It’s January 1, 2022. A New Year. I’m finally starting this blog…16 months after turning 40. My original idea was to blog right after I turned 40 and see what epiphanies presented themselves. But, the more I tried to start writing, the less I had to say. I needed more time to settle into the concept of being 40 before I could write anything about it.
I’m 41 now, a year in, and what have I learned? As I write this to you, I find myself writing then crossing things out over and over, which is a pretty perfect metaphor for what the last 16 months have felt like – a constant crossing out of so much of what I thought I knew.
Okay, hard left, but have I ever told you this story about the first day of my first class in college? It was a psychology 101 course, and I sat in a theater with a bunch of other eager, first-year students waiting for our quintessential “Dead Poet’s Society” moment. We got it. Our professor, a slender white man with a bronze tan ingrained in his skin, looked like he had been plucked right out of the 70s and placed strategically in front of us. He opened the class by asking us a single question: What would we do with our lives if making money wasn’t a concern?
We were to write the answer on paper and put it in an envelope. My memory fails as to what we did with the envelope. Did we turn it in? Bury it in a time capsule still waiting to be rediscovered? Who knows? But here’s what I wrote – “poet.”
The instructive, maybe sad, part of the story is that I never took one creative writing class while in college. I don’t think I told anyone that I ever thought about becoming a poet, even if only fleetingly. It was just a dream I sealed away inside that envelope and quickly moved on to more practical matters.
I call this denial instructive because I now find myself trying to rediscover the poetry buried deep inside me, and I could’ve saved a lot of time had I just accepted what my intuition was trying to get me to see 22 years ago. I instantly categorized my intuitive knowledge as unreasonable, impractical, or even indulgent. I wanted to do something meaningful to make the world a better place. I had a savior complex for sure.
Had I at least given voice to my poetic dreams, someone might’ve come along to tell me only a handful of occupations fall into the category of earth-shattering or world-changing, and poetry is one of them. In my own life, outside my family, I can’t think of a soul that has changed my life more than Nikki Giovanni. Today, I wholly, genuinely, and without hyperbole believe that poetry will save the world. Maybe I knew that at 18, but I didn’t allow myself to accept it.
Here, sweet friend, I’ve arrived at my point. My first lesson in turning 40 is that, without asking your permission or begging your consent, life wills you to simply accept what is. At 40, there is no further point in searching to find some purpose or idea of who you are, when who you are has always been.
The big ending is not that I am quitting my job to become a poet, although that wouldn’t be bad. Rather, it’s that I accept my need for poetic rhythm. I believe there are many iterations of my purpose here on earth, and one of them is to dance through my days creating and making people feel things – making myself feel things. What could be more meaningful than that?