Truly Living

Kate - Albany, Oregon
Entered on December 5, 2007

I passed on the opportunity to marry a wonderful man who had it all. He was incredibly smart, he was tall and handsome, his family had money—he had it all—and that was exactly the problem.

During my time with him life was easy, we had a house in the suburbs, a nice car and we were good together. At some point, though, something inside me began to make small noises. I didn’t know what was wrong, I felt agitated and uptight and totally unsatiated—there was a void in me that couldn’t be filled. Acquaintances said there must be something wrong, “It’s probably depression,” one woman at the office said. “Look, you have it all; it’s probably just a chemical imbalance.” A quick trip to my doctor with a brief summary of my symptoms yielded me a hastily written prescription for Prozac. The cure in a bottle turned out to be no cure at all. Granted, I no longer felt anxious or uptight, now I just existed in this middle world made up of hues of grey—everything was just okay. Even through my haze of mediocrity, though, I could tell that something was still wrong.

My epiphany came in two stages. The first was through a career counselor that I was seeing who helped me quickly deduce that the part of my life where my dissatisfaction lay was not in my career, but in my relationship. The second came in the form of a visit from my aunt, a woman I respect and admire greatly. She is intelligent, easy going, athletic, and warm—a wonderful cook who always has one more space at the table for a late or new-comer. During her visit we talked of my dreams—a desire to experience the ups and downs of life, to roll up my sleeves and get dirty and uncomfortable and to step out of this easy existence. It was then I realized that my perfect, easy life, with this wonderful man, was not the life for me.

Shortly thereafter I ditched the Prozac and passed on the marriage. I moved out of our suburban house, sold the car, moved into a historic apartment in the city and refinished the floors myself. I ran out of money and had to return cans to pay for cat food, but I smiled as I did because I knew that this was living. The risk, the discomfort, the toiling the getting dirty—that’s what life’s about. I hated some of it, I loved some of it, but it was no longer marginal and safe and easy, it was high and it was low and it was risky. I believe that a life in the margins is really only an existence, and that merely existing is not enough. Truly living is putting yourself out there, getting in the work, risking your heart and acting with passion—this I believe.