There is a record that has played in my head nonstop for as long as my adult self can remember. It wonders if, when, if only, should I have, should I now. It asks me if I’m happy, if I want to live where I do, keep the job I have, go back to school, start a business. It plays the soundtrack of all the things I could have been, could still be if I tried. It wonders if I am too ambitious or not driven enough. It worries about money, blames me, is disappointed. Every second song on this record is one of dreams, images of “what the world could be” and what I want to be in it. It doesn’t let me relax – ever – because I should be writing. I should be planning. I need to figure this out.
Last year, I realized with startling clarity that I was feeling the classic symptoms of a mid-life crisis. In a surprising twist, still smack-dab in the crisis, I feel the record that has played all my life (not just in the crisis) slowing down, the voices quieting. When the work day ends, when I’m alone in the car, I wait for the record to play, and it doesn’t.
I always knew it was possible I could outgrow the angst whether the answers came or not. I dreaded it, really. Without the angst, what would drive me?
I still wonder this, actually. The record is quieting, but now what? I’ve dreamed of being able to be quiet, to sit outside and be there without thinking about things – just being. It doesn’t feel like it should be happening yet, though. Not before I became the things or answered the what-ifs or settled the should-haves. How did it come before I was through striving? Is this what the end of striving looks like? Not achieving everything but letting go of all you wished to achieve?
I have no idea, really. It is strange for the questions to be quieting without any of them being answered. I don’t even know yet if they are really quieting or if I’m just too tired to listen. I know, for instance, that I still wonder all the things. I still think I should be writing. I still imagine the things I could have been. But the questions only sit there now – the record on the table no longer spinning. “Now is when I worry,” I think. “Now, the record plays.” But then it doesn’t.
So I flip on actual music and keep driving.
I think it will be nice once I get used to it.