As a teacher, the most common comment I get from my students is”I don’t know who I am yet.” (or something to that effect). Fair enough I suppose. They are only young and just starting out in life. However, over the past year or so, I have found myself asking the same question. Who exactly am I? For many years, I’ve known exactly what I wanted in life and tried my best to achieve my goals. More often than not, I have been successful in accomplishing what I set out to do. A great family, glittery material possessions, a 2nd choice career that I thought I wanted with some good perks (we’ll get to that later) ecterea.
So why this restlessness? I wish I knew. Do I have the same traits as my great grandfather and his father, who travelled the world and only truly settled down in one place when they were too old to continue on? Am I just someone who isn’t satisfied with what I’ve been given? Am I just bored and need inspiration? I wish I knew. I guess what I’m doing here is putting my thoughts down on paper, or in digital form at least, in the hopes that something will pop out at me and miraculously answer my questions.
Quicksand. That is what this feels like. I feel stuck and stagnant and sinking slowly. Am I panicking? No. Am I fighting this? Not really. There is this feeling of acceptance, defeat. Things I wanted as a young man, I no longer want, need. The job I have frustrates me. I no longer find satisfaction in imparting my knowledge to a new generation. What used to be exciting and wonderful is now tedious, boring and mundane. A cog in a machine. Trying to get out is difficult. I’m old and exhausted at 40 something. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self, “backpack around the world like you wanted to. Carpe Diem.”
Would I be happy running a bookshop like I always wanted to? Maybe, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Financial responsibility- weighs me down like an anchor and drowns me. Pinned under it, I’m mentally screaming, feeling trapped in a job I’m beginning to hate. A great big black dog chomping at my heels. Trying to escape from it, but it’s got the cuff of my pant leg and won’t let go.
I’ve always looked at people who have just accepted their fates and thought them to be utter losers. Now I see that I am one of them. I feel imprisoned in this dystopian world where I’m a mindless number (Education department employee E4032922), counting- hours until the end of class, then the work day. Days until the weekend, holiday, end of semester, retirement. And in amongst all this counting, I find myself asking, “Who the hell am I? What wrong decision did I make to get here, and how do I get out?”
Maybe one day, there will be a reprieve from this mental anguish. For now though, “Arbeit macht frei”.