AUTHOR’S UPDATE: After writing this, I was almost pointed to this article via synchronicity. It’s no secret I don’t care for Jezebel’s perspective, especially when it comes to reading columns by female writers, but this article has more than a grain of truth. In fact, it seems remarkably tied in to everything I was feeling and writing about today.
“When 40 became the new 30, 30 became invisible. It’s a decade of major transition, a bridge from the broke hot mess of your 20s to the fabulousness of your 40s. Or when ‘Mean Girls’ graduate to ‘boring bitches.’ At least that’s one of the perceptions that hurts the pre-middle age group. Thirty-somethings are overshadowed by the antics of the 20-something “Girls” and the 40-something “Real Housewives” because, pop-culturally speaking, the best material is born from ‘having nothing’ (20s), ‘having it all’ (40s) or ‘losing it all’ (40s divorcee).”
I sometimes wonder if there are people out there who feel the way I do, who get to a point where they have so much restlessness and discontent inside of them, they’re ready to explode.
It isn’t a new experience for me, although it’s gotten worse as my situation has changed for the worse. I grew up with this feeling of restlessness inside of me, and even though performing provided an outlet for the experience and attention I needed from the world to feel happy, there was always a part of me that was biding my time. I grew up dreaming of bigger and brighter things. I wanted romance and adventure and experiences that I’d remember for the rest of my life. I wanted to travel the world and meet people and roam without being too accountable to anyone else. I wanted to converse with people far more interesting and worldly than I was. I was an adult who never looked back the moment the ink was dry on my high-school diploma. I had enough of being bored.
From 17-29, life was non-stop adventure and experience. Some were wonderful, glittering, romantic, legendary experiences. Others were immensely painful ordeals I did not have faith I’d know how to survive. When you’re a kid with daydreams about the world and all its adventures, even if you’re not particularly naive or sheltered, you’re still not prepared for how hard and callous and unfeeling the world can be. You abandon delusions that you’re somehow special, because the reality is you’re just another person struggling to get by in life.
Yet, in some ways, security and monotony has been the greatest struggle for me. It’s surprising, because I remember in those horrible moments in life, all I missed were the simple things, and swore I’d never take a night at home watching TV and eating pizza for granted again. Yet, it seems that people don’t change. I’m able to appreciate those small things with more frequency than I used to, and I’m able to live in my own little world for greater periods of time than I used to. However, that restless teenager that just wants to get out and live comes back frequently, and with a vengeance.
I am a grown-up now, with a rather ordinary and repetitive life. I no longer do much of note or accomplish much that makes me special. Time has taken its toll on me, physically and mentally. I no longer have the independence to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I have a dog that needs to be taken care of, and no roommate, and everyone who was ever going to help me with that responsibility so that taking care of a dog didn’t limit my freedom to travel is nowhere to be found. I lack regular income or any prospects that point to a way to make regular income, as my health still isn’t as strong as it needs to be to get out in the world and do things on a daily basis. Some days are great. Others, getting up and dressed is a challenge. It makes it really hard to remember that I used to be that person who would wake up practically bouncing on the bed because of all the exciting things life had to offer.
I always thought the above paragraph would be something written by someone closer to 80 than 30, but, here we are. I know that as long as I am on the Earth, I will never be done living, but the setbacks and limitations have been very hard on me in an emotional sense. All the time alone gets to me, and I have tried to make it otherwise, but it’s simply not how I’m wired. I’ve always needed to be doing things, interacting with people, having others notice me and engage with me. Like everyone else, I need my down time. Unlike most of my friends, 8 hours is fairly sufficient for me to spend alone and recharge my batteries, unless I happen to be ill.
My reality is that every day is pretty much like the next, and it drives me insane. I only see other people perhaps three days a week. Other days, I may chat with people on the telephone or via Facebook or e-mail, but I essentially spend about 70% of my life alone. For an extrovert, that’s hard, and it’s really easy to feel depressed.
I don’t always feel like I have a lot of friends, at least not here in Atlanta. People have rather forgotten about me, or understandably find dealing with the symptoms of my illness too restrictive or too much of a downer. The friends that I do have seem to be the type who look to me to plan interesting things to do or initiate adventures, which leads to my next limitation: transportation. I can only leave the house when someone wants to pick me up and take me somewhere, and in Atlanta, where it’s assumed everyone drives, it’s simply just too much of a pain in the ass a lot of the time. I hear “I wish you could have been there” a lot. I can’t help but feel, “I wish you’d cared enough to actually come get me.”
We have buses in my neighbourhood, but it is one of the least walkable areas you can imagine. My heart is unable to handle the mile walk to the bus stop, because it requires walking up and down a steep hill I’m just not physically able to conquer yet. It is a three-mile walk to the train station. You can call a cab, but the three miles to the train station will cost you $12. (Base fares for taxis in Atlanta are now $2.50-$3.00, but in 2008, they tacked on a “$3 gas surcharge”. Even though gas prices returned to normal, the taxis never got rid of the surcharge. Customers who need a taxi agree to blatantly be ripped off, and there’s not a thing to be done about it.)
Oh, and it’s not particularly safe to walk around after dark, which means that spending $30 just on round-trip transportation is my only option if I wish to attend an event that someone cannot drive me to.
There are very few decisions in my life I regret, but conversations with the ex who got me down to Atlanta where I expressed concern about transportation, and the reply was “Don’t worry. It’s very walkable and people can drive you where you need to go” should have been more detailed. In fairness, he wasn’t here much longer than I was, had a car, and grew up in the suburbs, so our perspectives were quite different. Also, living in the city is indeed much easier than living out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s really the only way you can manage in Atlanta without a car, or the health and free time that allows you to spend hours on public transportation.
Although I lived in Midtown for more than half the time I was in Atlanta, looking back, the amount of money I wasted on taxis and car services was excessive. Even when I was working outside my house or for a company, I had a regular paycheck, but there were always travel expenses, always non-optional “social” events to attend. Once I started organizing for a social group, I realised I was going to take taxis everywhere, because I didn’t have the time to spend hours on a sucky public transportation system. I estimate that for about 3-4 years, I spent about $400 a month on paying people to drive me around. Yet, I still found myself being bitched about on other people’s blogs and talked about behind my back because I was committing the cardinal sin of not paying friends to pick me up and give me rides to things. In my defense, I have to say that I’m not an intentionally rude person, and this is a cultural difference. People don’t ask for gas money in the Northeast, especially if you’re going the same place the driver is going. Buying someone a beer and offering a “Thank you” is politeness enough. Here, people want cash, and I was shocked to discover that was one of the many things people didn’t like about me when I started living down here. There are things people should tell you when you move here, and one is there’s a whole new set of rules when it comes to interacting with other people. I do not like most of the rules, which is why I still have people who ask me when I’m going to leave.
I live in the suburbs of Atlanta because, frankly, it’s where I can afford to live. On paper, I’m not the ideal candidate that anyone would like to rent to, so the fact I have a place to live at all is a blessing. It has enough space for me. When I moved out here, I had one roommate and then another who told me “Don’t worry, we’ll give you rides wherever you need to go”. After a year, that turned into grumbling and resentment about how dependent and needy I was. It was never a *choice* to be dependent. If you isolate someone, you take away their independence.
Then I got sick, and lost my ability to walk around too much. That really erased what little independence I had left. Much of my life feels like a repetitive loop, a child locked in her room, “grounded” for some infraction and not certain if there’s a reprieve in sight.
I can keep things in perspective, most of the time. I technically have my freedom, in that I am not dead or in jail. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, cable, internet, ways to make a little bit of money here and there. I have imagination, if I don’t have health, and I spend a lot of time replaying the film loop in my head of the days when life was filled with adventure, and dreaming of a time it might be that way again.
I know it can never happen as long as I live in Atlanta, or likely, anywhere in the South. Yet, unless I am successful at something in some way, I don’t have a lot of hope for being able to afford to live anywhere that it would be easy for me to live life in a way that’s not dependent on others. It is the proverbial Catch-22.
The Guy I Am Dating doesn’t understand. When I tell him I sometimes want to rip my skin off just so I can feel less trapped, I get a look of worry instead of someone who relates to that feeling. Yet, he is a very different person from me. He is an introvert who has not traveled much, who doesn’t get depressed spending most of his days on his own, who doesn’t need the whole world to notice him, and really values peace and security. I think it’s easy not to miss adventure when you’ve never really had too much of it, or pursued it. Many of my friends here are that way.
People will say “You do things all the time”, but the fact of the matter is, they’re typically the *same* things. We play trivia. We go to restaurants. We watch movies. We sometimes go to clubs or parties or concerts. We watch our favourite TV shows. We do the things that people do.
Yet, that’s the problem. I know it hurts the feelings of The Guy I Am Currently Dating when I express just how freaking bored I am with life, because he thinks it’s me saying I don’t like him or that I think he’s boring. But,honestly, I need to get the hell out of here sometimes. I need to not only do things, but different things. I want to get in the car and drive somewhere we’ve never been. I want to go to Athens for the weekend and see live bands. I want to end up at a random country bar on a mechanical bull. I want to road trip to nowhere in particular and end up doing something I’ll probably make fun of, but am pleased, because I’ve never done before. I want to cross things off of my “life experience” list. I want to do something memorable with people I like that didn’t have to be planned, but just happened because the people around me are always open to adventure.
There is so much *new* in the world, and I’m not doing any of it. And I’m afraid that one day I’m going to look back, and realise I mostly stopped living at 29. Life is just too short for that.
I really can’t wait until an opportunity comes up when someone can watch my dog and I can travel somewhere, anywhere. If people don’t want to go with me, I don’t care. I’ll go myself. I’ll hitchike and crash on strangers’ couches and have stories about interesting things that happened to me. I’m just not the sort of person who is happy living life sitting still in one place, and am dating someone who appears to not like to travel. In all the years we’ve been together, we’ve never gone on a trip together that wasn’t because of a convention he was organizing or a reunion he was attending, and that does make me sad. I sometimes think that is a major incompatibility, because my ideal romantic partner is a travel partner who values adventure. Sharing your journeys *with* someone is so much more meaningful than doing it on your own, and when I hear about all the couples we know who are exploring places that are new to them, it makes me feel downright envious.
I don’t want to have to watch the world pass by without me, while I sit in my little bubble and daydream. I am too old to be a Disney princess waiting to be rescued from the Evil Overlord Monotony and Confinement.
Yet, that’s how I feel. I want freedom and independence and adventure so badly that it not being available to me sends me into fits of depression and anger.
I know I’ve done a lot in my life. I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot, but there has to be plenty of new adventures waiting for me. I know that life isn’t over yet, and I should accept that I’m at an age where routine is just what people do. I don’t want children and obligation for precisely that reason. It’s just that, as long as I live here, I can’t seek out too many new experiences on my own. I can’t even go to events I put together for my social group. I can plan them for others and live vicariously through other people, but I can’t experience them, and that physically hurts me.
I wish I knew how to be happy with what I currently have in my life, but it’s hard to compare it to what I once had, and not dream of all the possibilities I never explored while I had the opportunity. I don’t want to sit still. I don’t want to do the same things over and over again until, one day, I’m 40.
I know there has to be more out there. I wish I knew the someone who could help me find it. Sometimes, even the person who is always inspiring other people to get out and live life and take chances needs to be inspired.
I know that if I am lucky, one day I will be old, and I will have the same limitations in my life: transportation, money, health, wondering if anyone really cares about including me in their life, or I’m just baggage. It seems a little unfair to have to deal with them now, unless I happen to not live long enough to experience them at a later point in my life. After all, I’ve heard these are the years I’m supposed to be doing the most, accomplishing the most, building my life the most.
Like most things I’ve heard, this one appears to not be so true. I haven’t woken up with the feeling of “It’s such a great day, I can’t wait to get out in the world and LIVE!” in a very long time, and because I can remember that feeling so well, I miss it.