Updated: Jun 11, 2021
There I was hiking the ruins of Machu Picchu, in awe of their beauty and splendor. How could I be so lucky? This was always a dream of mine - one of my spots on my bucket list. Charlie was up ahead, carefully treading on the narrow trail. This was our 25 year anniversary trip. I can’t believe it’s been so long! Suddenly, a loud buzzing could be heard in the background. It got louder and louder. We both stopped and looked at each other - confused.
And then. It was over. I opened my eyes and squinted at the clock. It was 5:45 am. Again.
What day was it?
Did it matter?
I looked over my shoulder to the other side of the bed. Charlie must have gone to the gym. I took a deep breath, rubbed my eyes and climbed out of bed.
I made my way downstairs where coffee was waiting for me. I filled the bottom of my cup with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and then poured the hot coffee on top of it. I inhaled deeply and released it in a sigh. Another day.
The silence enveloped me. Now that the kids are gone and out of the house, it’s too big and void of the energy that filled it the 20 years prior. Hard to believe that we were empty nesters already.
Where did the time go?
I heard the garage door opening, as Charlie returned home. Exchanging the requisite morning greetings, he put the paper on the counter and grabbed a cup from the cupboard.
‘I have a meeting tonight so I won’t be home for dinner’ I said.
‘Ok’. He took his coffee and retreated upstairs.
My job as an executive for a large apparel firm in LA keeps me distracted enough so that I don’t have to actually pay attention to the thoughts swirling around my head the majority of the time.
Questioning everything. Wondering why I still feel so empty after all these years.
I had been a good little soldier; went to college, got married, had two kids -one of each and had a decent job. Yes, it was in LA - about an hour + commute on a bad day - but it wasn’t a bad life.
It just wasn’t particularly good.
It just was.
Two years ago, our youngest went off to college, got involved in his fraternity and rarely comes home. While I’m so happy he’s happy, I miss him. Our eldest just graduated from college and moved to San Francisco. There was something so final about seeing her packing up everything in her room - a room she’s been in for the past 22 years. This is the moment you prepare for as a parent, but somehow it just made me feel old. And sad. And lonely. At least she’s close.
And here we are. Just the two of us.
We don’t really travel much - Charlie went to China with some of his friends years ago, but he mainly likes to be closer to home. I think it’s because when he grew up, he and his family would take driving vacations across the country to see the national parks.
I grew up with a single mom so that wasn’t really an option. We did go to Europe as a family when I was younger, and my friend and I went for 5 weeks after we graduated from college. As much as I loved it, and wanted to do more of it, it just didn’t happen when the kids were younger.
What I wouldn’t do to be able to go to Machu Picchu for real.
Charlie and I had had our issues in the past, but for the most part we found a groove. We both worked full time, and when the kids were little, we were busy running from soccer games to baseball games and everything in-between. We were just busy enough to avoid the hard questions.
Or any questions at all.
Now with the silence, those thoughts became louder. More pronounced. Relentless.
I looked out the kitchen window. How has it been 25 years already? I found myself thinking about my dream of going to Machu Picchu, wondering ‘what if’? What if I could express the thoughts swirling around my head? What if I could honestly communicate what I was (or wasn’t) feeling? How did I feel? What did I want? What did I want to do differently? What if I knew who I was? Or what was important to me?
I have felt this way for so long that I didn’t know if there was an alternative. And I didn’t have the courage or the bandwidth to pursue it. Why rock the boat? This was easier.
So I took my coffee and went upstairs to get ready for work. Charlie would be just about finished.
Contact successfully avoided.
It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other. We just didn’t really know each other. How crazy is that? Married for 25 years and didn’t really know each other. Or maybe even ourselves? What happened? We just marched along on our path, co-parenting and doing what we needed to do to be successful.
Not wanting to answer the question: who are you and where have I been for the past 25 years?
But now what are you going to do about it? 25 years in? My life is ‘fine’ I thought to myself. I got dressed, said goodbye to Charlie, climbed into my car and loaded up my podcasts for my 1 hour plus commute.
I’ve often wondered what my life might look like if I hadn’t experienced that major existential crisis 20 years ago. Writing this passage was difficult for me. It brought back a lot of pain and memories of just how difficult that time was when I was questioning everything with no one there to answer except myself.
Expressing myself was so difficult that I simply chose not to even try. I didn’t know how. But this ‘what if’ scenario could have easily been my life today. Had I not finally answered the call that was nagging at me for years; had I just stayed quiet and let life be a distraction to the pain, had I just done nothing. This would have been it.
But thankfully it wasn’t.
I put my stake in the ground for living a life of passion and purpose, and I feel so grateful that I am living that life today. And yes we did celebrate our 25th by taking that dream trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos.
Yes, making that commitment to myself was difficult. Probably one of the most challenging times in my life to date. But looking back now, I would have done it all over again. As painful as it was.
For I can’t imagine living the life above always wondering what if…