I always thought I would die at 36 or 37 years old. It’s strange to write it out and see those words on the page, but it’s a truth I’ve known for as far back as I can remember… almost like I couldn’t ever imagine life beyond those years and my creative envisionings of the future ended by mid-thirty.
Now, to be completely honest, I’m not sure my 13 or 22 or even 29 year-old self had any sense of what life would be like in my mid-thirties. So, this premonition of the end wasn’t as much a situational sense of finishing up life on earth as it was a fixation on a number in my mind, with an accompanying feeling of a blankness or lack of creativity past that number.
As a side note, I always thought I’d go after a short battle with cancer. I never imagined I would come down with a popular cancer, where I could wear a shirt about my ta ta’s and talk openly about what I was going through. I had the sense I’d come down with a horrible one where my insides would rot and I’d be gone six months after the diagnosis.
At least when I was younger, I imagined leaving kids and a committed partner behind, all of whom would stoically hold my hand through a treatment of some sort. Before my last breath, I would dutifully pick out outfits for my kids to wear to my funeral, which I never really planned in my mind beyond wanting a slideshow set to cheery music just like at the beginning of Love Actually.
I clearly digress. More regular readers might be puzzled by this revelation, particularly given I’m in fine health, have no children nor committed partner, and am quickly cascading into mid-thirties life. It’s true that portending my own death since childhood is a less than pleasantly progressive topic, but I see a metaphor in this longtime creative block post 37 years-old that’s worth pursuing, so bear with me.
I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I feel stymied by a lack of creativity around me. It’s not just D.C. and its dark suits and uninspired street art. It could be that working in politics just isn’t a terribly inspiring gig, mainly in that the news cycles we all follow are on repeat: scandal, outrage, apology, congressional hearing, slow move to public disregard. Repeat. Natural disaster, pain and suffering, calls for action, stilted government reaction, slow move to public disregard. Repeat.
And then there’s all that other sticky stuff: sexual assault in the military. Politicians blaming women for bad things in the world. Politicians limiting women’s options and blaming them for bad choices. Politicians not giving two shits about low income people, or middle class people, for that matter. The Supreme Court saying something anti-democratic is totally okay. Black kids getting beat up or shot. Gay kids getting beat up or shot. Repeat.
All of these themes of daily life—the activities and isms that make up our present political world—are sprinkled with heartwarming stories of heroes saving the day. Nonetheless, it feels like the crap is playing out as if it’s the first time anyone has ever seen a hurricane or expressed a sexist sentiment in public. Are we really that surprised something that happened two weeks ago is happening again? I guess we are.
Even the reactions feel panned: first responders rush to the scene. Advocates take the opportunity to educate. Fundraisers fundraise to make change. Bloggers publish snarky posts. The remaining decent news sources publish thought-provoking pieces about what went wrong or what needs to change. And naysayers continue their fight to maintain the status quo.
The cycle is as uninspiring as it is elementary… and it’s difficult to imagine a way around it or out of it. If I think about the next five or ten years in politics abstractly, it looks like a repeating pattern at best—but more like a blank wall. I’m worn down and I know I’m letting that exhaustion fuel negativity to the point that it’s probably time for me to exit the game.
But it could be that I haven’t challenged myself to see beyond the static “what is” of life to encourage a creatively grounded and inspiring concept of what things could be. More than just canned hope and change—it’s a real challenge to imagine an intentional political news cycle unburdened by the cycle.
One of my goals for the summer is to begin to envision my 39th year. I could be a cancer survivor or partnered or with child. Any which way, I expect life to be as different as it is the same—but the key for me is painting the canvas with a mind and heart truly open to new possibilities. My guess is that we would be well-served to do the same with our political lives.
The Pleasant Progressive