When I picked up the phone this morning, Mom’s cheerful voice greeted me on the other end. “It’s your birthday tomorrow!” she sang.
“Yeah,” I replied sullenly, and promptly started crying.
For the past few months, I had been looking forward to turning 25, naively believing that since years 23 and 24 were so rough, maybe there would be some grand transformation, that suddenly I would have direction and prospects and hope, that something would be different.
Nothing is different, I told my mom. I’m out of work because I’ve been sick, I feel physically and emotionally drained, my savings have become depleted, and the job search is hazy at best. And I’m having a difficult time juggling it all.
“Susan,” she said, “you don’t have to carry all that weight — just let it go.”
Mom’s right, of course, but that’s easier said than done.
In the grand scheme of things, when I tell myself to knock it off and stop comparing myself to other people, I know that I’m doing just fine, that I really don’t need to have my life all figured out right at this moment, and that there is room for trial and error. Sure, there have been some unexpected setbacks, but that’s life, as they say. And when I look at what’s important, I know that I have options and, most importantly, I have support. When you’re stuck in what feels like quicksand, however, it’s hard to see beyond your current circumstance, to see all of the possibilities. When you’re going through growing pains, at whatever age, it’s not easy to see the forest for the trees.
“Oh, Susan, what is going on?” Mom’s voice was soothing as she did her best to calm me down and figure out why I was suddenly singing the blues. “I don’t recognize you; you’ve become cynical, you’ve lost your sparkle. I don’t think you recognize yourself.”
Then I started sobbing.
Because that just hit the nail on the head, what’s been the hardest part of this difficult journey — I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I wasn’t very proud of who I had become. I used to be optimistic, perpetually cheerful, bubbly. Good Lord, I was actually Pollyanna. But for all that I joke about loving puppies and rainbows and sunshine, I really liked that part of me, and I was proud of who I was. I liked being a positive force in people’s lives; I liked making people laugh and feel good about themselves. These days, however, it’s hard putting a smile on my own face, never mind someone else’s. Mom was right again — that sparkle, that shine that seemed so very much a part of me, has faded. Sometimes I can see glimmers of it; sometimes, people can draw it out of me, but it rarely lasts for long. I miss that, and I wish I knew how to get it back.
I do tend to carry the weight of the world — I let things affect me more than they should, although I really don’t mean to. Maybe that’s part of the trouble — I hold onto things, I’m afraid to let go, and I feel things so acutely but bottle them up. It’s a lesson I’m trying desperately to learn from, a part of myself I want to change.
“Susan, why do you want to go to France?” Mom asked me as soon as I stopped hyperventilating. “Aside from the experience, why do you want to go back?”
I told her that I wanted to finish my novel, that I want to begin querying publishers and network with other professionals.
“And because it changed my life the first time, and I’m hoping it will do that again.”
As much as I hate to admit it, it’s entirely the truth. I asked my mom if she thought I was using this trip as an escape from my current circumstances — I can’t find a steady job and I have no idea where I want to relocate, so let’s hop on a plane and run away to a foreign country. Great idea!
Yes, my mom agreed, it is an escape, but it’s one that I need.
I want to go to fulfill a passion; I need to go for reasons that are so much more personal. I hold onto comfort so tightly because I’m afraid to let it go. By taking this trip, I’ll have to force myself to overcome obstacles rather than retreating back into my shell and reverting to the comfort that is always readily there. By taking this trip, I’ll be able to prove to myself that I’m capable of anything.
I need to take this opportunity to rediscover my passion and redefine myself, to recharge and step outside my comfort zone, to let go of all of the baggage I’ve been clinging to.
From now on, I need to learn to pack light.