Someone recently introduced me to the television series “Orphan Black,” which is basically my book in a nutshell TV series. That was an upsetting thing to learn. Okay, okay, it’s not really totally true — there are only (wide swathes of) intersecting themes and plot points, and I’m not writing about clones (very much), which is kinda the whole point of “Orphan Black,” but still. So many similarities. And interestingly, some of the same problems. That part was helpful. But the other part, the part where someone else (or some team of TV writers) has already written my story, that part was not terribly helpful.
And then again it’s hardly the first story about clones or reproduction, it’s not like I’m even writing the first book on any of those themes, it’s a little like getting upset when you’re Tim O’Brien because Hemingway already wrote about war. I mean, WHAT. Get a grip, OBL. Nothing new under the sun. Books in dialogue. Etcetera.
[sudden change of subject]
Until very recently I feared aging but didn’t really feel my age. Now I’m beginning to feel it. Part of it is my chronic sports injury — the plantar fasciitis that has sidelined me from running and walking and now basically any weight-bearing exercise — but part of it is the creases in my neck and face and chest, the way my body is starting to feel heavy and clumsy and a little bit closer to dead than alive, and little things like the way the skin around my eyes moves and slides when I try to remove stray mascara. I don’t love it. I don’t love feeling vaguely worried about whether all my internal organs are still doing their thing, whether my blood sugar is okay, whether I have high cholesterol. In short, turning 40 was sucky, but turning 50 feels a little bit scary.
I’m still three years from 50. I like to worry about things well in advance.
[another change of subject]
This going back to school thing feels a little bit nuts. It seemed very sensible and logical and even kind of daring and cool back when I was certain I’d never get in. Now that I’ve been accepted and I’m contemplating the life changes that are required, plus the…well, basically everything about it…it feels a little bit terrifying. It’s like telling someone you want to hike the Appalachian Trail and then getting a whole hike-the-trail kit from them on your birthday, complete with permits and gear and what-have-you. I mean, yes, I said I want to do this, yes, on some level I want to do it, yes it was a dream and a vision and goal and yada yada, yes it’s my next step but WOW WOW WOW is it a terrifying thing to contemplate and it starts in two-ish weeks.
But change is in the air. I’m visiting colleges with my oldest kid, who is taking his driver’s license test tomorrow. Both things feel like gigantic accomplishments (for me). All the things I used to worry about and agonize over and fret through in mind-numbing detail have changed. Everything is different. Change. Often in the past two decades I’ve felt very trapped. Someone unhelpful has always been quick to tell me none of it would last forever. And then it turned out they were right because everything is different now.
It’s funny, because when I was setting out for law school I had no doubts about my abilities as far as lawyering or law school went. I think other people had doubts on my behalf. There were people in my life who thought I was too shy/timid/young/girlish, etcetera. I, myself, did not think any of those things. I felt confident, maybe even overconfident, about my basic lawyer skill set. So far in my law career most of the difficulties I’ve encountered have had more to do with my identity than my abilities. All the actual lawyer work has come quick and easy for me. Even my newest job in a different legal area has been super easy — I’ve had no problem at all learning a new area. I’ve had the usual problems working a ten hour day…..
What I always wanted to do, though, was discuss books and read them and write and teach people about books and reading and writing, and now that I’m poised to go off to grad school I have near-constant doubts about my abilities. What if I an never write another short story again? What if I can never write a short story that is actually good enough to get published? What if my book is terrible? What if I can’t remember any of the literary terms and my critical papers suck and I get confused about all the writers and literary movements and what if literature is too hard for me and what if I’m really too technical and analytical to be an artist…or even study art…and what if I don’t fit in and what if all the other writers hate me and what if I’m a COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE????? What if all my thoughts about books are stupid?
I am glad my life has changed and I am still alive and things are going to continue to change for the foreseeable future. I’m even kind of glad to be scared. I am glad I’m not just calcified with all my interesting years behind me.
But also, I am terrified.