This spoke to me. I’ll pause while you read it. You should, because Marketplace.
In addition to being an excellent resource with regard to business and economics, it also served as my home security system throughout a series of sketchy apartment rentals; basically, I’d turn on NPR when I left for work in the morning in a desperate attempt convince burglars, rapists, missionaries, and murderers that someone had already laid claim to this particular patch of slum. It worked so well that I OFTEN FORGOT WHAT I’D DONE and would spend about 10 minutes every evening hovering nervously outside my front door, wondering why Kai Ryssdal was reporting on the DOW while robbing my $#!++y apartment and also weighing the likelihood of whether or not I could take him in a fight. A birch veneer IKEA gate-leg table that retails at a reasonable price point is worth fighting for, I don’t care what anyone says.
See, lately I’ve been thinking about the future — not the world’s, which is uniformly dismal (sorry); specifically mine, whose insignificance is such that anything could happen.
I have been extraordinarily blessed in that I’ve got basically everything I want — all of which aligns with everything I could have dreamed up for myself: partner, pets, career, home, hobbies and interests (all amazing and extraordinary). I made a list once and all of these things were on it.
So now, I suppose, the rest of my life will revolve around attempting to keep all of the above, for as long as I can manage. And that’s a weird goal to have, because I am 31 years old. I am 31 and, as far as I can tell, I have maxed out on my lifetime allotment of good fortune — my “great expectations” as it were.
And yet, mine is essentially a maintenance goal: i.e. “please, please let everything stay exactly how it is because, while not perfect (and nobody’s is!), my life is way, WAY better than I ever expected it to be, much, MUCH more than I deserve, and far too good to last.”
I’m not being modest or self-deprecating. I know other people. I have peers, and I can tell you that a lot of them are struggling. And that a lot of them will continue to struggle. Because, you know that American Dream thing people are always talking about? These days, and especially for my generation, it basically amounts to maybe I can win the Hunger Games? (btw, I VOLUNTEER!)
Some of my confusion stems from the fact that I thought all of this (i.e. a reasonably comfortable and happy life) would take a lot longer to achieve. Not the pets, necessarily — stand in a parking lot long enough and some emaciated creature will come slinking up to you, declare its everlasting devotion*, and then follow you home; honestly, I think your average citizen risks greater legal repercussions for parking violations than, say, tossing a live kitten into a dumpster — but the other stuff, yeah.
I always just sort of assumed I’d tread water until, I don’t know, anywhere from my mid-forties to my early eighties, when I’d simply give up and drop dead. And if I’m completely honest with myself and with you, I’ll admit right now that this is still essentially my “retirement plan.”
When I think about it slightly more seriously, I tend to give myself about ten more years, figuring that by then some either horrible disease will have sunk its claws and fangs into me like a cheetah downing a gazelle, or else I’ll probably just have to off myself. (Forty is, I think, a solid age to commit suicide; younger would generally be considered “a waste”, whereas older would make people say, “Jeez, woman, you don’t have THAT much time left, just tough it out!”)
I’m not actively working towards either outcome, let me hasten to add. They just seem the most likely when I consider the matter.
It’s probably a combination of my mother’s ancestors (who are saved from their collective, co-morbid mental illness and affinity for untimely demises only by their combined fecundity and promiscuity — good rate of replacement, in other words) and my father’s forebears (who came from a vague cluster of Old Countries in which one just took it for granted that terrible things would happen, given time and opportunity. What, no plague or pestilence or pogrom? Yeah, well…just you wait.)
There’s also the fact that, since I like my life a lot, I naturally expect to die any second. Because, really, who deserves happiness? Certainly not me. “Deserve” is a tricky word, of course, because there are so many examples of good or ill fortune that shouldn’t be causally linked to their recipients/victims. Still, if you were to choose someone as an example of who doesn’t deserve good things, I’d be a decent candidate. No one else seems to know this, but I DO. I don’t even answer questionnaires because the very first thing that pops into my mind, when asked to “describe” some aspect of myself, is “contaminant.”
The hardest part is, I can’t even tell if this is a realistic outlook or whether I just have really low expectations of myself and the world around me. All I know is that I have trouble even imagining more than what I’ve currently got.
For example, back in my SuperVirgin days (the majority of them so far), I assumed I’d never find a single (non-pedophile) willing to do me, let alone engage in a relationship with me. And then I met a very nice man, wondered why he was nice enough to remember my name and acknowledge me in public, eventually went on a date with him by accident**, and that was that.
I also figured I’d be working minimum-wage jobs basically forever, because for well over a decade, that’s the best I could do and besides, there’s no economy to speak of these days.
As for the house, I’m still not sure how that happened. I mean, the biggest part of it was stockpiling my pennies in nest egg accounts that no one was allowed to touch, self included, on pain of death. But that still doesn’t explain getting approved for a mortgage, locating an affordable property, and then convincing someone to sell it to you. That part feels like crazy luck, probably because it is.
Really, things can only get worse.
Besides which, I get the feeling that something is missing — PLEASE DON’T SAY ‘BABIES’ OR ‘JESUS’, THAT’S NOT IT I PROMISE YOU — and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Here are my best guesses:
1.) I am a restless soul, and the striving is part of the adventure.
2.) I have no soul, just a yawning void at my center, and nothing will ever fill it completely.
3.) Both, because they are related.
But it could be that I’m wrong. It could be that I just don’t dream big enough…at least, for myself. And if that’s the case, I guess I need help.*** Help figuring out how to imagine different/better possibilities, help with considering myself worthy of dreams-coming-true-with-no-evil-codicils, help with giving myself permission to want things for myself.
Especially that, but the others, too.