In all reality I’m middle aged. Now I know, at 31, that sounds crazy. But it’s true. I am in the middle. I’m not old, but I’m not young. I’m in the middle.
Want to know a secret?
The middle kinda fucking sucks.
The middle is the hard part. The monotonous part. The part where you have to dig deep and make the tough calls.
The beginning is so exciting. A big change, something new. Even when it’s scary, it’s exciting. The beginning is the time where anything is possible. It’s the exhilaration of having just made the choice. You feel brave and unstoppable. You feel ready, even when you can’t see the path.
The end is comforting. You’ve either accomplished something or failed at something. But at least you know the outcome. There’s a comfort in the outcome. When something ends, really ends, it’s final. You have no choice but to be done. So even when the end is painful or sad or awful, you can take a deep breath and know it’s over. And when the end is great, then you know something wonderful has happened and you have that memory forever.
But the middle, man. The middle is messy. The middle doesn’t usually have greatness attached to it. Think about it.
In a marathon, the middle is right after you finish the first 13.1; the moment you realize you have to do what you just did all over again.
They say the mid section is the hardest part of the body to tone. They’re right. You want abs? You better be hitting the gym. Your diet better be on point. (On fleek? Is that what’s cool now? Like I said, I’m middle aged, I don’t know these things.)
You get to the middle of a pregnancy and all of a sudden it feels as though you have been pregnant forever. The excitement of that plus sign has worn off, and now you just want the end result; your baby.
Then there’s the midlife crisis. Somewhere around 40 or so. When life has caught up to you. So you buy a car you can’t afford or you cheat on your spouse or you push your child too hard because life isn’t what you thought it would be and all the excitement has worn off and now you’re just…there. With so much more to go.
There’s really good stuff in the middle. Weddings, babies, houses. (Or so I’ve heard.) And there’s really shitty stuff, too. Our siblings grow up. People miscarry. People get diagnosed. Parents begin to pass.
In CrossFit, there’s a workout called Fran. It’s 21 thrusters followed by 21 pull-ups. Then 15 thrusters followed by 15 pull-ups. Then finally, 9 thrusters followed by 9 pull-ups.
Guess which round’s the hardest?
The middle. The round of 15. The part where there seems to be no end in sight. The part where you can’t believe how much you’ve done, and you have no idea how you will keep going to get to the end.
The middle is exactly where I am right now. In age, in life, in everything.
I know technically I’m not “middle aged.” But I am in the beginning of that bracket. I know I have time. But not nearly as much as I used to have, and I think we can all attest to the fact that time just goes faster as we get older. The infinite possibilities part seems to waver and give way to settling as we get older.
“Let’s be happy enough. It’s okay to be just fine. It’s okay to stop improving. Because this is just what happens. To everyone.”
But I can’t. I’ve sat here all weekend staring and thinking and trying to figure things out, and the only answer I have is that. I can’t. I can’t do just fine. I’ve done just fine for far too long.
I left for my Southern Sabbatical four months ago. I’m not happy. And I’m nowhere closer to who I want to be. I tell you that not to seek sympathy, but because I promised you honesty always, so here it is.
I don’t belong here.
The beginning was fun. And new. And all shiny. I came here to write. To hone my skills, cultivate my creativity, learn about myself. Soul search, for lack of a better term. But then my savings ran out and jobs were hard to find and I settled right back into who I was at home in Chicago. Work in childcare, try to find time to write (which I have way less of here), scrape by with my bills, and drink wine when I can.
Nothing’s changed. I’m just fine here. Illinois never ended, because I’m right where I was. Just in a different state. I’m in the perpetual middle. So I have to make choices. I have to make tough choices. With even tougher sacrifices. I have to get out of the middle. And right now, I don’t know how. All I know is I can’t do just fine.
But the good thing about these choices and sacrifices? The things that will eventually get me out of the middle?
They’ll bring the comfort of the end and then there will be the excitement of a beginning. And eventually, I’ll find the right middle. Which will be a really nice place to rest.
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