I am turning thirty soon and it has been unnerving me quite a bit. Okay, fine, to be fair I am turning twenty-seven in a month, but that's close to thirty you can't deny. Like every year of my life, however, when the day of my birth rolls around, I am downright jubilant and geared up for my usual princess theatrics. I have never felt dread about getting one year older, until this year. Sure, I am still reminding every one who will listen that my birthday is near, because I never waste a celebration, but I have been feeling more and more ominous about the number twenty-seven and how it reeks of being thirty's neighbor.
It is really no secret that a lot of people freak out about turning thirty because it seems like grown-up time and maybe we just don't want to grow up or have to start pretending we're more grown up and have our act together when in truth we don't.
All these feelings though about getting older and all the ideas I have had for myself since childhood, grandiose ideas of an incredibly worldly life seem to be pressing down on me and I ask myself constantly if I am where I want to be by twenty-seven and I freak out and answer no because I am ultra hard on myself.
It's not that I don't have great things and haven't done great things, heck by my childhood standards, I would count myself pretty darn fulfilled to have lived in New York City, made it onto a TV show, finally lost a lot of weight, ran a marathon and be in an adult functioning relationship with a man and happen to live near the mountains. So yeah. What the heck is my problem? Well, this picture about summed it up today.
That is it. Right there. That's why I hate the looming number twenty-seven and why I am feeling that all the other big things that are profound accomplishments don't add up because that one huge thing that I have also dreamt about since the fourth grade, being a writer, in the world of accomplished writers, not just the starving artist kind doesn't feel fulfilled yet. I don't feel like an adult in that respect. Sure I pursue writing in my free time, sure I talk about it incessantly, sure I bemoan that National Geographic doesn't beg me to come work for them, but to make money to pay pesky bills, I still waitress, or cashier, or scrub floors, or toilets and honestly it kills me a little more each day.
And when I clicked the picture on my tumblr it brought me to a link with tons of great quotes that made me feel a lot less bad about how many hysterical downright rotten fits I have had lately to anyone who will listen. Like this one:
"Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work.
If you don’t get out now, you may end up like the frog that is placed in a pot of fresh water on the stove. As the temperature is gradually increased, the frog feels restless and uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to jump out. Without being aware that a chance is taking place, he is gradually lulled into unconsciousness.
Much the same thing happens when you take a person and put him in a job which he does not like. He gets irritable in his groove. His duties soon become a monotonous routine that slowly dulls his senses. As I walk into offices, through factories and stores, I often find myself looking into the expressionless faces of people going through mechanical motions. They are people whose minds are stunned and slowly dying."
I felt this exact way in my last job and I feel it now in my new one, from retail to restaurants, I don't feel fulfilled but it pays the bills and I panic so I do it. I noted though, much like the brilliant Mr. Hyde suggested, that yesterday while in the grocery store buying milk, I tried to make eye contact with the cashier, possibly to smile at him or start a conversation, but he never once looked up from scanning groceries. Instead he seemed completely robotic and out of it. That look on his face reminded me of exactly what I have been feeling lately and what I aim to spend my life avoiding. Which brings me to another amazing quote:
"The greatest satisfaction you can obtain from life is your pleasure in producing, in your own individual way, something of value to your fellowmen. That is creative living! When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob? For you, life can be a succession of glorious adventures. Or it can be a monotonous bore. Take your choice!"
“Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.”
I could go on and on with the incredible quotes I found in my reading but I think my point is made. That exact feeling that Hyde, Gaiman and Camus talk about is the exact panicked soul-sucking feeling I have been having of late, in regards to my birthday, my profession or lack thereof and defining my own adulthood.
Until I realized this: I am limiting my own belief. That twenty-seven is practically thirty and thirty means it's all over folks. I can't succeed; I've missed the boat; it's too late. That's what I have been believing. Yep, I'm an idiot.
Some people are wild successes at their art at twenty-two, like Taylor Swift and I commend her, but lots of people have not gotten it figured out at twenty-two or twenty-seven or even thirty seven.
J.K. Rowling, the richest female author to ever bloody live, didn't get Harry Potter published until she was in her thirties and this was after publishers continued to reject one of the most imaginative books ever written for an entire year! Rejecting J.K. Freaking Rowling?! Unfathomable.
So yeah, I should stop measuring my success by my age for starters and also maybe grow a pair like J.K. and send my manuscript to more publishers. Yes I have sent it two people in the writing world: an agent that was recommended to me who never responded back and one editor in New York who actually had the good grace to look it over, respond to me quite kindly and suggest what needed working on. It was a clear no but still, I put myself out there!
All this ranting is really just me working out in my mind this reoccurring immense overload of feeling I have been having about what I desperately yearn to do and what I am forced to do in the meantime to make money (anything in the customer service world) which feels like the scene in Hocus Pocus when the witches suck the soul out of the children and they slowly fade color and start to droop.
In working all this out today in my crazed and passion fueled mind, I studied up a lot on J.K. Rowling. Before she wrote Harry Potter she said that rock bottom became a solid foundation on which she rebuilt her life.
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”
Thanks J.K. I needed that. As waitressing in a Faux French restaurant, saying Bonjour, then rattling off toast varieties while I dream of ripping off the noose (okay tie) I am forced to wear, does make me feel like a failure and so does having mountains of debt. But, the powerful thing about doing something I absolutely want no part of doing anymore, is that it makes my one purpose that nags at me incessantly, scream louder and longer in my ears, that a life filling salt and pepper shakers with my hands that were made for writing, is no life for me at all.
So in hopes of changing that, yeah I want to blog more, I need to finish my book, but also my very wise friend Sophia said something equally profound to me on her visit here recently.
"Quit saying you will write for free. Put a value on it."
She meant in regards to my desperate attempts to get any magazine or newspaper to consider me, even as an intern, but she was right. I have lost the value on my writing and in some small way would like to try and get it back. So if you notice that I have put a donations button at the bottom of my blog it is for that very reason. My writing is worth something to me and one day I aim to see it packaged in a book, on a shelf, with a price-tag, but in the meantime, of course I adore readers who want to celebrate my work with or without paying. But if you so choose to donate, (key word being donate, my blog will always be free) to my blog as supporting my hopes of joining the paid writers out there, then not only can you consider it my birthday present and celebration of not only twenty-seven being stupendous, but all the way up to thirty and every year beyond, also know that I thank you ever so graciously for continuing to come back time and again and read my words. For they do mean something to me and I am delighted if they mean something to you.
**And to read both of the incredibly moving articles that I quoted from in full detail, here are the links: