Swimming in Shallow Water
For several months now I’ve had a vague feeling gnawing at my insides. An unnamed anxiety which would manifest during the quiet in-between moments of life like the ringing in your ears while laying in bed late at night. It has made me uneasy and irritable. Quick to snap with a sarcastic barb when a kindness would have been preferred. I tried to pin down the source of this emotion with little success.
It wasn’t until reading an article by Penelope Trunk—a brutally honest writer who tears into herself as deeply as the topics she discusses—that I began to understand what was bothering me. Throughout my adult years I wore many hats at an expert level. Being an expert IT Consultant paid my debts and financed my lifestyle for a decade and a half. I was also an expert in being myself, having inhabited my adult skin with confidence and ease. Which is why Penelope’s words struck me right between the eyes when I read them.
Not only had I shed the life of a confidant and capable IT Consultant for that of an Indie Book Editor, but I had also discarded my old sense of self. The Married Man was now adrift and alone in the world. The Ambitious Corporate Climber had been burned out revealing a Curious Artist underneath.
The roles I had played for years were no longer available to me. I was forced to wear the scarlet B of Beginner and I did not like it. It’s a vulnerable and unsure role. You can’t be the person you want to be when you’re a Beginner. You’re not cool, calm, or collected. You’re frantic, frazzled, and fucked.
So the agitation chewing on my guts came from my return to Square One. I don’t usually mind beginning anew when there’s some sort of foundation in my life, but EVERYTHING that I was, and considered myself to be, got torn away. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
I find myself floating in the sea of uncertainty. The last time I tread these strange waters was high school, the lovely social experiment disguised as preparation for adulthood. This is not a fun mental or emotional space to occupy. Intellectually, I understand the differences between my current situation and my past, but the anxieties are similar enough to trigger a flashback to more turbulent times.
Both periods shared a lack of control over my agency. Both had the requirement of patience for things to fall into place. Both experienced isolation. Throw in glasses and a bad haircut and the only thing separating the two moments are my wrinkles.
It’s bizarre to wear skin you thought had been relegated to deep storage long, long ago. I’m much better at dealing with the inevitable awkwardness, but the lack of control is still a bitter pill to swallow.
Photo and Image © Gabriel Novo, Quote from Penelope Trunk