A Life Wasted?

I have made many a party faux-pas in my life. I’ve spilled drinks. I’ve started fights. I’ve made crass comments. But, I don’t party anymore. I’m sober three years this month. And, somehow, I feel like this qualifies me as someone who doesn’t do or say ridiculous things.


I turned 40 last weekend. 40! It doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been told that 40 is the new 30. Shit, I’ve been told it’s the new 21! I’ve been told that the 40s rock the casbah. That you start to really know what you want and what you don’t want and you don’t giving a flying frog what people think of you.

Sounds good to me!

But, there is still this nagging closer-to-death thing. And, when I start to think about getting closer to death, I start thinking about all of the things that I wanted to do in my life when I actually was 21 and it was just opening up.

Except, and if you’ve read me before, be prepared for the broken record, there wasn’t much that I really wanted to do. The only thing I wanted to do, as I would confess to my creative writing professors when I was stumbling around drunk and ran into them on campus, is write. I wanted to be a writer. Like a big time, that’s what I do, writer. Like I’d die if I didn’t write. The sad thing was that I was so hyper-focused on my wild, crazy, party lifestyle that all I really did was dream about writing. I’d pump out a few lines here and there, a bit of poetry, a chapter to a shitty novel and that’s it.

So, now, I am 40 and I never developed the habit. The passion is greater than ever. I really do have a song to sing. I’ve got some real experience under my belt. But, I make excuses. I still talk a good game. I still dream. And, dream is all I seem to do.

I’m taking this graduate class about gifted children. I am supposed to be using the knowledge I gain to help me teach gifted children where I work. I am supposed to be applying the information I am learning to others. I’m supposed to write a case study at some point during the class. Yet, all I can think about is me, me, me.

I was identified as a gifted student in early elementary. I had these amazing skills and a big imagination. I could read and write and figure multiplication problems and solve logic puzzles before kindergarten. I was assessed on the Stanford-Binet IQ test and scored in the profoundly gifted range, the genius range if you will. I am embarrassed to write these things. I feel like people will think I am bragging. But, I promise I am not.

You see, I never really lived up to my potential. Not in school. Not in life. Being smart made it easy. Made it easy not to study and to still ace tests. Made it easy to write papers about books I had never read. Made it easy to goof off and skate by and graduate college while I spent the majority of my time killing brain cells. Being smart didn’t really serve me.

As I read the case studies in these textbooks that I am examining and I watch these videos about intelligence that I’m supposed to watch and I read these articles in journals about gifted children, I am starting to understand myself better. I am starting to understand talent development and rebellion and boredom and lack of task commitment. I am starting to understand, for me, why I leaned into a world of chaos and insanity after a childhood riddled with trauma. Maybe for the first time, it is starting to make sense.

So, this faux pas. I was speaking to a group of teenagers. Ironically, about talent development, when I spoke about my talent and desire to write. And, oopsy daisy, the words “I’m 40 and I’m afraid I wasted my life” came out. I think I was trying to persuade them not to waste their lives, but it was all wrong. They found it terribly depressing. And, I seemed very ungrateful. And, I conveyed the completely wrong message. I tried to a back peddle and it didn’t work. They called me out on it as teenagers do. I was trying to be inspirational or something. I totally missed the mark.

I’d like to say I didn’t actually feel that way, but life-wasting has been a theme of mine lately. Since I was a child, words called to me. I came to believe that writing was my one absolute calling in life. And, I have little to nothing to show for it.

But, wasted my life?!?

That’s not what I mean at all. At least, I don’t think it is what I mean.

Still, and I don’t know if I am completely understood when I share this, writing is not my hobby. It isn’t what brings me pleasure. It isn’t just a game I play or a cathartic exercise. It isn’t something I want to do when I have spare time. It is my passion. It is my driving force. Just do it for yourself, they say. Forget that! I want to use my words to contribute to this world. I am not negating that I contribute to the world in other ways. I am not saying that I need to be a legacy or something. But, I need to stop piddling around. I need to write.

Recently, I told my life’s story in front of a group of about 40 people. I had no notes. I had little plan. I just dressed real nice, took the podium, and spoke. I had done something like this before, but it had made me feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. That first time, I was speaking about being sober, but I hadn’t been sober very long. I didn’t really have any hope to give. I didn’t really have enough experience beyond the wreckage I had created. So, I didn’t really have a full story and it didn’t go very well.

This time, however, I felt eloquent. I felt heard. I felt empowered. I didn’t feel that way for some sort-of center-of-attention ego bull shit thing. I felt that way because I conveyed a message. I told a true story and I told it well. I felt that way because maybe, just maybe, I gave someone a little bit of hope.

I don’t know.

Actually, I do know. And, that’s why the experience was so powerful.

I recognize this type of event as part of my life’s purpose. I recognize that being a good friend is part of my life’s purpose. That having a kid and working with kids is part of my life’s purpose. I get all that. I do contribute to this world. But, I want more. I don’t think that is selfish or outlandish. The way I used to live my life, I could be dead right now. But, I’m not. I’m still alive and I still have the gift of words and now of experience. I’m starting to think that, at 40, with ½ a life behind me and all these words and experiences, maybe it is time. It wasn’t my time before because I was just struggling to keep my head above water. I had nothing to say. I was lost.

And, all this time I said I wasted? Just the notes for my song, my friends. Just more of a story to tell.

So, right now, though I vowed not to write on my blog because I had bigger fish to fry, I am up at 1:40AM, typing away because I don’t have the concentration for the memoir that I am kind-of, sort-of writing. I finished my paper about gifted underachievement (ha!) for my graduate class, and I am reflecting and typing and writing my second blog post for the night. I am also thinking about how to approach that group of teenagers and tell them how much I appreciate every little experience I have ever had, including working with them, because it made me who I am this very minute.

I’m sober. I’m in my 40s. I have talent. I have drive. I am so much to be thankful for.

And, I have to remember, that I don’t need to see my name in print to make a contribution to this world. Though, it would be nice…





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