A Writer’s Midlife Confession

thanks, tom | everyday-poetry.com
thanks, tom | Parkville, MO 2008

I’m thirty-five, single, and my life doesn’t look like I hoped it would at this point. There are plenty of great things I’ve experienced and friends I’ve made along the way — all of which and whom I’m deeply grateful — but if I’m honest I expected more of myself. So, what now?

  1. Decide this is as good as it gets for you?
  2. Give up on your dreams (because you must’ve picked the wrong ones if they haven’t yet been realized) and pursue something else?
  3. Or, dig in your heels, choose to believe again, and keep trying no matter how bleak your current circumstances may be?

I choose option number three. But what does “keep trying” mean? And what does “not giving up” look like on a daily basis?

The truest answer I know is to hopewait. It’s also the one that makes you look fairly foolish most of the time — and sometimes lazy. And more often than not, you’re the one making those judgments against yourself. Why can’t you just do something? What are you waiting for? It’s not like your future’s just going to drop into your lap — you must act!

But hopewaiting is an action — it’s just nearly impossible to see the movement. You’re opening an interior space, readying yourself for when the future is suddenly (amazingly!) the present. You’re honing your awareness so that when the steps leading to that future appear, you will know them and be ready to take them no matter how silly or mundane they may seem. You’re building your courage to risk going in what looks like the opposite direction and trusting that the long way won’t cheat you.

In 2002, I was a recent college grad with a BA in creative writing who had moved to Kansas City and was working as an admin assistant. In my free time, I began learning more about screenwriting and filmmaking and seriously considering what I needed to do to move to Los Angeles and “make it” (something I would do in 2006–move to LA, not make it–only to return to KC later the same year). My life didn’t look like much then, either, but I did have the less-battered hope of a twenty-three-year-old and I already knew something that I would need to be reminded of in the years to come when I wrote this poem one December night:

a little light

sometimes so small – a mere pin prick –
and you feel no warmth, unless you
could sit in the flame, fit in the flicker

the glow holds you – no matter where you
look in the darkness – the glow holds you

how can so small a light
conquer so vast a darkness

yet DARK is beaten when
even the tiniest bit
of nothing becomes the tiniest
bit of something

a little
light goes a long
way

© beth mercer 2002

darkness makes beauty of light | everyday-poetry.com
darkness makes beauty of light | Saffron Walden, England 2005

A little light in a vast darkness doesn’t make all the darkness go away, but it does make room for something else. And sometimes that’s all you need to keep going.

 

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