Since returning to Alaska, the land of my birth, the fact of my mortality has really been pressing upon me. I'm only 36, but sometimes I feel very old indeed. I realize on a deep level that this life I'm living is the only one I get to live, that this isn't a practice for a later try, that this isn't a dress rehearsal for the real show. This IS the show. Instead of considering all that I have accomplished during my life, I think at great length about the things I haven't accomplished, the things I want to accomplish, the things I dreamed of accomplishing and becoming when I would dream when I was younger. I can't help wonder if it's too late to still do most of the things I wanted to do when I was a child and adulthood was still far away and a part of my future.
When I was young, my mother collected magazines. Specifically, she collected old National Geographic magazines. I would spend hours rummaging through the garage in search of magazines with pictures and stories from places whose names I still can't pronounce, places that sounded magical, full of people who didn't look like my neighbors, and teeming with plants and animals I didn't even see at the local zoo. I would remove the maps from the magazines and tack them up on my bedroom walls. I'd clip the pictures and make collages on different themes, peoples, animals, ancient ruins I wanted to explore. I'd go to bed with the images on my walls the last images I saw, and have the most amazing dreams as I slept, dreams of finding hidden caves in hillsides that held treasures that even Indiana Jones couldn't imagine. I'd dream of meeting head hunters, I'd dream of swimming with hippos, I'd dream of finding the Fountain of Youth and living forever on Mount Olympus with the gods. My mother supported me putting the pictures on my wall, supported my dreaming, and didn't mind me slaughtering her magazines, but she stopped short of encouraging my digging up the backyard in search of buried treasure and didn't appreciate it much when I would wash my dirt-covered finds off in the kitchen sink. Somewhere during the years though, my dreaming was replaced by a focus on school, growing up, boys, career, marriage, parenthood, 401Ks, benefits, taxes and grocery shopping. When did that happen? I don't know where the years went. I remember days passing, but years? How did I end up with a paralegal degree? How did I end up with a business degree? How did I end up with a 15 year old? How did I end up with these hips? None of these things were part of my youthful dreaming! Where did the buried treasure go? What about seeing Petra in Jordan, and excavating ruins in Peru? What about watching snake charmers in India and walking on volcanoes? What about writing that next great poem, article, story, or novel? What about playing the cello?
When did I start taking the easy route and give up dreaming? I haven't put any real effort into doing anything in my life for quite a while, other than moving to Alaska. I've been floating along down the river of life, letting it take me wherever it wanted, the path of least resistance. I've drifted into jobs, drifted into unchallenging schools, drifted into relationships. They say God only gives you what he knows you can handle. He gave me a child who is easy to parent, close to trouble free. What does that say about me? I don't give myself credit for leaving home at 16 and moving to Montana to help start a church as a junior in high school. I don't give myself credit for growing up without doing drugs or getting into trouble or getting pregnant in my youth, living in a discipline free home. I don't give myself credit for joining the military and serving for 6 years during Desert Storm/Desert Shield, completing two years of electronics school, and being honorably discharged after completing my enlistment. I don't give myself credit for living through an abusive marriage and having the strength to leave him, and all my worldly possessions, behind and start over with a 4 year old. I don't give myself credit for hanging in there and finishing college with two degrees at 35. Most recently, I don't give myself credit for ending a 5 year, go-nowhere, relationship and following one dream and moving to Alaska. I'm also not giving myself credit for finally finding and maintaining a relationship with a wonderful man for the past year.
I'm painfully aware, as an adult, of the limitations of being human and not omnipresent. I'm more than aware that youth is wasted on the young, and unfortunately my youth was wasted by me also. I made choices during my youth that may not have led to the fulfillment of my youthful dreams, but I like my life. I love living in Alaska. I love being a mother to both of the children in my life. I love Alex. I love my friends. I would have done a few minor things differently, but if doing things differently means I would have a different life, than I'd choose to do it all the same. Knowing that, I also realize that I can still accomplish some of my dreams. I'll never be a concert cellist. I won't discover any ruins in Peru. I won't swim with hippos in the River Nile. I won't probably see Petra in person. I will just have to determine the things I can accomplish, and let go of the things I can't. I'll have to focus my dreams and focus on the things I can attain, and let go of the things I can't. I can't ever get those years back, I can't live all my dreams, but I can still dream. I am 36, but I'd rather start changing what I can now than look back in another 20 years and wonder where those years went and pine for the things I didn't accomplish.
I may never be the modern world's Indiana Jones, but I'll be damned if I'll keep these hips!