I finally figured out that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Nor does the tooth fairy. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no love of my life, no happily ever after, no dream job, no man of my dreams.
What everyone said about how you can be whomever you want to be, do anything as long as you put your mind to it—well, that was a lie. Yes—technically you can do just about anything, as long as you put your mind to it, as long as you really want it. Those are the key words. The reality is you have to sacrifice basic needs (or wants) like sleep, time, money, relationships. It’s not that no one told me this part. But I thought, who needs sleep, time, money (shelter, transportation, healthcare), and relationships (love) anyway? Or more accurately, who really feels like they have enough of any of these things as it is? So why not go after what I really want, for a change, instead of always settling for whatever comes my way?
All my life I have lived passively. Never did I go after what I wanted, except for the one time I saved my money and moved to London with a work visa after graduating from college. One could argue that leaving my two former husbands was an active way of living my life, and leaving my well-paying marketing career was an active way of living life—but these were commitments I did not keep, not commitments I made or actions taken towards something. One could argue that my bachelor’s and master’s degrees were active ways of living life, but I’ve done nothing with either of these degrees, except for a two-semester stint teaching at a community college. My sobriety and my dog are the two commitments I’ve made and kept so far. Everything else—mainly men, career—have been a matter of stopping and starting, and searching for the right one with a deep-rooted belief that the right one doesn’t really exist.
What if I spend my entire life in pursuit of love and a dream job that doesn’t exist? Why not just surrender? Who do I know that has both of these? Who do I know that doesn’t complain about what they have? What if I just left a life, a marriage, and a good job, only to find out this is what marriage is, this is what jobs are like. This is life. THIS is it. This IS it. This is IT. Live it in poverty or middle class or get lucky and be rich, but this is it. The reality is that we can tell ourselves the lie that one day we’ll be in better shape, one day we’ll make more money, get a better job, have a better relationship, and maybe some or all of these things will happen. But who doesn’t want to lose a few pounds, eat better, have a better relationship, have better or more sex, get more time off work, go on fun vacations, spend more time with loved ones? Does anyone ever talk about how perfectly everything is going in their life?
Buddhist teachers often say that of meditation, there’s no goal. I want to believe that the goal is peace, because otherwise why do any of this? Not that I meditate. It’s on my to-do list along with working out more, eating better, improving my spiritual life, reading more, writing more, getting healthcare insurance, and doing my taxes.
The alternative is not to pursue either love or the dream job. Maybe what I’ve been doing is right, and just taking what comes along. Some people know what they want and they go after it. Others, we search for it.
Maybe the love of my life exists somewhere, waiting for me. And maybe the dream job is out there. Maybe one day I’ll get what I want and I won’t struggle to survive and I’ll do what I love and make money at it. Waiting for these things, expecting these things, hoping for them, feeling disappointed that none of these things have happened, all of these expectations make me feel… well, disappointed. Maybe these things just happen in their own time whether I pursue them or not.
Maybe if I don’t pursue them they never come. Maybe. Maybe not.
The older I get the more I realize I don’t know what life is all about. At the age of twenty I thought I had it figured out. This is the way things are. This is what you do. You make a plan and you go after it. That plan doesn’t work, you do something else. That plan doesn’t work, you do something else again.
I just want to be happy and feel at peace. Which means being grateful for what I have, for what is, the way life is, today, now, in this moment. When I woke up this morning and cried, sobbing uncontrollably on my way to a dead-end job that doesn’t save the world but maybe makes a few people happy for a few minutes, all I could think was this: Just be nice to others.
What I’ve learned is that when all else fails, as it often does at some point in time, being helpful to others is the solution. That means being helpful to co-workers and customers, even those who annoy me. When my twenty-year-old co-workers come into work goofing off and I want to rip their heads off, I remember that one of them has a father who just died, and I don’t have to yell at them but I can practice how to remind them to focus on work without trying to ruin their day. When customers come into work to return expired, half-eaten lettuce without a receipt, I can do my job of providing customer service and process returns for everyone, regardless of what or why.
Self-pity is no longer an option, nor is informing the rest of the world why my life is so unfair. Because what am I going to do about it? No one’s life is fair. Suicide is not an option. Drinking is not an option. I feel so fucking lost right now, and I want to move back South because it’s too fucking cold here in DC and I’m not getting what I want or who I want. But this is the way life is right now. This is it. So for today I will just repeat the mantra of being nice to others, and I’ll just try to do that. I don’t know what the fuck else to do.
I may have posted this video before, but this song keeps running through my head. Thank you, American Dream.