So it seems that once you hit a certain age you are meant to “have your shit together” – whatever that means. Society, friends, family all seem to expect that by the time you hit 40 you will be settled down, secure in a job or at the very least steadily employed, and perhaps even married with children.
But what if that’s not how life has gone for you? And what if part of the reason for that is because you were, knowingly or unknowingly, trying to live up to these expectations?
I thought I was following the rules, doing everything right. Going to university. Getting a 9 to 5 office job. Moving into my own apartment. Maintaining a car. Hanging out with friends. Spending time with family.
So why did it all feel so wrong then?
Because when we do what is expected, who we are becomes affected.
I don’t fit into those boxes people have put me in: the Receptionist, the Executive Assistant, the Operations Manager, the Waitress, the Bartender, the Filmmaker… and the list goes on. I did for a while but it became too damned uncomfortable as I tried to squeeze myself into a role that never had or no longer did suit me. And I have played many roles.
So what’s a girl to do when everything she has been doing isn’t working anymore. Then what?
I recently posted a poem I wrote over ten years ago about this very dilemma. I called it ‘Breathing Out’. It’s all about remembering to breathe and let go during transitions. It’s about moving away from the things you’ve been doing because, even though they are familiar, they have suddenly become more challenging than those that are new.
Have you ever tried to squeeze yourself into a box that’s too small for you? I have. In a short film I made with a friend in film school. It was actually called, ‘Girl in a Box’. Her idea was to show how definitions can hinder the growth of an individual’s identity.
In one scene we actually did squeeze me into a little box. I’d become quite good at it in the figurative sense and it felt strangely familiar, even in the literal.
But it’s hard to breathe in situations like these.
I remember waiting in a line up at a nite club in Toronto many years ago. I don’t remember what for but it was a long line and 4 or 5 people deep. I was on the inside of the line near the wall. People suddenly started to push. I felt myself getting squished up against that wall. I felt my breath getting shorter. I tried to push back but it didn’t help. I began to panic. Something felt terribly wrong.
I hoisted myself up on my friend’s shoulders and managed to crawl over the people beside us to release myself from the cluster. No club or concert was worth putting myself through the feeling of being herded like cattle. Of having my breath stifled and body broken.
I landed on the other side of the rope and bent over to take a few deep breaths, grateful to be free from the masses again. Perhaps this is why, if I can help it, I don’t do lineups anymore. And why I usually find myself leaving jobs or situations that make me feel that same way – boxed in.
A lot of people have told me I need help. Really? What sort of help? Because the help that is usually offered or suggested to someone like me is counseling, medication, getting a “real job”, or my personal favourite, finding a man with money.
Here’s why these things don’t work for me…
The counseling involves too much talking and not enough listening… listening to my own inner voice that is. Unless it’s Jungian or involves some sort of tapping into my subconscious, I am no longer interested. I no longer wish to analyze my childhood or my family, dig up the past, and label things “this” or “that”. This does not serve me anymore.
Medication simply numbs my emotions or helps me to feel emotions that, in essence, are temporary and aren’t real. This may be good for a little while, but without addressing the root cause of my true emotions, the reason for the medication, this does not serve me anymore either.
I need my emotions. I need to feel what I feel in order to understand my Self, to process what I need to process, to trust that what I am feeling is legitimate and that I can change this by working to change my own perceptions and attitudes.
I am and have been willing to do the work and will continue to do so.
The “real job”, whatever that means, no longer serves me unless it is something I feel passionately about. I am no longer content, nor was I ever really, to spend 40+ hours of my week dedicated to something merely because it pays my bills. This is no life. I want to love what I do and do what I love and so I continue to search and strive for that.
Oh, and the “marrying for money” idea is, for me anyway, absurd. I want to take care of myself. I want to earn my own living. I want to fall in love. And if that person has money… great. I will have money too.
But I am not my bank account. I am not the product of a dysfunctional family. I am not my emotions. I am capable of creating a life for myself outside of the “real job”. And I am worthy of someone’s love and affection.
So please, with all due respect, stop telling me that I need to do this or take that or talk about these things because I don’t. There is something better out there. Trust me. I’ll find it. And I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I do.