For most of my life, I was certain I’d have shit figured out by the time I reached my 50s. The older generations always appeared to have their shit together in my eyes. Now I realize that they were either great actors and wanted to protect us younger folk from the realities of life, or I was just extremely naïve. It was probably both.
What am I doing in my 50s without the slightest idea about what I want to do when I grow up, who I want to be, or where I want to live? This can’t be normal. Oh, but it is, the wiser, less naïve version of myself responds.
I’ve long felt that my father, in his final years, felt disappointed with how his life turned out. There was a look in his eyes that I felt I could read. He was thinking, “This is it? This is all I will ever be? All I will ever accomplish?” I think, in many ways, he was heartbroken. My father was an academic. He was a professor of kinetic chemistry. He loved his job and he loved his students. He also loved research, something he wasn’t able to do much of once he moved to Saudi Arabia, where he spent some 30 years of his academic career. My father knew his own potential. It was thwarted and he knew it.
In some ways I find myself with similar thoughts about my own life. This is it? This is all I will ever accomplish? All I will ever be? I know I have accomplished some things in life. I realize that I have lived a rich life, full of adventure, love, loss and achievement. I know that. But there’s a weird feeling residing inside of me. I’m conflicted. I want to be more. I want to do more. At the same time, I’m tired. I just want to settle down and get out of the way of other humans. I’m tired of being rebellious and wanting to change the world. And I’m upset that I don’t have the energy anymore to be rebellious and want to change the world.
When my husband first told me that he was thinking of getting a few guys from the office together to cycle from London to Paris, my
Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!
first thought was, “Who does crazy stuff like that?” The words that came out of my mouth were, “Can I join?”
I hardly had any experience cycling but that was not going to hold me back. I bought a cheap mountain bike in Egypt just before I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009. I cycled a few times in Cairo as part of my training for the climb. That training consisted of leisurely cycling on flat road for no longer than half an hour at a time. I did not think it was leisurely then, of course. I now know what real training means. (more…)
My earliest memory, beyond false memories that can sometimes be induced whilst looking at old photographs, is from the time when I was four years old.
My father was teaching at the University of Cambridge in England for a year. One night, while I was sleeping, I woke up to the sound of footsteps coming up the staircase. They were slow, purposeful footsteps; the scary kind like in horror movies. They were footsteps that were out to get you. I froze. My back was to the bedroom door and I could not turn around to see who it was. So the thing came to me. It walked into my room, around my bed, and stood right in front of me. It was the apparition of a 40ish woman. She was transparent (as ghosts tend to be). Her hair was held up high on her head in a bun (I can’t remember the birth dates of my own children but I remember that). She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You killed my daughter!”
My heart stopped. I knew exactly what she was talking about. The electricity cut off just as ghost lady was starting up the stairs. As the nightlight went off in my room, and just as my eyes were getting accustomed to the dark, I saw a wisp of little girl disappear underneath my bed. In my head I figured that’s what happened when there is a power cut: little ghost girls die and hide underneath alive girls’ beds.
Once I realized that I had something to do with the death of a ghost child (I still had no real idea how I had anything to do with the power cut) and her mother was standing in front of my bed looking for retribution, I shrieked, “Mooooooommy!” My mother came into my room, sat next to me on my bed, took me into her arms, and asked me what was wrong. I told her what had happened. She chuckled and told me I must have had a bad dream. Mothers! She lit a candle and led me from my room to my parents’ room. I could sleep in their bed until the electricity came back.
I have never stopped wondering what really happened that cold, damp British night some 40 years ago.