Mid-Life, New Career

I’m only a couple of days away from my 43rd birthday. At this point, I plan on marking the affair with a key lime pie. That’s if I can find the actual limes and still have enough energy to make the confection post search. I have very fond memories of a key lime tree that grew behind a trailer I lived in near Vilano Beach. A slice of this stuff is like a very pleasant recollection of balmy mangroves and days wasted riding the outside break.

Facebook and every other app on my phone are reminding me of this impending date. Sometimes they’ll encourage me to look back on some of the memories I’ve made (and shared), more often they’re inviting me go buy some stuff.

It’s not that I’m opposed to buying stuff, stuff is made and needs to be bought. That’s how the Great Circle of Stuff works. And who doesn’t look forward to individualized birthday discounts on stuff? But this year the frenzy of stuff has me feeling pretty low. The reason is that, despite my rational mind, I’ve lived 43 years in a society that inculcates its members in the notion that the path to happiness is via a road paved with stuff.

And right now, as I attempt to reinvent myself as a writer, all that stuff is out of reach.

Today I will write a bunch more. I have edits in for Fire Weather too, so I need to dive back into that story line. I will call the tree guy again and hope to get his crew out to our place before the wind blows down that madrona. And as always, I have my little guy to keep me very, very busy. This morning, before school, we were walking around the house acting like villagers from Minecraft. “Hum.” The point is, I’ve got things to do. Plenty of ways to spend my time.

If I were a superstitious man I’d take this time to say that this birthday, above all others, feels something of an anticlimax. I peaked at 42 and have spent the last year slowly working my way down from the summit. This is a superstitious thought because it feels like I’m more than halfway through with it all, and we all know that I’m not in possession of a crystal ball. There’s no way to know the future, no way to figure out when my last day on Earth might be.

The thing is that, underneath all this age and the layers of key lime pie, I’m still that kid living in a single-wide trailer on Vilano beach. Which has me thinking about what it is I’m trying to do here. Why did I check out of a well-paying career job? Why did I burden my family with my aspirations? How come I gave up an ever growing pile of stuff? Why do I want to be a writer?

At conventions variations of this line of questioning get tossed around a lot. “What made you want to be a writer?” The answers that get tossed back are permutations on a theme; “I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a kid.” But this answer fails to tell the whole story.

I’ve spent decades of my life working for a living, doing the job before me, and not being a writer. As a kid I loved telling stories, I enjoyed reading them, and per the box of stuff my Mom just dropped off, apparently I loved writing them too. (Wow! I really could not spell. Not to save my life.)

Wanting has never been the problem. I’ve wanted to be a lot of things in my life and writer just ranked high among them. This question falls short because it doesn’t delve into the notion of what motived anyone, especially me, to pursue writing as métier. The truth that no one talks about is that there is a vast gap between I want and I am doing. Becoming a writer is a bowel-clenching jump from solid ground, over an endless void, to a balanced rock standing precariously in a sea of nothing.

I suspect that I made this leap because I didn’t know any better. Because I’m still that kid who loved to surf his kayak with sharks and jellyfish in rip tides. And despite the face I see looking back at me in the mirror, the image I cling to is that kid who picked limes from the tree out behind the trailer.

Incidentally, if you’d like to help me increase the size of my pile of stuff you should click on through to one of my books or short stories. I’m still an independent author so views are important to me. Buy something I’ve written and you’ve bought me part of a cup of coffee, important because I’ve mostly replaced my blood with bean juice. Leave me a review and you’ve given me a gift more precious than gold.


One thought on “Mid-Life, New Career

  1. Well, if you’re going to make the leap to writing, at least you’re, like, totally good at it. That’s an advantage. And it’s a really cheap hobby, which is good because writers can’t afford expensive hobbies. As long as you have enough to keep beans in the pot and replace your computer when it dies, you’re golden.
    I first started writing stories when I was, you know, six or seven to feed my addiction when I ran out of books to read, but yeah, what makes a person go from occasionally writing a story to wanting to *be* a writer, to turn yourself inside out and, as March says, “make yourself a monster.” It’s not like being a computer programmer or a librarian. More like being a musician, maybe. Reinventing seems like a good word for it. For some reason, I’m envisioning something really gory and gross where you really do actually turn yourself inside out, guts hanging red and pulsating, brain all soft and unprotected, and totally unrecognizable as a human being. Damn, I should go back to writing poetry.
    And ugh. Birthdays. It’s so weird to have your (in my case) 49th birthday, and you’re pretty sure you’re only nineteen or twenty at most, and the face in the mirror makes no sense.

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