Where does hot go to die? Sorry, folks. It’s that time of year again for me: my birthday is in September. I’m turning forty-mumble, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m having a mid-life crisis. Or perhaps just trying to stave one off by re-enacting my adolescence. I mean, I’m having a great time since I left the office and began blogging! Maybe that’s why I’m suspicious. Aren’t grownups supposed to be much more serious? Weren’t we told by authority figures if it’s fun, it’s probably bad?
I’m asking because something weird happened after I stopped running my office, came home to write and be more present with the kids. Over the summer? I turned into an artist. Or at least some version of me that slowed WAY down, dressed the way she wanted, and said whatever she wanted online. And this chick? Most noticeably, a much more relaxed and happy bohemian. The pleasant change has me musing: I loved my old job, but was I becoming it? Did my suit have a secret plot to turn me into a Republican? Or someone equally as grim?
Don’t worry; I haven’t totally gone all Lester from American Beauty. No smoking pot while lifting weights in the garage for me. Yet. Oh, I kid. But it does seem to me like once you hit a certain age as an adult, you’re expected to behave and look a certain way. There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias in which Ouiser says she grows vegetables, for example, because that’s what old Southern women do. I hate gardening. I am not fated to raise tomatoes, dammit.
And I didn’t notice how much I was stifling myself in that suit every day until I left it in the closet. That I had resigned myself to a life of selling myself as a “professional.” I was looking all Lawrence Welk but feeling Motley Crue. I was like a mild-mannered alter ego by day to my word-slinging, by-night superhero self.
Changing jobs took some chutzpah but gave an unexpected gift: appreciation for the ease of authenticity. You can’t write well in any voice but your own. It involves pretty much sitting down and opening a vein for you (sidebar: you’re welcome). If I could disguise my insides at the office, there’s no doing that as a writer and succeeding at it.
So here’s some things I have learned about my authentic self I now embrace publicly at the risk of ridicule: I enjoy dressing like a fourteen year old boy, a la Sarah Silvernan. My love for heavy metal music and Harley Davidsons may, indeed, be cliched and/or cringe worthy. I think tattoos are sexy. Well. Some tattoos. I get way too much enjoyment out of popular culture. I will never become a morning person. I am energized at nightspots, parties, and with my girlfriends. I must dance to live music weekly to maintain my sanity. I am opinionated. None of this changes just because my age keeps advancing. I’m weird. I’m here. Get used to it.
If it’s a mid-life crisis, it’s teaching me this: I gotta do me. The real me. Not a watered-down, Reader’s Digest Condensed Version, family-friendly version of me. I can be an acquired taste; some of y’all aren’t going to like me. But the plan is for me to like me best of all.
Are you doing the real you? You’re beautiful in there, you know. It took a career shift to show me how muted my voice had become. It happens slowly, inch by inch. There’s maturity, sure. But when does it become surrender, or worse: hiding to avoid standing out? I hope you’ll do something today for yourself that lets your freak flag fly.
So welcome to the first day of the rest of my mid-life crisis! I promise I’m going to be a lot more fun this way. On account of the immaturity and non-professionalism, of course. Much more fun to read about anyway, right? Right. And thanks for coming along.