“What am I doing with my life?” Someone said this to me the other day, and for some reason, it struck a chord. It’s a phrase we’ve probably all heard (or uttered), but what really got me was that it came from someone I barely knew, in a moment that 99 times out of 100, would have been one of those superficial – “How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” – exchanges that we experience a dozen times in any given day. But instead of the typical “I’m fine, how are you” response, this person paused, looked utterly at a loss for words, and completely gave up on the idea of even trying to fake being o.k. “I don’t know. I’m just. . . What am I doing with my life?”
Confronted with this naked honesty, I felt conflicted. Part of me felt unsettled, because, totally unprepared for this response, I didn’t know what to say or do. How could I relate to this person, or make them feel better? I think I literally just stared, said something witty like “oh,” and made an I’m sorry face. Completely unhelpful to this poor lost soul in crisis.
But while the moment was uncomfortable, I also felt exhilarated. What honesty! What courage to just say exactly what you’re feeling and not give a damn what anyone else thinks! Imagine if we all went through our lives this way, just telling the truth.
I don’t think the fact that this casual acquaintance happened to tell me something so out of the ordinary, so honest and so profound, was an accident. I think it was a sign from the cosmos. Because the truth is, I’ve been entertaining this same thought quite frequently lately. What am I doing with my life? Yes, what indeed.
The last few months, I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads, faced with some uncomfortable but necessary decisions about the next step I want to take in my life. And I don’t think it’s coincidental that since I’ve taken an extended break from booze (on day #43 of 55 now, woo hoo!), I’ve been having more meaningful and yes, uncomfortable, existential thoughts about the purpose and path of my life. For me, it is so easy to get stuck in the routine of going to work, going to auditions when they come up, going to the gym, and doing all the other responsible, yet passive things I need to do to get through my day. And when the ‘responsibilities’ are done, I typically zone out in front of the TV or in front of my computer with a glass of wine and just don’t think about any of the more uncomfortable, big picture things. Not so, the last 5 weeks. The detox, and the clear, focused mind it has brought with it, has forced me to think about the big picture things. A lot.
I often preach about how people don’t like change because they’re afraid of the unknown, and so we stay in uncomfortable situations just because we’re used to them. But change must happen, and so, in order to make us change, the heavy hand of the universe lays a cosmic smack down and turns the status quo into something so miserable, that finally we’re forced to make a change because it becomes our only option. At the time, it seriously sucks, but only later with some perspective do we realize that it was the best thing that could have happened to us.
Over the last 5 weeks, I have been coming up against many what am I doing with my life moments. And in the areas of my life that I know need some serious improvement, I have been experiencing the aforementioned cosmic smack down in a major way. With the end of the month (and the end of my detox-induced much quieter and more focused mind) bearing down on me like the barrel of a gun (yes I know, dramatic), I’m feeling the almost vertigo-esque urge to leap off something. Not literally, of course, I’m not that crazy, but the desire to jump off a springboard into the deep end of the metaphorical pool is undeniably there.
I have always been a ‘responsible’ person. I typically always do the right thing. And I’m not thumbing my nose at responsibility, nor do I think it should be taken lightly. Depending on where we are in our lives, some people certainly have more than others – a marriage, children, a mortgage. But I also think there are responsibilities we put on ourselves, as an excuse for not really living. How many choices do we make because we’re worried about what other people think, or because we’re too old to do that, or because it simply wouldn’t do? How many things do we do, simply because we decided we have to do them?
Change sucks. Taking a chance is scary. But I think living with regret sucks even more. I don’t want to keep asking myself what am I doing with my life? I want to start figuring it out.