I had the most fitful and totally sleepless night last night, which I am happy to say is unusual for me. Still, with the recent total upheaval of everything that used to feel ‘normal’ in my world and in American society, as well as much of the whole damn world, I suppose my restless night is not surprising. The upside is that at 3am, I relented to the non-sleep of it all and decided to look into new professional opportunities and found a few that sound interesting.
The mere act of discovering possibilities, though they be distant until proven otherwise, gave me a feeling of hope amidst the otherwise angst filled wee hours. I distinctly remember a feeling of acceleration, of forward propulsion. Like that postcard of the shaggy dog with his head out the car window, hair blowing in the breeze, his lips smiling and flapping. That feeling. And it reminded me for the umpteenth time that, without a roadmap to my next possible destination, I can so easily feel set adrift, like a boat going round and round in slow circles.
Certainly, these days I feel like I am at a crossroads; often mapless and sometimes lost but willing to constantly redesign my personal route. Like so many people, my steady job disappeared during Covid, and my family faced plenty of health and economic challenges. The whole delicious, crazy, messy life enchilada – health, money, aging parents, the challenges of being a single mother with a kid in college and the constant Covid exposure alerts – it is a strange new world everywhere I turn. And I am one of the lucky ones, with a nice place to live, good friends and nearby family.
But still, I feel more adrift than ever before. Being middle aged feels like a challenge in this climate as well, and as a woman who has worked primarily in the entertainment industry, I committed the unforgivable sin of – gasp – getting older. And I feel pretty certain that my 1950s style, younger than me ex-boss (you know the type – ageist, sexist, insecure, always too busy to listen while constantly insisting his “door is open,” no qualms about playing obvious favorites), was gleeful that Covid gave him an excuse to clean house. And that included me.
It is daunting to feel unmoored, especially with all the economic challenges of living in a city like Los Angeles. But the anxiety that can come from the concerns of everyday life, and last night’s sleeplessness, reminds me to look towards my roadmap. Indeed, to cling to it, to refer to it relentlessly! My roadmap is my plan, be it formal or informal, the thing I have most recently designed for my ongoing trip in life. Probably like most folks, whether they call it a roadmap or something else, I frequently have to – especially in these uncharted days – tweak it, turn north rather than south at the next bend, or maybe toss the whole thing out and start anew.
I remind myself that whenever I lose sight of it, my roadmap, I feel like I am treading water in the middle of the ocean. But once I re-establish a direction – even if it is one that I end up changing the next minute or day or week – it gives me somewhere to point. Something to steer towards. And that has proven invaluable.
Maybe we are truly always at a crossroads. Life is not certain these days - was it ever, really? – and the days of working for the same company for 30 years and then getting a gold watch are long since passed. I know one person in our US of A – ONE – who will get some kind of pension. Many of the 20-somethings I know would consider it crazy to even trust or aim for such a thing.
Who am I? Who do I want to be? It is a thrilling and scary question, and one that – at least for me – has never ceased to fascinate. So many possibilities in this big world! And once I have a goal, a destination in mind, what is the best way to get there? These are some of the big questions we all face, often subconsciously as youngsters and then in sharper focus as we mature, the goals often constantly morphing, shifting, or disappearing and then reappearing in a whole new flavor that heads us in an entirely new direction.
These days, I feel at a definite crossroads. It is not the first time and I am sure that it won’t be the last. What comes next? How do I maintain my sense of direction when I feel like the winds of uncertainty are constantly buffeting me? As a single parent, I sometimes feel like I am working without a net – there is no one else to rely on, and though that has never kept me from moving forward, given the uncertainty of our times, it can feel like an added challenge, an additional weight to carry.
But then I remember – better check my map! Rejigger it. Turn it upside down. Or toss it out and wing it (works for some, not so much for me). I remind myself to check my bearings, to remember where I am headed, to recall my destination du jour. It might shift a bit or change altogether by tomorrow. Or at 3am tonight. But still, today it gives me a sense of purpose, something to steer towards, and that is a feeling I find infinitely comforting, no matter where I end up. Of course, a good night’s sleep would help too.