Birthday Blues


I woke up Monday morning coughing and with a runny nose.  I grabbed some Mucinex and an extra blanket.  I sat in bed for a half hour.  Why am I getting sick a day before my birthday?  I thought.  Getting sick around holidays sucks.  And I thought about that.  Then I thought about how my day would be different if I were healthy and that’s when I had a realization.  It wouldn’t be all that different.  Sure, maybe I’d go out and do something instead of working on projects, but it wouldn’t have been that different.  Then I got hit with something heavy.  As I was outside playing with my dogs it hit me that I basically do the same thing every year for my birthday as I bet a lot of people do.  Why?  It’s comfortable.  It’s easy to live your life in comfort and never challenge why you do the things you do.  I thought to myself: I wonder if I’ll be doing this exact same thing next year?  I don’t even need to wait for the answer because I already know what it is.

When I was in elementary school my parents took us on a vacation to see my aunt and uncle in North Carolina.  It was the first time I had been outside the midwest.  I remember going to a diner in Knoxville, Tennessee where a waitress laughed when I asked where the bubbler was.  I remember the Great Smokey Mountains and how amazing it was when we finally hit them.  We stayed down there for about a week.  It must have been Spring Break or something at school.  We went panning for gold in Raleigh.  We went to Nag’s Head off the coast of North Carolina where they seemed to get hit by a hurricane every year.  We went to this huge planetarium.  It was the best view of the stars I had yet seen.  We went to the Biltmore Estate, which is the largest home in America.  Cornelius Vanderbilt – King of the Railroads – lived there.  I remember feeling terribly depressed on the night that we had to leave and head home.  I thought about how much fun I had and I didn’t want to go home.  That’s a pretty normal feeling to get I think.  I get that feeling on every vacation I take.

It’s not that staying any longer would have been all that fun it’s that going home meant an end to the fun I had been having.  Today as I stood outside with my dogs I couldn’t help but feel depressed that the summer was ending and that next week I’ll be back in school.  It’s not that this has been the greatest summer ever or anything – far from it in fact.  It’s the fact that I will no longer be able to live my life in comfort as I move on.  Some people seek challenges in life.  I try to do this, but I struggle.  I know that it is in the challenges that we grow the most and experience the most, but I can’t help but want to stay back in the darkness and simply watch life go by.  It’s a strange thing to want to change the world, but knowing you’d be okay if you didn’t.  It’s among the strangest feelings I know.  It’s not that I’m complacent, but rather that I don’t know what to do next.  Maybe it’s okay that I don’t know what to do next.  It probably is.  It is the moments of indecision in my life that bother me the most.

I can’t stand idleness.  As I write this piece my hands are molding a stress ball in between sentences.  I’ve always been a very fidgety person.  I’m usually doing something with my hands.  My defense is that I’m a writer and that I just can’t help it.  That pen looked amazing so I had to pick it up and play with it.  You have a deck of cards?  Let me shuffle them.  If I’m not doing something I look around the room for something to do.  I think this is why I am such a voracious reader.  Reading is such an easy way to pass the time.  It struck me that I am in my own way a procrastinator.  That bothers me because procrastination is not something I enjoy dealing with.  I’ve been putting off my applications for grad school because I’m honestly not sure if I want to go.  I know that going to grad school would challenge me as a writer.  There’s no doubt about that.  The question that has been ruminating in my mind for the past three or four months is: what if I want to be more than that?  I’ve come to the conclusion that I do want to be more than that.  I think we all want to be more than a job title or more than a profession.  The difference is in the work.  Going to grad school would probably make me a better writer, but will it make me a better person?  Will it challenge me in ways I can’t possibly imagine?  I don’t think so.

So, back to my birthday.  I’m sitting here trying to plan out every little part of my life even though I know that’s impossible.  I am a walking contradiction.  I understand people’s desire to let go of it all and lose themselves in something they don’t have to think about because thinking takes a lot of effort.  Thinking is all I do though.  The things I think about have changed over the years.  I’d be a pretty boring person if they didn’t.  My first thought this morning was one of gratitude.  I’m lucky in a lot of ways.  I have people who care about me, I have several things I’m talented at, and if I need something I can usually figure out a way to get it.  You wouldn’t think such a person would be unhappy.  That’s what I’ve been more or less for the last week or so.  Thankfully there hasn’t been a lot of things I’ve had to do or I’d be in trouble.  I don’t know what to think anymore.

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