On the morning of New Year's Eve, I woke up in my own bed for the first time following a week of hedonism in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike the lurching gray skies I'd left the night before, cheery sunlight poured through my curtain-less French doors forcing me to be happy-happy. Unable to sleep—what with all that garish light—I resolved to purchase window coverings at Ikea, like, yesterday, and then stumbled to the bathroom where I was confronted by Kate Gosselin in the mirror. So much for happy-happy.
The brunette doppelganger stared back at me for three heartbeats, and then I ran, horrified, back to bed and dove under the blankets, where I decided to stay until 2011. Forget reality, I thought as I alternately licked the palm of my hand and then used it to smooth down the back of my hair. I'm not coming out. Certainly not looking like this.
It was a solid plan, the beginnings of which I executed with precision until I began to suffocate beneath the down quilt. Gasping for air, I threw the blankets from my head. And wouldn't you know it? There in the room was all that blasted sunlight forcing me to look directly at my life. Knowing I'm going into the New Year with a haircut only slightly less offensive than fur lined Crocs adorned with Christmas charms isn't terribly reassuring.
I'm not normally the kind of person who's afraid of much—other than rats and heights and earwax—but I've never been so afraid of any year in all my life. “Terrified” sort of gets to the edges of it. “Petrified” comes a little closer to the center. But it's a schizophrenic kind of afraid because it's punctuated by excitement and thrill and possibility. Like standing atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa in a rainstorm, it's vertigo unlike any other.
At some point in twenty-ten, as I learned it's to be called, I am going to turn forty. Good lord, doesn't that look hideous? F-O-R-T-Y. Ack! The numeric version doesn't look much better. Forty is so scary that even a giant Quarenteñera won't completely take the edge off (I'm looking for a DJ. E-mail me). Out there, a specific number of months and days from right now, I'm going to be this  much closer to societal irrelevance. And that isn't even the worst of what's on the 2010 agenda.
At some point this year, I'm going to lose my job. Now, to those of you who love to hate me: Don't throw your hats into the air just yet. I'm not talking about this gig, though I'm guessing a pink slip from CityBeat isn't out of the realm of possibilities. I did have a dream the other night that my editors canned me and though I cried and begged, promising not to swear so much, they opted to hire Josh Board (The Reader's “Party Crasher”) instead because they felt his grammatical ineptitude and interchangeable uses of there, their and they're were more authentically indie.
No, my lovelies, I'm talking about losing my day job, which is bureaucratic and important-sounding but which I quite dislike. It's the kind of job that doesn't define who I am so much as it provides a safety net (i.e. insurance) for who I am in my real life. It's a sort of background hum to everything else, the necessary evil that allows me the perks that matter. It's the devil I know and were it not for the perfect storm of events, he and I might have continued our dance indefinitely with me cuddling up to him, taking his paycheck and resenting every minute.
Once I got over the initial holy-crap-I'm-going-to-lose-my-job shock and spent a night caressing a bottle of Maker's Mark—while intermittently yelling at my proactive husband to quit trying to solve my damn problem and please just feel sorry for me for 30 seconds!—I was able to see the opportunities laid out.
OK. Not really. I have no idea what the hell I'm going to do with the rest of my life. But I do know what I'm not going to do with the rest of my life, which, in and of itself, is liberating. And ghastly. Sort of like my morning apparition.
And since things happen in threes, something else is taking place this year that I hadn't anticipated: I'm having a baby. Aw, just kidding! That joke is so 2009 (see the April Fools edition). Screw that. Nooooo babies.
Seriously though. What does every unemployed almost-40-year-old wife / mother do? She goes to Italy, of course, to conquer her real fears.
That's right. I'm hocking the wedding ring and attending a writer's conference on the Amalfi Coast. I am going solo, across a continent and an ocean, to a country whose language I do not speak, to interact with people I do not know but who I deeply respect and who think, just maybe, I am not a fraud.
Did I mention I'm going by myself? Alone. Nobody else. Just me: The girl with the deepening crows feet and no job; the girl who knows only what she doesn't want to do; the girl who has never been solely responsible for the rent check; the girl who has never lived alone and who is very rarely alone even when sleeping; the girl who will go to a conference with laptop in hand, feigned confidence and a quiet prayer flung to Vesuvius or Etna or Stromboli that she isn't unveiled as a fraud.
Those bed covers look mighty appealing. Yet, given the choice of suffocating in the safety of bed or putting it out there to have my breath taken away, the decision is clear.
As Donald Rumsfeld once said, “[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.”
My sentiments, exactly. Bring on the unknowns.
But first, I need to make a hair appointment. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.