As my last post may have indicated, the concept of loss has been on my mind recently – in part triggered by the loss of Clarisse Thorn’s blogging but also reflecting on other points of life.
By coincidence, the very next day (I think) Roux @ Queerly, Roux posted a piece about ex-partners, loneliness and people dropping out of hir life, which echoed surprisingly many of the ways that I feel about these things:
With the exception of a few, I’ve stayed in love with anyone I’ve ever attached that emotion to. And I know that my life isn’t about them anymore; and I know that my life never really was supposed to be about them in the first place, but it still feels like my heart is pumping sand instead of whatever it’s supposed to pump.
I’ve felt those feelings about previous break-ups, and still feel love for those who are no longer “with” me. It is interesting for me to note (and a little bit scary) that I felt the same break-up feelings when I read Clarisse Thorn’s final post as I did when my first partner dumped me, with the obvious proviso that when I was dumped, I had some clear relationship to point to to say why I felt that way about that person. I had believed myself to be relatively immune to forming “parasocial” relationships, but this emotional reaction evidently shows that I did form at least one, it just wasn’t directed at the usual forms (i.e. pop bands, celebrities, TV shows/characters).
(I also would totally do the “serial dating” thing Roux discusses, if I had the opportunities – I used to talk about moving on quickly to the next one, going straight back out on the internet dating and other venues to try again when I’d just been dumped.)
That is all by way of a preamble, and hopefully it will become apparent why I felt these points are relevant to the idea I want to discuss as the main topic of the post, which is the concept of lost time.
People use the phrase “making up for lost time” when they talk about someone who started late at something but has been doing lots of it or has already become really good at it. It brings to mind an image of time that somehow slipped out of your pockets when you sat down (“maybe it’s down the back of the sofa?”) In the phrase “making up for lost time”, one could make a case that that time is actually not lost, because it was never there: if you decided late to start on something, then you just never had that time available to spend on it in the first place.
But the important aspect is the idea that everyone else has had more time on whatever it is you’re doing. The other people started sooner, so they are ahead by so-and-so many minutes/hours/days/years. And that’s the concept that’s in my head at the moment to talk about “lost time”.
For me, though, the lost time I am thinking about is not time due to starting late – or not as such, anyway (there is a link, or an element of that). I started life at about the same time as the other people my age. I was in the same year at school, plus or minus one or two. I had more or less the same opportunities. To that extent, I started at the same time as everyone else.
However, in the course of developing as a person and in a career of some sort, in the course of finding my place in this world and among its inhabitants, I have lost time along the way. It is challenging to admit it to myself, but I’ve come far enough on that journey (another one where I started late) to recognise that my depression and related symptoms/problems had the effect of holding my life’s path in abeyance for long periods of time. During the periods when it was particularly active, a lot of what I did, learned or experienced was wasted, lost or slowed down drastically. This included a year or two perhaps of my school life (a song I wrote at age 17, I later realised, captured precisely how it feels when this is happening), at least two years out of my three year university degree (it’s not surprising that I got poor marks at the end of it), and two major blocks out of my adult life since plus some smaller ones; the last major block required medication to clear it, but went on for longer.
In all, I reckon about a decade of my life has been rendered a form of scorched earth by this illness, and only in the past two or three years have I developed the tools I needed within myself to recognise it and prevent further damage (even then, if a major attack should occur, I might struggle – but I am better equipped now to ask for help when I need it, too).
I’m in my early thirties, but in terms of my social development, based on this theory, I’m actually ten years behind everyone else – my accumulated wisdom and experience might only be comparable to someone in their early twenties. If I had the body to match, then that would be pretty awesome. I don’t. I have the body of a mid-thirties bloke, and not a well-looked-after body, either, because depression combined with comfort-eating takes a heavy toll on one’s ability to care for one’s body. People look at my physical body and my age, and they expect me to be at a certain stage in my development and path through life, that I have not as yet managed to achieve.
In terms of career, too, I am a very late starter. Again, a person with my amount of work experience who was ten years younger would have a decent-looking CV (and far fewer, and shorter, gaps on it). Someone who had made wiser choices about job hunting straight after university might also have done better than I did. (There again, it tells you something about where I was, that one time when I missed my bus stop going to a job interview, I broke down and cried, in that first summer after Uni.) It didn’t help that I had very few clear ideas about what career I wanted when I decided which course to study at university, and I still had very few ideas (except, I wanted to be a librarian) when I left; I guess it’s okay to take a few odd jobs and temp work here and there in your early twenties while you figure out your path, and if I were ten years younger with the experience I have today, then that’s what my life would have looked like until a year ago (when I decided to focus on writing my novel). But at my age, it’s getting a bit late to find a career and get good at it.
This is a big issue I am finding in my job search, or in thinking about ambition, these days. Almost any job I decided I wanted to get good at, build a career in, rise up and be successful at it – I would be ten years behind where anyone else would be, and where people would expect me to be. They would say, “Oh, Mr North, he’s rubbish, he’s only at that level, when his peers are all at this level.” And even if they didn’t say that, I would feel left behind, feel like I had so much catching up to do, so much to do to “make up for lost time”.
You get good at something by practising it and by doing it. Most people start practising and doing their career, their jobs, their vocation (if you will) sometime in their twenties. They develop, they progress, they grow. They get past their first kilometre or so of Helsinki bus stops and find their own route, their own development. But I haven’t had that opportunity yet, because it got put on hold, slowed down, and torched by the illness.
Maybe I could catch up. Maybe I could manage to “make up for lost time” by doing… I don’t know what, but maybe it could be done, and by me. But maybe not. Instead, I have to think about something else: what have I been doing for those extra ten years – what have I been practising across that time? What do I still have that I can hold up and say, “This is what I got good at”?
I can think of only two things: music, and writing. And as you know, this blog is supposed to be about “Valery North – Writer”. While a “proper” job with a steady wage would be nice, if I have a career then it is in my writing (or possibly my music) and it would be great if I could make that a self-supporting business, and not just something on the side. Working out how to make that happen is another issue, for another time. But now you know why I am “Valery North – Writer”.
The thing is, the people around me and with whom I grew up – which includes bloggers like Clarisse Thorn – are people who had this kind of headstart on me (see? I told you the preamble would be relevant). It’s entirely normal and to be expected that they should be moving on with their lives and advancing to the next phase. It just feels to me like I’m getting left behind because I haven’t built up the same base that they have to be able to make that move. Clarisse Thorn wrote:
I can’t separate the changes caused by my accident from the changes of getting older. What I can tell you is that stability has been much on my mind lately. I always knew that someday I might want to engage in the sequence of activities we call “settling down.” I’ve realized lately that “someday” appears to be now.
Perhaps oddly, by the model I’ve described for where I’m at developmentally, I would have been wanting to “engage in the sequence of activities we call ‘settling down.'” since I was about 19 – or maybe that’s just the homebody side of my personality and not odd at all (apparently, another way in which I’m a typical Cancerian, despite rejecting astrology as a belief system). I just haven’t built up the groundwork to enable it to happen yet.
Another blogger/dating coach I’ve been following (Charlie Nox) made a similar announcement in the past few days:
As a dating coach, I spend my energy helping people create the sex, dating, and romantic life of their dreams. I’ve helped people get laid, find dates, and create love. Meanwhile, I keep my skills finely honed by creating MY dream dating life. Up until now that’s meant casual dates and light hearted short term relationships and lots and lots of hot, kinky sex. Lots. I mean really.
But now things are different. (Not the hot sex part. That part stays.) And this is kind of scary for me to admit, especially on the internet. If you and I have talked at all, you’ll know that I’ve said repeatedly that true love isn’t what I’m looking for. I was with my ex-husband for 7 years and that was more than enough of domestic monogamy for me. But, time moves on and what we want changes. And while I’ll never be a white picket fence girl, I have finally, finally healed, rebounded, run around (slept around), and played the field enough.
And now I’m using every trick in my book, every dating coach expert skill I have on myself. I’m setting out on a trek to find my life teammate.
(I think it’s totally awe-inspiring that she’s found a way to turn this into a business opportunity for her dating coach career, I just don’t have that kind of business sense at all. And totally cool that she will, “be blogging about my progress, because nothing says true love like documenting everything on the internet… ” – because that means I get to benefit from her insights for a while longer.)
Intriguingly, my last BDSM relationship broke up because I was wanting something building towards settling down and she didn’t. I’d been involved in the lifestyle/Scene at least peripherally, for about 5 years whereas she was in her first BDSM experience with me and was at a stage in her development where she wanted other/wider experience before she was ready to settle down. So she wanted to “make up for lost time”.
There are many ways to lose time in one’s life and feel left behind. I’ve talked about mine (depression) but others can include physical injury (especially in a career like professional sports) and, going by what Mama told me about her history, having a family can affect women’s careers in the same way (which is why men should pick up the slack and have guaranteed time off work to care for their kids). A stay-at-home-father may find the same issue when going back into the workspace, as hinted at by a piece by Mark Kemp @ Role/Reboot. Obviously, people can and do cope with it. I’m figuring out my ways, and being a writer is high on the list.