Monday, May 3, 2010

an open letter to a friend

I have a friend who will most likely lose his apartment this week. And it's not just his—it's a rent controlled place he's been subletting from a friend. He's months behind and unless the rent goddess shows up to rescue him, he's out on the street with nowhere to go.

The thing is, he's been here before. In January. Last summer. The summer before. Luckily (sort of), for him, someone's swooped in at the very last second to write a check and stave off the inevitable. So, no lesson is ever learned about financial responsibility, about making sure rent money is put aside first, about cutting back on entertainment, about needing to find a more conventional job. 

He's a musician and prides himself on being only that. He gives lessons during the day and is always working to be in a band at night, hoping to hit it big. His belief that this will happen is both vast and fragile. I'm pretty sure deep inside, so deep he only gets rare glimpses of it, he knows that's not so realistic. He's in his (early) 40s and if you haven't made it in the music business by now, it's most likely not happening, no matter how good you are. So many people at this age are forced to let go, to face reality, to reconsider the path they're on and how to change things up to make life work going forward. On the other hand, some people are stuck in what they're doing, which very well could be successful and they can't leave to shake things up for personal growth or adventure. Mortgages, credit cards, families are too dependent on that concrete paycheck. 

Either way, 40s can suck.

For many people I know, 40s also means kids getting older, the responsibilities and realities far different from when Elmo could soothe and the thought of an ice cream cone made everything better. We're navigating painful territory and often our own insecurities come flooding back as mean girls loom on the middle school horizon or birthday party invitations are few and far between. We're dealing with aging parents who need time and attention and nurturing when we're already stretched to the limit and have nothing left to give. We're grappling with our own changing bodies, hormones screaming out of control, stray hairs erupting under out chins, wrinkles appearing in the most unlikely places.

We're facing mortality. Or at least the reality of old age. 

We're confronted with giving up dreams that could have been with us for as long as we can remember. Perhaps it's not having a baby. Not having a successful career, a summer house, endless disposable income, a standing date with a masseuse (I dream of that).  Not getting recognition in your field. Not finding a field that resonated. Not discovering your true passion. Not fronting an arena worthy band. 

I've never been a dreamer. I never had big plans, high hopes, pie-in-the-sky ideas. I'm too grounded in a borderline cynical reality and perhaps, I've often thought, if I let go of my fears and skepticism I could have been outrageously successful. 

But what is outrageous success? 

That's the question folks. 

(I'll let you know if I find an answer).


LPC said...

Here's the thing. Almost by accident I wound up in business. At 53 I seem to have retired. Given that I fought so many battles in that arena, I am happy to be writing my silly little blog at all. There's something to be said for chugging away at earning a living and then taking time to enjoy your creative dreams later. When maybe success doesn't matter so much. And all along I wished I were writing, but now, I wonder.

MrsWhich said...

In our house, we're just starting into this phase. I'm glad I have you to experience it with.

Savvy Working Gal said...

This post reminded me of the Jane Pauley presentation I attended with a couple of co-workers last year. Pauley said her 40's were not the best time of her life and that her 50’s were so much better. Studies have found all over the world the 40's are the worst. Menopause and teenagers both of which appeared in her 40’s were not a good mix.

To date my 40’s have been sort of blah, I really liked the idea of my 50’s being better. On the way home, I asked two of my co-workers, who are both in their 50’s, if Pauley’s statement rang true for them. It did not; both felt the quality of their life is worse in their fifties than it was in their 40’s. They based this on job satisfaction, financial well-being and their health. So disappointing…

On a more positive note, I just stumbled across your blog and after reading only a couple of posts I know I’m going to be spending a lot of time here.