I took a 6-mile hike this morning.  It was muddy.  It was windy.  I was all alone with the prairie dogs and four hawks.  I cranked my iPod and got blisters on my feet.  I thought and thought.

I’m taking advantage of the few days before I start the new job to get outside in the warmth while it lasts.  This morning’s was a lovely hike, even with the blisters.  And as music will, the songs on my iPod took me to a myriad different places.  There were some songs I couldn’t listen to now and others I didn’t even know I had.

I’m venturing into a new world next week.  I’ve almost been thinking of it as a grown-up world – a world where I do real work, commute to a big city, be professional.  It feels like a long time since I’ve really done that.  The prospect is exciting.  It’s ironic how far this new reality is from the reality I thought I’d be facing right now, and there’s a poignancy to that.

In my teens, I had the world before me – it was the open-door world.  I could do anything.  I felt invincible and fearless.  I made decisions clearly and rationally.  I worked my ass off to get into and through college.  I had such hope for the future.  I can remember that feeling as if it were yesterday.

I was three days past my 22nd birthday when I got involved with my husband-to-be.  My 20s were tumultuous, mostly due to that relationship.  My life didn’t take the path I had planned for myself, and somewhere along the line, the choices I started making felt less like choices than requirements.  I started falling into things instead of making decisions about my life.  And I very much wanted to be married.  I needed to know that someone wanted to marry me – that I was loveable enough for someone to want to marry me.  Looking back, I placed FAR too much emphasis on marriage.  And so, I worked.  I grew professionally in a job that I fell into.  I think the only big decision I made during this time was to buy our house.  Otherwise, I was drifting through a fairly interesting, fairly hopeless world, and trying by myself to make our marriage work.  I consider this the semi-conscious world.

Then came my 30s.  The marriage got worse.  We separated for a time.  That was my decision, and it was a big one.  But I reneged after only a few months.  I was still drifting – it didn’t matter whether Pat came back or not, so I let him come back.  I was still pretty unhappy in my marriage, but things were a little better.  Pat was working and we had two houses, so we lived apart for part of the week.  I was travelling a lot for work and I loved that.  I was successful.  I was in the professional world.  I felt grown up.  But I felt something was missing.  And so, late one night, looking in a mirror in a New York City hotel room, I decided I wanted to have a baby.  In fact, that night was just about exactly 15 years ago.

So I consciously moved from the professional world to the world of motherhood.  As sometimes happens, having a child improved our marriage for a while.  But I was still working, always working, trying to support the household and be a good mother.  I left my job of 13 years when Kelsea was two – a restructuring resulted in my position being eliminated and I declined the replacement position they offered me, so the parting was mutual – and that was kind of a choice for me. Pat was working and was supportive of me pursuing my writing and photography.  For a few days.  In an ironic turn of events, he got fired about a week after I left work, and swore he would never work for anyone again.  My choices vanished.  I was back to working again and not really by choice.  I was missing my daughter’s childhood.  I was drifting, but I was dedicated.  I was in a stifled world.

Finally, I hit my 40s.  I had gone through several layoffs at several jobs, and had been working multiple jobs for years.  I was literally working myself to death.  I could feel it.  I would go days without seeing Kelsea awake.  Finally, I decided again that something had to give.  I decided to take a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to the Caribbean.  Pat wasn’t interested in going with me.  So I went.  On a beach on Cane Garden Bay, my soul opened up and I recognized, buried inside me, that happy, hopeful young woman of my teens.  God, it was good to know she was still there, and that she just needed a little peace and sun to emerge from beneath my skin.  I had entered a hopeful world – where I could see potential.

I came home feeling happier.  The once-in-a-lifetime trip became two or three times a year.  It was the only way I could hold onto who I was, since I was still working so hard at home.  But regardless of my travel, my marriage worsened.  I grew happier – he grew more sullen and angry.  He drank more.  My trips became escapes from my real life.  And that was not acceptable.  My parents died. My life was too painful.

Finally, I found the support and love I needed to take the step of leaving my marriage.  I told my husband I was moving out, told my daughter we were getting a divorce.  I shook up my world and entered the transitional world.  During all this, I got laid off, but had a temporary reprieve for 9 months.  I had made a big choice to get divorced.  But I was immediately in another relationship – it was what inspired the change.  I felt supported enough to start my own freelance business, but couldn’t seem to motivate myself to pursue it.  I just wanted to rest after all those years of working.  I know it irritated my new partner.  But we had plans.  We kept talking about our future.  It was all about to happen at this time, this year.  And the relationship ended.  I had the rug pulled out from under me.

In that relationship, I had felt that teenage hopefulness again.  A vibrancy to my future.  Like my dreams could actually come true.  I was willing and eager to work with a partner.  The depression that settled on me in the last few months has left me a place that’s worse than drifting – a world of despair.

So now, I have started over.  Started making choices again.  I am choosing a job that I want (where they want me).  I am choosing to try to invest in a house here.  I am choosing to re-enter the professional world and the big city, armed with the knowledge that I will be learning something that will serve me well in the future.  I am choosing to continue writing – my novel and a new book, and articles.  I am choosing to stay close to my daughter for a while longer, even though she continues to encourage me to move to a warm island somewhere in the sun.  But not yet.  Right now, I am in the conscious world.  And I like that.

I’m making some plans for myself.  They are fledgling.  And a part of them, the first part, aside from the new job, is that I need to grieve for the dreams I’ve lost.  For the love I’ve lost.  And in grieving, I can let it go.  And enter a brave new world.