date night & a panic attack

Last night Tim and I had our weekly date night. We went to see Still Alice. 

Then, I had a slight panic attack.

In the movie, Alice, a professor of linguistics, is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. At age 50. She is an accomplished academic, the author of a seminole text book on the acquisition of language, a mother of three beautiful grown children, and the wife of another successful professor. They have a beautiful brownstone and a house on a beach. 

I turned 36 last month. That means that I have just 14 years.

“14 years to do what?” you might be asking. And that is precisely the point: I’m not sure. 

14 years to become a successful academic. 14 years to have a second home. 14 years to write a text book – or any book, for that matter. 14 years to change the way people teach their kids to eat or greet each other as they pass on the sidewalk or structure the farm bill or support high-quality education as a universal right. 14 years to do something important. 14 years to find my “thing.”

I left the movie sobbing in part because it was a beautiful story about family and love and loss and facing reality, but perhaps even more because I was panicked that I was still searching to become the person that I wanted to be. And what if I only had 14 years to do it?

I have a great job, but I’m not the person that our clients are searching for. My boss is. I am starting a new company, but I have NO IDEA what I’m doing and that terrifies me (especially because it’s not just me who has something to loose). I’ve been told that I need to spend time building myself as a brand, but I can’t possibly see how I fit in the time needed to do that and not drop one of the other balls I’m juggling. I don’t have a plan. I don’t see a clear path forward. I’m still not sure what the end game is. At the same time, I know that the goal isn’t getting somewhere – it’s not like everything (the noise, the fear, the joy, the triumph, the failure) just ends when you reach Point B – the goal is traveling there. 

Tim patiently listened and held my snotty tissues as I let this panic spill out onto the sidewalk outside the theater. He was calm and quiet and thoughtful, which is just what I needed. Then he told me how this afternoon our own little Alice, who is almost 2, was asking to see me (I was in the office, working). When Tim asked her why she looked at him and said “Because I love mommy.” 

“You have that,” he said after. “Your children love you. I love you.”

Yes, I thought. Yes I do. And shouldn’t that be enough?


2 thoughts on “date night & a panic attack

  1. It may work differently for others, but my quirky life experience has been that the most valuable directions for my work, and sometimes the areas of greatest PROFESSIONAL meaning have come when and where I least expect it. If I’ve looked too hard, worried too much, or questioned too far . . . little has happened. When I maintain focus on what’s at hand, and do my best at that AND THEN stay open to what emerges, THAT is where my best paths forward have come. I often recall the lessons given me by Gerard Baker, a Mandan-Hidatsa tribal member, good friend, and gentle soul. "Pay attention to the little things around you" was the essence of one key lesson. So many directions for where to go don’t come with neon signs and whistles blaring, but rather as whispers.

    Think of it this way. Would your 18-year-old self have imagined you would have accomplished what you have so far? There’s no rush for the path of wisdom to emerge. Enjoy the journey!


    1. Such sage advice: "so many directions for where to go don’t come with neon signs and whistles blaring, but rather as whispers." Pay attention to the little things.

      And no, my 18 year old self would likely never have believed this is where I would be, that I would have learned this much and come this far. But having patience for wisdom to emerge is still easier said that done!!!


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