My kitchen is not just messy but days worth of messy – the kind when you’ve run out of clean spots on the counter to set something down. Usually that drives me crazy, but not today. It is afternoon but I couldn’t say what time, having been unemployed now for nine months. I’m still in pajamas, typing on an unmade bed. This is about all the disorder I can handle, but for me that’s a lot. I roll out of bed every morning, reach for my laptop, and start typing, not sure from where this energy is coming.
I should be living in New York or London right now, interacting with intelligent people from all over the world, well on my way to yuppie-hood. Instead I’m holed up in an apartment with the walls closing in on me. Social networking sites are my only foray into the outside world, all of whom, despite the apparent loss of real human connection, appear to be living their lives, unlike me. I don’t even know what it would feel like if I had my life together. I managed to attend business school at the worst possible time in history. We were studying in the classroom what goes on in the world of commerce just as it collapsed into a pile of ashes. I’ve got nowhere to go, and I’ve run out of lives to try on.
I feel like Job, and the punishment continues to hail. Where have all these roads led? Who am I? Apparently not even successful at alcoholism, which I thought would be a no-brainer. When I told my therapist I wanted treatment for a drinking problem she said, “The only thing wrong with you is that you think something’s wrong with you.” Therapy only goes so far when I keep the darkest stuff hidden, even from myself. I am a tortured soul.
I don’t leave my house for days at a time, no longer wishing to be part of the world outside. It is 3:00 a.m. when I realize I’ve been typing for eighteen hours. My neck hurts, but I cannot stop. The memories flow like floodwater, especially the painful ones that have been stored under lock and key. Like all my conquests, this one is in full force. I’m in a 33-year whirlwind, exploring my soul at the expense of my sanity, and I have to get this all out. It might be ugly, but it is all mine. And that I cannot run from.
In the middle of the night I phone Garrett, who has been unusually patient with me throughout this little existential crisis. “What about Sadie’s story? What if her life doesn’t even matter?”
“It doesn’t,” says my cynical friend. I had hoped for some ancient wisdom or something.
“Great, thanks. So there is no meaning. I’m sorry I bothered you. It’s just… I’m trying to make sense of everything. There has to be a reason for all of this.”
“Sorry, there really isn’t. Now go to sleep.”
But I can’t. I purge everything, fight through the tears, and pray that there is healing on the other side.
My generation, children of the baby boomers, was expected to do poorly. As for myself, I fit the profile well. Premarital sex, check. Identity crisis, check. Disrespect for authority, check. Indeed, I have learned that nearly all of my friends from childhood have succumbed to an addiction or eating disorder or a complete lack of direction. Perhaps we have jumped the tracks but, at the risk of sounding like a total jerk blaming my parents for all of my problems, it was Nietzsche who said, ‘what was silent in the father speaks in the son.’
I’ve had every reason to throw in the towel many times, and my only motivation for perseverance is so that my child does not flounder as I have. I hope one day to find out something my mother has been hiding all these years, something that would explain why she couldn’t love me properly, not to point fingers but so I can stop internalizing it and let her off the hook.
Kurt Cobain was called the voice of Generation X for a reason. His pain echoed in the hearts and souls of a lot of adolescents suffering more than their fair share – ‘for no apparent reason’ what with all their privilege – and whose sensitivity lends itself to greater emotional depth. Interestingly, the girl with whom I ran away from home (the first time) who had the least likely chance of survival, which she flaunted brazenly, has flourished both in life and in spirit. Then again, I was supposed to be dead within a year.
It is my hope that we are not the cause of this seeming downward spiral of human failing, but the final victims of a spiritually deprived people with nowhere to go but up. Maybe history will gauge us not by self-destruction but the resilience displayed despite our fragility. I’ve heard it said that we are only as sick as our secrets, in which case we may end up the healthiest generation; the ones who turn it all around as we quit covering our inherited shame and continue trading external validation for acceptance of the truth.