I live in Iowa

This may sound incredibly stupid at first, but really, who cares? This is what I’m thinking about tonight so this is what I’m writing about.

Imagine if you will…

…You’re playing a video game. You’ve gotten pretty far along in the game and at this point you think you’ve got a handle on where the game is going and how to win. Except something happens. You lose power or there’s a glitch in the Matrix or your cat vomits on the console. Everything resets and when it powers back up you realize… you didn’t save your progress. *Cue Twilight Zone music.*

August 7, 2021, I had the rug yanked out from underneath me, my heart stopped and the universe’s cat vomited all over my console. My life reset and I hadn’t saved my progress. I’d been sent back to my last save and lost everything I’d gained over the last 21 years.

Life is a simulation and we’re all in the fucking Matrix so this should make perfect sense to you, right?

We start off in training mode and then around 18 we’re finally given a quest, an objective. We hurl ourselves forward collecting all the power ups, magical items, and weapons we need to reach our goal. What is the goal? It’s different for everyone and, if we’re being real, it changes a lot over time as life continuously kicks us down the stairs. But for the most part, we all have the sense that we’re aiming towards something, right? Education, marriage, kids, career, retirement, adventure, fun. Some of those or none of those. What we want and what we think the objective is changes but we still feel like we’re moving forward and that our inventory is stocked with all the crap we’ve been collecting along the way.

August, 2021, my game reset, I lost my magical inventory. I felt like I’d been thrown backwards in time to before my marriage when I was still just 18 or 19 years old. I no longer had a goal or an objective. I was fresh out of training mode and needed to play the game all over again, revisiting every level, redefeating every boss, sitting through endless cut scenes. I had played the game for so long and now I had to start over.

When you lose your progress in a game all you want to do is get back to the place you left off. Maybe you decide to go and explore some other areas of the game you previously left untouched, or you complete some side quests you ignored, but for the most part, you are intent on getting back to where you were. You have a game to finish, after all.

That’s been me since August ’21. Trying to get back to where I was in the game.

Where was that exactly? To be honest, I don’t entirely know. I know that it felt like I had my old life and a new life yet to come. But my new life wouldn’t start until I found a satisfying career and new routine to settle into. One life defined by its routines and meaningful activities and another life defined by equal but different routines and meaningful activities. The problem was, I couldn’t just step from one life into the other. I didn’t know what the new life’s objectives were. I didn’t know what my career or daily routine should look like. I couldn’t start my new life because I didn’t know what it was supposed to be and I definitely wasn’t equipped for it. My inventory was empty.

It’s a strange thing to feel so completely lost in your 40’s.

It’s like that scene in Lilo and Stitch. Stitch is supposed to be this bioengineered super being, highly intelligent with superior strength and strategical planning capabilities. And, yet, in the darkest moment of the film, he feels completely helpless and lost. *Wipes away a tear.* That’s how it feels. I’m a fucking adult, for cripes sake. I’m not supposed to feel lost and disoriented. I’m supposed to have my shit together and be heading for that damn goal, off to fight the final boss.

But I didn’t have anything together. I just knew there was a version of me waiting in the future that did know what she wanted, had a career, and a life. So I entered this liminal space between the two lives. A space where I work to figure all of that out. A space where I play the game all over again, trying to get back to where I left off before the cat vomit. I felt like Scott Bakula, just trying to get home.

And, to be honest, I have felt like I was living in some sort of suspended time loop outside of my real life. I decided that I wanted a college education in order to have the kind of life I want. And in my head, my real life would start in 4 to 5 years when I had my degrees and a new career, after I’d moved to wherever and settled into a new daily routine.

But, and we’re finally coming to the part I’ve been thinking about tonight, (thanks for holding on so long as I wade through all this)… I live here NOW. Not in some mythical future. Now.

Stay with me.

I’ve been feeling like my real life is out there waiting for me in 4-5 years. But that is completely ridiculous because I am alive right now, living.

I’ve had this feeling of urgency, like I need to sprint towards my new life, like I’m trying to just get through the levels and get back to where my life ended. I’ve told myself that I need to put some things off and wait to explore them and enjoy them until my new life starts. I’ve told myself I don’t have time for hobbies or leisurely pursuits or relaxation or dating or friends. All the things I was once interested in learning about or experiencing went on the back burner. I’d have time to get to them later, when my new life started.

But that’s really not how life works. That future is all in my head. I have not yet perfected the ability to see into the future, though I’m working on it daily. The truth is I am here now, in the present. No amount of self-denial will make that mythical future arrive any faster and all I am doing is making myself miserable.

For about a year and a half I’ve been chanting rhythmically to myself over and over, “This is all temporary. This is all temporary.” I haven’t finished unpacking and daily I think I may as well start packing everything up again because I’m not going to be living here that long anyway. I haven’t let myself live. I avoid doing things that mean I’m making a life.

Not only that, but I’ve had this feeling that everyone I meet is going to slip through my fingers like sand. It feels like I either have to hurry up and spend as much time with my new friends and acquaintances as I can now or not worry about it at all because soon enough I’ll be gone, on to my next life. Everyone feels like that friend you make at summer camp. You know for one summer you’re going to have the time of your life with your new camp bestie but then there is a solid chance you’ll never see them again.

But I’m not at summer camp, I’m not in limbo, and I’m not working my way back through a game I’ve already played. This is just my life. Life doesn’t stop for cat vomit. It keeps going and drags you kicking and screaming along for the ride. You can’t make it go any faster or slower. And you can’t pretend it isn’t happening. It’s not a sprint, baby, it’s a marathon.

I live in Iowa. I live here. I actually live here. This isn’t a vacation or a pit stop or a stepping stone. This is where I live. How long will I live here? I can’t answer that. I just know that I can’t put my life on hold while I wait for my life to begin. I have to live. I have to do things I enjoy and realize that the people I’m getting to know aren’t going anywhere because I’m not going anywhere.

Maybe all this is just a sign that I’m starting to come out of survival mode. Idk. I’ve been in survival mode for so long now, I’m not sure I know what anything else feels like. I just know this, I’m going to stop telling myself that this is all temporary. No more Gregorian chants. I think I’m going to let myself try living for a change and see how that goes. Maybe step out of the liminal state I put myself in.

So that’s it. I live in Iowa. That’s the take away. It’s small but it’s so big. I’m not waiting for life to begin anymore. I’m living it.

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