Which Way?

December 2nd, 2009

I’m sitting here tonight contemplating my prospects: a stone wall or a way out? 15 years ago I started a magazine that I threw my entire self into. All the bits and pieces, shards and stories that I’d accumulated over a lifetime. I had been pregnant with all those random voices, ideas and opinions for so long and finally gave birth to them in that publication. It was fierce and funny and thumbed its nose at conventional wisdom. It became so successful that I sold it for an amount of money I thought would help me grow old disgracefully carefree. Then the stock market crashed and so did my money–easy come, easy go for a grasshopper. It always seemed like play money anyway after being broke for so long. So I stayed on with the magazine because I was still in love with it, drew a good salary, watched the new owners grow it into other cities and then watched it change. From what I hear, the change part is a pretty standard story. As Ani diFranco says, “If you want to challenge the system, don’t go to bed with it.” Now I’m in bed with the Man and the romance is gone, but the money is still good. I wish there was an arrow pointing me in the right direction. This way to the Next New Thing. This way to Creativity. This way to Big Ideas. But how will I know when it’s time to leave? And will I have the courage or juice to make it out there in a younger, hipper world? And should I even try? Maybe there’s a natural time to quit striving. When I bought a new Honda several years ago, a friend said, “That car will last you the rest of your life.” I was aghast, so as soon as the warranty was up, I bought a new one. Damned if I was going to stick with a car just because it would last me to the grave! Now I wonder if I’m sticking with a job just because it will last me til retirement. I feel as if not all of me is being used, and at the same time, I feel used up. Which one of those is right, or are both of them? Do I give up safety, travel, cashmere sweaters, more travel, new computers, expensive wine, Lucky jeans in order to set off down an unknown road that may in the end not lead to Big Ideas, Happiness or Fresh Starts? Do I leap and trust the ideas will be there to catch me up, or do I leap and land on Bag Lady, Dementia and Spending all Day in my PJs? Despite starting my own business, raising kids on my own and putting up my own frigging Christmas lights, I’m not courageous, and not even mildly outrageous–I need prodding in order to move forward and I’m more comfortable in corners than on top of the bar. I’m not proud of that. I wish I could be one of the women I admire who are so gutsy and confident and just pregnant with themselves. They move to cities where they know no one, they travel HAPPILY by themselves, they spend Christmas on Christmas Island just because it’s there, they go to Buenos Aires to tango. This Christmas morning, I wish I would find a big blue arrow pointing to Sure Thing, but I know it’s not going to be that easy. I guess I’ll settle for a Kindle…just in case I hit the road this year for a trial run.

13 Responses to “Which Way?”

  1. Leigh says:

    "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." – William James

    I'm no sage, but it sounds like you know what you want to do, deep down in your gut. You have a track record of surviving and more wisdom than you realize.

  2. Mir says:

    There are some men it sucks to be in bed with; they're great with foreplay, but the marriage falls short. I've been divorced from such a man for four years now, and it's been hard financially, but freeing mentally.

    I don't know your age, or how close you are to retirement (and I would never dare to ask!), but my thoughts as a self-employed woman in a crappy economy are these: if you love it, are still passionate about it, buck up and keep going. Let the man pay for your retirement.

    Learn to give up all but 40 hours, delegate the rest, and leave work (physically and mentally) at your desk. Then, use the other 128 hours in your week to create new passions.

    From "Becoming Jane": "Affection is desirable. Money is absolutely indispensable!"

  3. Allegra Smith says:

    It is there. Just look in the mirror.

  4. angie says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It's got me thinking about a lot of things. I'm looking forward to seeing where this unknown road takes you. Stay? Go? Who knows? Your voice stays with you and it needs to be heard.

  5. seastararts says:

    ok so here it is nikki…thanks! for making me cry. inside as to why? well when I was a little girl my "arrow" died. she was scared just like you… what direction to take next. there were three kids depending on her now, husband that didn't know how to be one, and all the questions and passions of life she had in her head beating her up. how I wish it was a question of sweater or yummy wine. how I wish I'd been an adult for her to talk through her pain and wrenching in her heart. but I wasnt and she left me, my little sister and little brother. later my therapist gave me a book that said "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" and I've been mad at her ever since.
    telling you this why? well funny thing… when we met at the center for women and you boldly came out of your shell to talk about your passion… you reminded me of her. Well, my memories of her. don't know why… maybe because I've read your columns, quotes and editorial comments for so long and really "bonded" with your sense of humor that's what really helped. When the article about Rose was in there… she was my Mom's best friend! I was in the airport crying… calling my Dad. all these things.
    And here I am. Waiting for that same damn arrow. The arrow I wish I'd had when pregnant at 19 and my Step-mother made me give it up. The arrow I needed and no one could show me when I was in an abusive marriage and needed like hell to give it up.
    So do me a favor my words friend…. if and when you find your arrow… please share! my heart aches for one. bless you!xo

  6. corine says:

    i'm very much like you–minus the successful magazine part.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Your writings touch me. Thank you.
    Anne Wiggins Smith

  8. anna maria says:

    I truly understand what you are saying. Every day I try to dream up a way to escape from my secure, well paying, with health insurance job. But even if I saw the sign pointing to whatever it is I would really like to do, would I have the guts to go there? Should I have the guts to go there?

  9. Paula says:

    Oh my, how I can identify with this.


  10. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios says:

    It's hard to wait through unsettled times, to not leap simply because you crave motion.

    It's hard to decide when waiting and settling is about stagnating and when it's about fermenting or gestating.

    All of this a way of saying that I believe you'll KNOW if and when it's time to make a change. Or you'll make peace with the balance of good/bad in your current working life.

    I used to work with teenagers and tell them that moving fast was not the same as going somewhere. Food for thought, as if you didn't have enough to think about.

  11. Di says:

    This made me laugh because you are one the women I admire, and I know v-grrrl does too so … I don't think you're allowed an opinion on self. It's one of the rules. I'm not sure all of us can be fabulous to ourselves.

    So … were you referring to the grasshopper and the ants story when you mentioned the grasshopper? I thought I was the only one. I'm presently fiddling and worrying a little about winter but don't tell anyone.

  12. Nikki Hardin says:

    Your comments are all so sage! And by the way, I got the Kindle and am growing to love it, but even though I took it cross country to Seattle, I also lugged the BIG hardcover of Wolf Hall! I just can't give up my paper and print version yet.

  13. Nikki Hardin says:

    Your comments are all so sage! And by the way, I got the Kindle and am growing to love it, but even though I took it cross country to Seattle, I also lugged the BIG hardcover of Wolf Hall! I just can't give up my paper and print version yet.

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