When I was 13 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a UFOlogist. I had discovered the existence of this profession by watching episodes of Sightings every Friday night and reading OMNI Magazine, and I thought it was the most awesome thing to get paid for studying phenomena related to UFO sightings and alien abductions. I had been reading various case files and “non-fiction” books about alien abductions for a year or so, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
Before that, I had vague designs of being a writer. My mother had an old electric typerwriter that I banged out stories on; one of my very first projects was a sequel to my favorite book, The Wind in the Willows. I’m so glad that we didn’t have the Internet back then, or else I’m sure I would have been one of the first people rabidly arguing whether or not someone’s fan-fiction was a worthy addition to some communal cannon that had been established.
My obsession with UFOs took a long time to die. But by the time I was 16 I had gotten a hold of All Creatures Great and Small, and a new feverish passion took hold. The heady promise of youth had already begun to fade for me; I went from being a ‘gifted and talented’ student to a distinctly mediocre one, and that loss of my identity of being “the smartest kid in the room” had yet to be replaced by something else. When I read Herriott’s account of rural veterinary medicine, I began to rebuild myself in his image. I wanted to be dedicated to the well-being of animals and people, officially a vet but unofficially a therapist, a friend, this big community organizer. I couldn’t believe that you could get paid to do that, either.
That dream died when I took my first biology lab course, and when I discovered how insanely competitive any sort of medical field would be. I interned for an actual vet over the summer, and he turned out to be a Dr. House-type; he had burned his left leg very badly in an accident, dependent on painkillers and snark to get him through the day. When I had to take my dog to him to have her put to sleep, that was the final straw. I knew I couldn’t do that. I just didn’t have the stomach for it.
So I thought I would be a playwright. I became a double major in Theatre and English, changed my wardrobe from flannel to black everything, painted my fingernails, wore a pentacle necklace. I wanted to be a voice from the wilderness, a conduit for the forest and wild places to enter civilization through art. Then I found out just how extroverted and gregarious you had to be to make it anywhere in the world of theatre; high art has plenty of egos, and if you’re not putting on a show all the time it’s almost impossible to stand out. The identities I had constructed for myself were crumbling faster and faster; after a couple years in college, I lost my religion, my idea of my sexuality, my family almost simultaneously. It was too much, so I dropped out.
It took several years in Arkansas to even begin rebuilding. I followed a relationship to Fayetteville, and that didn’t work out. I tried reconstructing myself again and again, trying on different personalities, flailing around to see who I was. It wasn’t until I met Ryan that I found an anchor, learned how to be still and stopped trying to become someone. I learned how to discover who I was, who I had been this whole time.
Tomorrow morning I’ll have been on this planet for 33 years. I’m nowhere near who I expected I would be: at first I thought I would be someone brilliant, a multi-hyphenate who excelled at everything he touched. But the problem with folks who have things come easy to them is that they never learn to work at something, so the moment they come up against some resistance they fold because they’ve never developed stamina. It’s something I’m still making up for, even after all this time.
I thought I would be a writer, a scientist, a UFOlogist, a playwright, a veterinarian, a missionary, a monk, a mystic. It turns out I’m just this rabbit. 😉 And a husband, to a wonderful man. The pieces of every dream I’ve ever had still resides within me, repurposed for use with who I’ve come to be. I’m happy that my life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would. It’s been so much better.
Now, I get to apply the lessons of over three decades of living towards the next year, just to see how good I can make it. I know how to take whatever comes, be grateful for what I have, be patient with myself as I continue to discover and refine myself. There’s a lot more stamina and strength within me that I can use whenever I need it. And there’s so much experience that I can use to be compassionate towards whomever I meet. That’s why it’s wonderful getting older. You get smarter, wiser, more experienced and comfortable. I still have a long, long way to go in my development, but I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made and the man who grounds me.
All in all, it’s been a pretty great life. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it looks like a year from now.