What a rare gift to know exactly what it is you want to do. To be blessed with the knowledge that there is one thing on this planet that satisfies every latent desire inside of you. That if you never had to work for a paycheck again, you would never once yearn for fulfillment or wonder how to spend your days. And what a common curse to be forced instead to work for things that bring you no joy.
I have struggled more with my place in the world over the past few weeks than maybe in the past few years. In Korea, the loneliness began to overwhelm me as the days of our second year dissipated to indistinguishable. Each day I was faced with the inescapable truth that there wasn’t a single person I could really speak to except my husband. But maybe the real loneliness then was the same vacuum I feel now. The vacuum of routine. Of knowing where each moment of every day is going to go, and in that, losing the joy those moments once brought.
When we first moved to this rural Texan town of 2,000, I reveled in the novelty of its charms. I furnished a home. I bought dishes. I planted a garden. I started to cook. But when we came back from our great adventure this summer, the garden had been swallowed by grass. The house had been swallowed by cobwebs.
There would not be another season for those tomato seeds I never planted. We knew when we were going to leave before we even got here.
This place we came to was a stone on a path that we meant to lay. We. It was something necessary that we chose for our future. Our. And my place in this future was always to endure for the sake of his career. “I can live anywhere for two years…” I’ve always said. But maybe that number is closer to one.
As the walls close in around my tiny world in this tiny town, I am trapped in the thought that this town is what’s suffocating me. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s that these are the first words I’ve written that weren’t for someone else or for SEO or because I know a budget breakdown of my trip will get a lot of shares on this almost forgotten blog. Did you know my Amazon affiliate account made $9 this year? There was a time when what I wrote was only for free, and for me. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that’s true.
“I can live anywhere for two years…” I’ve always said. But maybe that number is closer to one.
A few months ago, a good friend of mine said she met someone who knew me. He told her that my writing had inspired him, and how talented I am, and that I should never give it up. But haven’t I already? Whatever words he read were from the mouth of an unmarried woman addicted to exploration, five years past, maybe more. And now, the only words I have are the ones that are ghostwritten. Fencing, digital marketing, self-help, just give me that paycheck and I’ll write anything you please.
I tell my husband, “It’s not this town, I just need something new. My job is stale, my prospects bleak. I need to get paid what I’m worth for the work I do.” And that’s true. But would a new job fix what’s broken right now? Would making the right $ per hour shift everything in the direction it needs to go?
Because it needs to go.
Or is it that I am forever trapped in the need to be somewhere new? That I won’t be happy until I’m always moving and once I’m moving, I’ll yearn to find the perfect place to stop.
“Maybe you just need some exercise,” my husband says. I am nothing but sedentary. All of my friends are getting healthy. We’re in our thirties now, they say. I don’t want to be decrepit when I’m 65, they say. Exercising makes me feel better about myself, they say. And yet I feel no pleasure when eating healthy or exercising or giving up booze for a few days– just the minute joy of seeing a lower number on the scale. I’ve stopped drinking before just for that. But I’ve always pictured a crotchety old Bukowski in my future: a stubborn alcoholic who decided life was better with booze and never looked back.
But at least he wrote.
And so it’s 11:25 at night, which is late in this strange, yet all-too-familiar, life of mine. Past our collective bedtime. And he will wake up at 4:45 needing only coffee to get him going and will work diligently throughout the day and exercise and come home with a well-deserved exhaustion and sense of accomplishment. And I will awaken at 7, still tired and haunted by the constant oddity and panic of my dreams and walk the twelve steps to my laptop and that is where I will be. And it will never be enough. How is my plight different than anyone else’s? The accounts receivable manager in a lifeless cubicle who loathes every minute he spends at that desk and revels in every minute he isn’t? Perhaps because I am always at that desk. From the moment I wake to the moment I sleep, without a pause, I am there. I am accessible. I am always on. That’s what social media has to be, after all.
Even as I write this sleepless rant past my bedtime I think, “Will people read this? Will they share it?” The marketer I’ve been forced to become has left no room for the writer that once was.
And maybe listing all of the things that could possibly be wrong is exactly what I needed to know it was never any of them. Maybe it’s not that there are no friends to be had in this town or no places to go or to see. Maybe it’s not that I’m not writing what I want to be, or not getting paid the right amount of money to give up all of my dreams.
Maybe it’s just that I’m spoiled and I don’t want to give it up. I know what’s out there. I’ve seen it, I’ve touched it, I’ve tasted it, and I’ve been swallowed by it whole same as my dried up garden. And until someone digs me out and plants me again, I just won’t be able to bloom.