Wednesday, December 28, 2016

If Wherever I Go There I Am, Then Where the Hell Am I?

At this point I would welcome a fork in the road. That idyllic picture Robert Frost so eloquently painted of this choice or that. Oh, I don’t know, I’ll go down this and maybe save the other for some later time. Or not. But I know it’s there for me if I choose. Cue Doris Day singing Que Sera, Sera. Instead, I find myself standing in the middle of the Jersey turnpike. I feel lost with so many cars, so many lanes. Where do I go? Which path do I take? I’m too slow. I can’t do this. I'm getting run over. It’s all so fast. Everybody seems to know where they are going, how to keep up. Everybody except for me.

I’m talking about career here. I’m in transition. Transition is a pretty word for not there and not quite here. Like when Wile E. Coyote jumped from cliff to cliff, running with all his might, little legs spinning, trying to catch that crafty Roadrunner. He suddenly finds himself, between the two cliffs, standing in midair. Freeze. Face to the camera. Gulp. Fall into the endless abyss. I am Wile E. Coyote.

I am not alone in this. I know, because you have shared your stories. Some of us are a little late coming to the midlife crisis table. Whether we are feeling burned out on our current careers or are trying to find ourselves after a lifetime of giving to our children, we have reached a point where we look around and ask, okay, what next? Who am I? Is this all there is? Why have I not accomplished more with my life? How do I move forward? Where can I find help or advice? Will there be cupcakes?

You know that feeling when you get in line at the grocery store? You’re standing there with your bag of organic veggie chips behind the mom with a cart packed full, babies hanging off the sides of the cart, another in the sling. No other lines are open. You stay where you are and wait.
That’s just the thing to do. Then another cashier turns his light on and says he can help who’s next. Some suit and heels chick in a hurry with her prepared salad and mocha lattĂ© sprints to the register. Chastising yourself for your slow reflexes, flashbacks to those C’s you got in seventh grade gym and how you hated running in front of people because of flappy leg skin, you get behind her. The mom in front of you, after all, is debating a price on the Goldfish crackers. They were on sale. That’s what the sign said. You jump in line behind the business exec on her lunch break. As she moves through and you step up for your turn, there seems to be a problem with the register. No worries. You just get back behind Goldfish Mom who, at this point, has a growing line behind her. More lanes open. Rinse and repeat. You know how this goes.

I just want to put my bag of chips on the counter. I want to play the game.

I feel like I'm blindfolded during my turn at Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I keep spinning and spinning, but I never quite get to the point where, in my dizziness, I make my way to the wall and make everybody laugh by giving the donkey a tail-shaped penis. I never get there.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is what I was told. I’d like to find comfort in that but I’m not sure I do. Instead, I pull up a memory of my undergrad days, standing in a darkened frat house, half smashed and drinking somebody else’s beer.
This is my home, these Phi Tau brothers, these sisters of the Laurel. This is my place. Arms around shoulders, we sway and savor the love as the music blares. "The road is long with many a winding turn." We don't know where it leads, but it's okay because we're strong and whatever the next lyrics are. We can carry each other, be there for each other. We know this. And, in our drunkenness, we assure each other that "he ain't heavy, he's my brother." And, get this, "If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness that everyone's heart isn't filled with the gladness of love for one another.” Oh, my God. That's some deep shit.

And then I remember. It’s not about me. It’s about us. And it’s not about the journey. Or the destination. It’s about the love. There is no fork. There is no turnpike. There is only now, this spot, exactly where we're standing, arms around shoulders, swaying to the song, reveling in the joy of this very moment, knowing that I am here for you and you are here for me. Que Sera, Sera. You knew it all along, Doris Day. You rock, girl. You rock.

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