I’ve been feeling stuck lately, trapped in the torturous repetition of commuting, working and getting whatever joyless sleep I can. I cycle the loop weekday after weekday from one month to the next till it’s “Happy New Year!” and the old beginning of the same old life arrives with muted fanfare wherever the first of three hundred and sixty-five midnights finds me.
All activities outside this routine are brief intermissions between the dreary acts of an extended real-life drama, flashes of relief from the grind.
I wish adulthood came with a warning label:
‘This train doesn’t stop till you do, permanently. Get on at your own risk.’
Like I had a choice in the matter.
Every day brings the same questions:
“Where’s all this going?”
“Will it be worth it in the end?”
“Everything is moving so quickly, but why do I feel like this isn’t the right kind of progress?”
It’s not that I am not grateful.
I know there are probably millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of thirty-something year-olds who want some version of my life, painfully unaware that the supposedly greener grass on the other side is just some version of the same artificial turf they’ve been standing on with straining toes most of their adult life.
I am grateful for the opportunity to live, but there’s no measure of comfort in knowing that the life I am dissatisfied with is someone else’s dream. The farthest range of the vision of the average person of my age is not something to aspire to, yet most of us are chasing the same transient things.
We’ve been defined by achievements, predefined milestones we must ‘work hard’ to achieve: get a car, get a house, get married, start a pension fund and try not to die in the process. Not necessarily in that order but you get the point. At its worst, it’s a damned mantra leading dreams and souls to an early grave. And at its best? It makes artless clones of the best of us. We’re struggling to live lives that aren’t ours, killing ourselves to remember the lines of a script that takes us farther and farther away from our brilliantly unique plotlines. Show me a greater tragedy.
If life is a race, our running shoes have been waiting for us since the cradle: the rat race conscripts you, you don’t enlist. We’re pitted against the time and people like us, set at each other’s throats like gladiators in a fight to the finish.
Everything has been set up to make us believe we must live this way; we are nudged or forced to choose ‘ideal’ occupations, the picture-perfect kinds of people to be seen with and the ‘right’ causes to support. Never mind that our hearts hardly ever have any say in these engineered choices, the appearance of authenticity is far more important than actual authenticity in this manufactured world.
I’ve been running, we’ve all been running from ourselves for too long. We’re on wrong tracks heading nowhere fast but we’re too scared to stop and walk away briskly.
I know I’m scared, scared of losing the insignificant yet all-important comforts I can afford, scared of the unpredictable outcome of the change I desperately need and terrified to death of losing the ‘relevance’ that comes with this life of keeping my head down and hoping for the best.
But I need to stop now. For my own good, to save my life, I need to get off here.
Even if life was meant to be a race, it’s not a series of sequential sprints that end when you finally check out.
That’s just suicide and we lost before the starting pistol was fired.
If life is a race, I’m ready for my marathon now.
I’m ready to run at my own pace, with no one other than myself to compete with.
“You’re too slow.” Well, look away.
I may never set any records or win any medals but it will be my race and no one else’s.
And I’ll be damned if I let the world tell me how to run it.