My dad was in town last night. Whenever we’re in the same room, I usually get filled with this anxiety because my apartment is a mess, or my car, or I’ve not done some things I should’ve or I’ve done things that I shouldn’t. This time was a little different.
He lost his job a few weeks ago, and it’s been really hard on him, esp since this came only a week after my grandmother (his mom) passed away. Today he was traveling to Montgomery to take some tests, and it was just easier for him to leave from my place in Birmingham. When he arrived, we chatted for a bit and then decided to head to dinner—IHOP, his favorite.
We had some nice conversations, and it’s times like this that I think, “Wow, when did I become grown-up enough to have adult conversations with my dad?” We talked about work and life in general, and my anxieties about getting up and facing the day. I’m having a lot of trouble doing that. I’ve gotten into this mentality that my life is a giant hourglass, and the grains of sand are passing through much too quickly, while meanwhile, I’m just drowning in them. I feel like I’ve got nothing to be proud of it, like things are just happening around me and time is moving way too fast. Like I’m going to die soon, and it’ll all just be over. Why can’t we live forever?
Anyway, moving past my existential crisis…we came home from dinner (after stopping to get a gas station cappuccino, another of my dad’s favorite treats) and strapped on our tennis shoes to squeeze in a quick walk around my neighborhood. My dad told me that he had been terrified to turn 30. When I asked him why, he said simply, “Because I wasn’t ready to let go…of my 20s, of being young.” At that point in his life, my dad was married, had one kid, and was making a pretty decent living at the steel mill in Gadsden. But he still felt that way. That gives me some comfort.
After getting back to the apartment, we sat and talked some more on the balcony, looking out onto the glittering city. He told me that he knows that I love where I live, but that he couldn’t stand it. As he put it, he was “born in the sticks, made to stay in the sticks.” We talked some more about how I was freaked to turn 24, how I felt like I only had about 50 good years before I bit it (I know this is totally irrational and ridiculous, but I just feel this way). I told him that I’m tired of not being able to enjoy the day, of being scared of the way the weeks are flying by, and feeling like I’m in a slump. I told him about how I wondered if it gets easier when you get older, if you get a peace about “The End,” and this coming to a close. My mom told me once that she still feels that way. My dad? “It’s a gradual thing,” he said, looking down into his water glass (which was essentially a plastic Red Lobster cup—another example of my feelings of failure: I can’t have anything nice). “I know that this isn’t the best life, and there are things I wish I could change, but it’s got to get better than this. There’s got to be something better.”
I’d like to say that knowing that my parents have felt the same way that I do makes me feel better, but it doesn’t, really. It makes me scared that this will never go away, that I’ll always be living my life trying to keep the sun from rising on a new day. And I don’t want to feel like that. I want to look forward to things. I do have things to look forward to. I just get so overwhelmed. For everything I should be happy about, I find ten more reasons to shut those feelings down. Right now, I’m back to my list-making. Sometimes I think if I can just get all out on paper, it’ll be in front of me, and I can just cross those things off the list and out of my mind, one, two, three. If only life worked that way…