I did not choose the most stable or consistent of lives.
That’s all on me; when given a choice between a new experience and an old one, 90% of the time, I’ll take the new one. I’ve always been the “professional dilettante” type. There are so many things a person can do in the world; I hate the idea of missing out on one of them. Even as a little girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “An actress and singer and writer.”
Add to that a sailor, and see two summers of sailing camp and a week-long schooner voyage from Boston to Portland, Maine. Add to that a costume designer, and see three years of work in Carleton’s costume shop and several shows I designed and built costumes for. Add an entrepreneur, an English professor, a professor of religion, a world traveler, an advocate for women’s rights, a translator of French texts, an archaeologist, a paleontologist, and a mosaic artist. A guitar player. An athlete. A jewelry-maker. A social media consultant. These are all things I’ve wanted to do, and they’re all things I’ve done or taken concrete steps toward at one point or another in my life.
I want new changes and new challenges. I like that stuff. But I also want security. Comfort. Stability.
You don’t often get all these things at the same time.
Some days, I wish I were the kind of person who would just grow a garden, regularly hit the farmer’s market, and spend my days reading, going to work, coming home, cooking, and helping plants grow. I think about how nice it is to have a glass of wine and slice your own tomatoes and crush your own basil. I imagine a quiet, contemplative life. It sounds nice. It sounds relaxing. And I also know it’s not for me.
Oh, sure, I’ll get to cook sometimes, and hang out with a good book, and have moments of contemplation. But for the most part I steal my peace. I read on the train, or stare out the window and think about things. I plan a nice meal during the one chunk of free time I have that week. The thing is, when I have the kind of leisure I imagine, I get restless. I know there are other things I could be doing, and I want to have a new project or goal or dream. After awhile, I stop relaxing into relaxing, and I want to get moving.
This is, by the way, not just idle musing. This is me trying to reassure myself. This is me remembering how many times my life has changed and how, ultimately, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because, in the middle of the busiest month of my year, I just found out that some areas of my life that I thought were stable and taken care of are not so much those things. Suddenly the speeches that the candidates at the national conventions are making apply to me in more areas of my life. I can’t go into much detail, and things could change, but in a couple of months, my day-to-day is most likely going to look very different, and I need to remember that I’ve made transitions before and that most times, each change has gotten me closer to the life I wanted to have.
I’m also remembering that people who deliberately choose stability over excitement and change often find the floor dropping out from underneath them as well. People get sick, relationships change, the economy shifts, and ultimately the amount of control that we have over all that is minimal. It’s natural to want to find something to hold on to. It’s human to want an anchor. It’s also inevitable that change will hit all of us.
I feel a little bit like I’m writing a graduation speech, and maybe that’s not too far off. Every time a big part of our lives goes away or alters itself, we are in a sense graduating into a new stage of life. Suddenly we encounter a whole bunch of opportunities, and usually, a similarly-sized bunch of challenges. So here I am, trying to stay composed, tallying up my assets and building up my bravado. Uncertainty was always going to be there. Now, I can see around the corner to where it was hiding, and remembering what it looks like, and realizing that it’s not necessarily a monster.
I’ve always wanted to live more lives than I was allotted. If I can’t live them concurrently, I’ll have to do it consecutively.
I think it’s about time for a new one to start.