were ashamed to admit we wanted – we were able to do that together too. Even now, all these years later, despite time and fall outs and distance, she’s still my person. We don’t live in the same city, we don’t often talk on the phone or email but when we’re together it’s as if no time has passed. Twenty-five years later and she’s still the the one helping me twist our friend’s arms to go out or get involved. Still the two of us taking the chance on something that might be fun. They took a group shot of all the girls from my year who came to the Reunion and it made me laugh because after the requisite smiling shot the photographer asked us to “be crazy” and of the four people who even acknowledged that request…two of them were us. I know letting her into my life not only made High School bearable, it made it a joy.

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A really nice group of ladies stuck with the often awkward request to “do something crazy.”

2. DO THE THINGS YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO DO. If you like chess, join the club. If you want to act, audition for the play. Don’t get caught up in what’s cool or not cool. It’s the doing of the things you enjoy that make your time somewhere enjoyable. If you like it, do it. Plus, you’re more likely to meet the person above if you do. “Birds of a feather…” as Granny says.

3201bb104e44390a81ae111442eb9dfe3. BE NICE. Not everyone is going to like you, just don’t give them an excuse not to. There are lots of reasons people don’t take to you in High School – jealousy, supposed slights, gossip, assumptions – try not to add to the list. I’ll always remember my last year of High School when I became friends with a girl I had never hung out with before. At one point, in the early stages of our friendship, she said “I can’t believe you’re so nice. I always thought you’d be such a bitch.” I asked why she thought that and she said, “I guess because you’re popular and hang out with who you do. I just assumed it.” It was a eye opener. She thought she knew me but she didn’t and that kind of thing happens all the time. I like to think I never gave anyone a reason to hate me. Even the one person I couldn’t find any common ground with in High School I was genuinely happy to see at the reunion. Despite all our teenage differences, 20 years later, without our preconceived notions getting in the way, our mutual distaste has naturally softened into mutual respect. We might not have liked each other at 18 but we never gave each other any reason to retain that dislike at 38.

Disco Semi-Formal? Why not go as the disco ball? It's fun to go all in. Thanks to my date Brian for doing it with me!! He thought I was punking him!

Disco Semi? Why not go as the disco ball? It’s fun to go all in. Thanks to my date Brian for doing it with me!! He thought I was punking him!

4. BE ENTHUSIASTIC. Life is amazing and the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out. The same goes for High School. Invest as much as you can for as long as you have. What you put in will be reflected back. Commitment to something gives you purpose. Purpose gives you drive. Drive keeps you motivated and motivation takes you places.

5. WORK HARD. This might sound like a dismissible maternal cliche, but it’s not. In many ways it’s the same as above point just painted with a scholastic brush. In High School I knew I wanted to attend a specific University and I kept that in mind the whole time I was there. I picked classes I was interested in and focused on getting the best grades I could. I worked my a*# off and it paid off. I chose, as I often say to you, to do the MOST I could rather than the LEAST. I had no interest in simply skating by. If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it well. Frankly that’s an ethic that will serve you well beyond the 12th grade.

quotescover.com

quotescover.com

As a side note: there’s also a lot less time to get into trouble and fart around making bad decisions when you’re up to your eyeballs in school work and extra curricular and it’s a lot more fun to be on the Dean’s list than the  s*^# list. There’s a security in knowing you’ve done your best because, whatever happens, you know the result wasn’t because you could have worked harder. Ask a lot of yourself and deliver. It’s a productive way to go through life.

6. RETAIN PERSPECTIVE. Try and remember there is an entire world outside of High School. Your dramas and trials and tribulations, though seemingly epic, are simply a blip in the story of your life. If you aren’t happy, if you don’t fit in, if you feel weird or different or insecure know that 1. You aren’t alone. Even the coolest of the cool are going through their own s*^# and, 2. It’s going to be over soon. Four years is nothing. You have the rest of your life to find your place or your people, to discover who you are or reinvent yourself. I can honestly say everyone from my year who came to the reunion is an incredibly nice person worthy of respect. We might not have all run in the same circles at 16 but things change. You change. They change. The time between the 9th and 12th grade is negligible on the grand scale. I understand it feels monumental while you’re in it, but it’s just four years at the beginning of a life. A foreshadowing of your adulthood. Take it for what it is, a foundation. A place to learn how to make friends, develop a work ethic and discover who you are or might be interested in being later. It’s a training ground for life but it isn’t your life. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye so you may as well enjoy it while you’re there.

There's a whole world ahead of you. In my case I wouldn't always have those eyebrows, my face would thin out, my confidence would waiver then come back stronger. I thought I knew who I was but I was only just beginning to understand.

There’s a whole world ahead of you. In my case I wouldn’t always have those eyebrows, my face would thin out, my confidence would waiver then come back stronger. I thought I knew who I was but I was only just beginning to understand.

Looking around at the girls at my reunion I was fascinated with the passage of time and the boundaries and walls erected in youth that are able to come down when you’re older. In many ways I was also struck with the positive nature of, the much maligned, social media. None of us showed up at that reunion completely ignorant of the other’s past twenty years. Almost all of us have reconnected in some way on-line. We are aware of each other. What jobs people have. If they have families or spouses. We’re familiar with life events and shared challenges. This point was brought home to me clearly when, during the tour of the school, one of my old classmates (not a close friend mind you) took my arm after a particularly difficult set of stairs. She knew I was sick. She could see I was struggling. She simply put her hand under my arm and helped me navigate the rest of the tour. I was so grateful. Honored and touched to be known in such an intimate way and cared for without question by someone who had no vested interest in me or my feelings.

We don’t know who we’re going to be after High School. What fate will become us as we press forward with our lives. We are unaware of the cards that will be dealt but, even with that uncertainty, we should make the best of the time we have while we’re there. Be our best selves despite the fact that self will probably change. Do the most with what we have until we have more. If High School is a training ground for life, you may as well train as if you’re going for gold….because you are, aren’t you?

I love you baby.

I hope you have the best time in High School but I hope it’s not the best time of your life.

xo me, your mom

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My final thought after the reunion after party. xo