This all happened over a bowl of half-eaten macaroni and cheese. Not the Kraft brand, but a store bought cheaper version. Good for the first two bites, but rather lacking any excitement after that, the processed powdered cheese always tasting a bit too powdery.
So there I was, spoon in mid lift, and it hits me, my god, I’m 38 years old. Okay, so it’s more like I’m 38 and nine months, soon to be 40, but oh my god, I’m 38, right now, right this moment. And there’s no going back!
I put the spoon down, because I eat my mac-n-cheese with a spoon, it’s a whole instant gratification thing, but we’ll get back to that at another time…
I don’t really want to blame the whole revelation on the cheesy treat I was inhaling instead of writing the articles that are due. In essence, I guess I could partially blame it on the left over residue from the twenty year High School Reunion I attended this summer. That infamous party being three months ago, and the chalky taste still lingering in my mouth. It was an interesting night, seeing familiar faces that have matured. Attempting to talk over the loud and obnoxious music the hired band was getting paid for and paying five dollars for a vodka cranberry in a small plastic cup. Needless to say, it was fun seeing everyone again, and while I whined and was sick to my stomach the entire day before the whole ordeal, and thought it would have been a better idea to go to Disneyland instead, it turned out a pretty amazing night.
Okay, so when you get down to it, there might be three factors here: the Reunional Residue, the powdery mac-n-cheese and a dream I haven’t quite given up on yet, even though I keep trying to.
I have been thinking for a while now that the second I turn 40, I will forever give up the writing I do. I will never write again. Give it up. Just quit. This was a thought that I was growing fond of until my daughter, playing with a toy, got frustrated and started yelling and pushed the toy away. I told her she was doing a great job, she would figure it out. That the toy was supposed to be fun, she couldn’t give up just because she didn’t get it right the first few times.
So there it was, all of my revelations held in the slight bowl of my silver spoon; staring me in the face a piece of yellowed art work of understanding, a powdery creation of pasta and processed cheese that became my entire universe. And at the bottom of it all, the reunion (another rite of passage), my dream that I couldn’t give up, even if I haven’t gotten it right the first few times because it is supposed to be fun; the past 38 years, and the ever illusive question “What’s it all about.”
I lied at my Reunion. Okay, it wasn’t so much a blatant lie as it was I covered the truth of my life with a neat blanket. You see, when you tell people that you are a writer, they eye you speculatively and inquire, “Oh, have you been published?” Yeah, I have, but the thing is, small literary magazines, a dozen or two web-sites, my college newspaper’s A&E section and short stories underground zines that friends of mine produce…people don’t understand that too well.
They want me to tell them the title of my novel so they can go to their local Barnes & Noble, ask the trendy counter help where they can find the book and judge my success for themselves.
So when people ask me what I do, I shrug and mumble some incoherent generic nothing so I’m not asked again or have to go into it.
But that’s over now. I’m tired. And I have a theory about ‘honest exhaustion’. You have a very very tired family member or friend and you ask a question, and in that moment, their exhaustion will win over and they won’t feel the need to placate you, lie to you, or candy coat anything and you will get an honest to God opinion.
So this is my honest exhaustion, right here.
I’m going to throw away my measuring stick. I don’t care that I’m almost 40 and still dreaming of someday. I don’t care that my idea of happiness is to close myself off and write little stories. I don’t care about my ever fluctuating weight, my every fluctuation bank account, or that I rent. I am just too tired to care.
I put my spoon down, threw out the rest of the gritty mac-n-cheese, cringed against that voice in the back of my head that spoke of starving children in Ethiopia, and convinced myself that they really wouldn’t want this processed crap anyway. Then, I flipped on my battered laptop and here we are. Mile 38, a little sore, a little bruised, a lot tired. And not ready to quit. Not yet.