Category Archives: courage
At first, I felt like my life had broken. For years, I had defined myself solely by a job that I hated. I was my title. Waking up in the morning and not being expected to be anywhere or do anything was crushing. I had this overwhelming fear that I was now rendered useless, that I should be shipped off to the Island of Broken Toys.
After several weeks of throwing relentless pity-parties for myself, surfing Monster.com for job listings ten hours a day, and consuming large amounts of pie and beer, I just stopped. I just suddenly stopped. This was not working. It was time to try and take a new route.
I started applying for freelance writing jobs. I applied for everything, regardless of how ridiculous the assignment was. The offers started rolling in. In the past month alone, I’ve written articles about cooking classes, casinos, fires, local businesses, co-ops, musicians, and dating. I’ve realized that I can support myself by freelance writing.
It’s about living your life on your own terms. Your job does not own you. If you hate it, you have the option of quitting at any time. Yes, there will be risks and consequences involved, and you have to weigh each one of them equally, but the choice is still there.
I am starting a new and unsteady chapter of my life. I am striving for happiness and fulfillment. I want to enjoy this time and explore all of my options. There is no room for settling.
My mother and I have an uncomfortably close relationship. I can tell her just about everything. We’ve had conversations ranging from the profane to the absurd, and she never once batted an eyelash.
My mother is my best friend. Don’t get me wrong. She will always be my mother first and foremost, but we have that Steel Magnolias mother/daughter type of bond. I have no doubt she would give her right kidney for me.
There are a couple of things, however, that we will never see eye-to-eye on. My taste in men is one of them. Another item that my mom strongly disagrees with is my choice to cover a big percentage of my body with tattoos. She comes from an era when the only people to have tattoos were whores and sailors. She thinks that my appearance will keep me from living the kind of life I dream of and prohibit me from advancing in my career as a writer.
Two years ago, I was visiting my family for Easter. I had recently gotten “Alis volat propriis” (meaning “she can fly with her own wings” in Latin) tattooed on the inside of my wrist. I had been careful to cover it with my sleeves, but my mother has eyes like a hawk when it comes to her children doing things she disapproves of, and she saw it. The screaming and crying started shortly thereafter. She refused to take my phone calls for days, having my poor father answer every time my name popped up on the caller ID. My mother had dumped me.
It took awhile for the reconciliation to happen, but it eventually did. I was her daughter, after all.
I ended up getting more tattoos ( a chest piece here, a half sleeve there) and learned how to hide them with high-collared t-shirts and cardigans. I’d wear quarter-length sleeves to the beach in the middle of summer and sit in puddles of my own sweat at the dinner table, praying to God that it would all be over soon so I could run to my car, strip down, and blast the AC.
It wasn’t until last night, however, that my mother finally admitted to me that she had known all along. This time, we talked at length about our differing opinions and there were no fits of rage or sudden hang-ups. She had finally agreed to disagree.
I think we finally become adults when we learn to separate our lives from the lives our parents wanted for us. I have spent most of my young adult life trying to live up to the expectations my mother had for me. I earned my BA in English literature, got a swanky apartment, a couple of freelance writing gigs, and eventually a full-time editorial position at the Inquirer. It was a great life but it wasn’t entirely my life. It was a life that I knew would make my mom proud.
We all eventually need to learn what our own personal sets of values are and that it is okay if they deviate from the values of our parents. I think that this is one of the hardest lessons I have learned thus far, that my road ran parallel to my mother’s for awhile, but eventually, I would have to forge my own path.
New Jersey is filled to the brim with bad drivers. I come across one almost everyday. Exhibit A: The senile woman in the Lincoln driving ten miles under the speed limit in the left lane who begins breaking a good 45 feet before she even reaches the stop sign. Exhibit B: The idiot who thinks he’s from NYC and drives as such, who is going 65 in a 45, tailgating, but lacks the proper reflex skills required to stop quickly and efficiently before plowing into the back of the car ahead of him.
While I was on my lunch break today, I came to the conclusion that bad drivers can be used as a metaphor for age and courage. People in their twenties, such as myself, have this warped perception of immortality. We think death does not apply to us and thus we live semi recklessly (i.e. no health insurance, binge drinking, hook-ups, etc). This excessive courage we have can be seen in aggressive drivers who rarely second guess their actions and drive their car like they just stole it.
The exact opposite can be applied to senior citizens. Somewhere down the line, after back pains and a 41K and dental implants, people begin realizing the fragility of their own lives. They take less risks and start to coddle their ailing knees. This timidness for life spills onto the road and somehow, I’m the one that always get stuck behind the gigantic Oldesmobile going 15 MPH on I-95.
So where does all of our courage go? Does it slowly leek out of us, undetected, over the years? Does time wear holes in its core, like the bones of an Osteoporosis woman? When do we start taking less chances in our lives?
Is courage directly related to the amount of hope we still harbor in our hearts and the amount of things we might potentially end up losing? I remember being more fearless when I was nineteen than I am now, but I had less to lose. I was broke, unemployed, and owned virtually nothing.
Will it be harder for me to take chances when I’m thirty than it is now? Is this how people get caught up in repetition, unhappy marriages, and unfulfilling careers?