Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Much Needed Relapse


Everyone always talks about the mid-life crisis when people change their identity, buy expensive sports cars, have affairs, get makeovers, plastic surgery, or move to a foreign country. But no one ever talks about the quarter life crisis. Why? Do they think that 25-year-olds are too young to experience a life altering crisis? If anyone has a crisis, I would think it would be a 25-year-old since they are in this uncertain, self-discovery time of life that tends to be a little overly dramatic. I believe I had one such quarter life crisis a couple of years ago. It wasn’t the age that sent me into panic re-evaluation mode so much as the circumstances in which I found myself. I have a pretty keen sense of direction. I generally know where I am, where I am going and how to get back if I need to. Ironically, when it comes to career and making vital decisions that affect the rest of my future, I constantly find myself lost and driving around in circles. That’s when I realize I am having a relapse.

I feel a little like I have relapsed every year since my 25th birthday, but maybe that is just normal. Who knows. I liken life to a journey around the globe, and this just so happens to be part of the journey that I am crossing some never-ending desert (like Texas) with nothing in site except the sky and a vast expanse of nothingness. I am in search not only of an exit from this unforgiving desert but also for that refreshing pool of water that will quench my nagging thirst and magically transport me to that exotic beach in Tahiti where I can drink coconut milk, swim in the ocean and relax in my private bungalow. Unfortunately, all I seem to find are a bunch of mirages that appear to be the real thing but on closer inspection are just dry and unsatisfying wells of sand. Without a compass, the only logical solution in my twisted sense of reality is to follow the stars and have enough mustard seed like faith to move mountains… or in my case, get out of the desert. We have all had moments of walking through the desert although some of us just like to come back often because we like the challenge of doing everything the hard way. It builds character… at least that’s what I tell myself.

I was never one of those kids that knew what they wanted to do when they grew up from the time they were in third grade. In fact, I think I probably changed my mind a few dozen times before I ever graduated from high school. I vaguely remember once wanting to be a lawyer, a business woman, a magazine editor, a model (who are we kidding), a rock star, and maybe a pixie dust spreader on the Tilt-a-Whirl. I didn’t have the burning desire when I went to college to do any one thing, so I just picked something that I thought I might like and would make me pretty good money… accounting. Well, after 2 semesters of that, I was miserable and couldn’t imagine another day in the iron grip of numbers and figures let alone an entire lifetime regardless of the compensation. So I threw that out the window, dropped all my next semester classes, and went to London. I settled on journalism because it sounded like a good idea at the time, but I had no intention of being a reporter. Since then, I have done a great number of exciting and diverse things all of which contributed to my catalogue of interests but none of them striking that fire in my soul that would give me sense of purpose and fulfillment. I am beginning to wonder if that chip was accidentally left out of my brain on the assembly line.

All was going along fine, until I realized I was bored and there was something vitally important missing from my life. It happened one morning while walking to work. I passed a young woman wearing scrubs who I assumed was a dental hygienist or nurse. I concluded in my mind that she has a pretty fulfilling job and goes home at the end of the day content because she spent her day helping people. I took a quick snap shot of my present situation and decided that I wasn’t contributing to the betterment of society or making a difference, and I wasn’t really helping anyone either. In fact, I felt a little like I had just locked my brain in the cupboard for a couple of months where I had allowed it to atrophy and I was only then realizing how many cobwebs had muddled up the clarity.

For me, ordinary just won’t do. I tried to like the big, corporate world of finance and business, but it stifled my creativity and nearly snuffed out my fire. In the end, it isn’t about money. It’s about loving what I do every day and feeling that in some way I am making a difference in the lives of those around me and even in the communities in which I serve. It’s about using my God-given talents and the skills I have learned throughout the journey to create something that influences others. I had a taste of that with Ironman. I could work 80 hours in a week and fall down on my bed after a successful race and be content knowing that I had a small hand in helping thousands of people achieve a dream, a goal. It’s about knowing that there is some purpose and direction to what I do every day and I am not just waking up and following a routine just to pay bills and have vacation. That works for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for me because I feel that my mortal existence is limited to a defined span of time, and I need to make the most of it. I am not content with mediocrity. I never have been. Even though my work does not define me as a person, it does contribute to my sense of purpose and wholeness.

Interestingly, I have not come to any new conclusions. These are all things I have always known about myself and only temporarily forgot. I followed my stars and my mustard seed like faith is in the process of moving this mountain of a crisis. The relapse is nearing its end, and I am closer to that refreshing pool of water than I have been in a long time.

18 comments:

liz said...

brilliant - the quarter life crisis, which i completely agree occurs (or begins) somewhere around the age of 25, but then lingers on some recurring level until it finally reaches the point where it becomes labeled mid-life crisis and then does anyone ever really even find full resolution or contentment after that - not really, hence life is one never ending cycle of dissapointment, discovery, resolution, confusion, dissapointment, discovery, resolution - let's just all kill our own selves...

nikki said...

I'm in... shall we say 9:30 tonight after we watch an episode of AD... make sure Laura will be home because I don't think she would want to be left out of this plan...

liz said...

laura is the mastermind behind the plan

Stephen said...

these comments suck. no more death. come up here instead. 7:00 we will have hot chocolate and hang out christmas style with many friends. no reason to stay at home and watch the idiot box. get up here now.

i do want to say one thing: i hate texas, too. in fact, i think everyone secretly hates texas. if we were really on in the texas of our lives, then i doubt sanity have any bearing at all on our lives.

well, get up here and don't die.

nikki said...

Stephen: perhaps if you came down to the promised land a little more frequently, you would be part of the inside joke... no one is going to kill themselves... at least not today.

As for Texas - I had to drive through it once and it was quite possibly the most boring and unbearable 12 hours of driving I have ever experienced. I feel sorry for anyone who lives there.

As for your invitation... never sure how sincere you are. Maybe you should try the phone.

L A u R A said...

To Liz... You have it completely right regarding the endless cycle of disappointment and discovery. Unfortunately the resolutions are merely fabrications resulting from our psyche’s inability to cope with the continuous disappointment.
To Nikki... I'm in for tonight. (For both the AD and killing our own selves)
To Stephen... Calm yourself. Being mentally comfortable with the idea of death is an indication of the depth in which you are invested in life.

petey said...

wow, big week down there in the upper west side: death discovery, drama, dying dreams, distruction... if as though there were some arresting in your development somewhere. now, i can see the logical dependency on AD, what will you gals do without it?

why don't you girls do something productive with your ideas like coming up with a business plan, like GOBIAS, as is go-buy-us some coffee and bring it up to the heights...

nikki, laura, liz-
sharing the same gene pool with stephen, i can tell you that any invitation to the heights is sincere, so get over your acrophobia and get up here.

nikki said...

It's not acrophobia so much as exhaustaphobia (fear of being overly tired the day after going to bed really late because you were in the heights until midnight and it took 3 hours to get home because the 1 train operators are on strike and you had to walk from 193, which is practically in Canada, down to the promised land in 4 feet of snow).

Until we make our appearance, we shall be neither seen nor heard...

TheWooll said...

Well shit, if this is what I have to look forward to then I'm out. I didn't sign up for this. I thought by the time I turned 25 I would be some kind of hipster...not trying to define myfelf, or contemplating suicide, or begging girls to come have hot chocolate with me in Washington Heights. Unless that's what a hipster does...what is a hipster? Oh no, its starting, a quarter-life crisis! I don't even plan on living till I'm 100!!!!

Can I say shit in these comments??

Stephen said...

the perfect quarter-life goal: be a hipster. a goal that will guarantee its lack of fruition.

nikki said...

JD: definition of a hipster... "One who is exceptionally aware of or interested in the latest trends and tastes, especially a devotee of modern jazz." I am not sure that this really describes you so you might have to come up with a new plan.

petey said...

lack of fruition, stevey??

how else will all the upper west-ers define themselves and bask in their own great all-star-ness.

they need it. as they need to keep telling each other intelligent/brilliant/fashionable/successful they are...

don't tear down the very elements with which they build each other up...

nikki said...

Petey: First of all... this is not a forum for neighborhood bashing. The Heights is not the epitome of Manhattan living just because you and Stevey live there. That minor detail just gives me a reason to think about going up there. Secondly, we upper west siders do not need to tell ourselves how fabulous, smart, successful, etc. we are... I think you have us confused with a certain someone else from the Heights. Perhaps you should listen to Wacko Jacko's song Man in the Mirror before you start insulting my hood... love your guts

petey said...

what else should i expect but a classic/typical all-star comment from an nyc all-star...

Stephen said...

wacko jacko? take it back, nikki. that man is a hero and a musical genius.

nikki said...

Stevey: I won't take it back because he is wacko. There was a time when he was a musical genius as well as the best dancer on the planet, but then he got abducted by aliens and couldn't figure out whether he was black or white, his nose melted off his face and efforts to reconstruct have been less than successful. He molests little boys, talks like a 5-year-old girl and looks a little like a freak show. I loved him in the 80s, but that was a different Michael.

TheWooll said...

Mother Funk 'em, just to see the look on their face. Funk 'em just to see the look on their face.

That's all I have to say, now its back to work.

Stephen said...

no. no. no. no. innocent until proven guilty, Nikki.