A Life of Squares

I carry a notebook with me everywhere, which even the phone isn’t privileged enough to get (I actually forgot it at home this past Thursday). Inside this notebook, I write my to-do lists for the day, upcoming events, thoughts on life, concerns with work, partial blog entries…it’s a catch-all for my brain. (If you’re curious, I use the Leuchtturm 1917 Medium Notebook1).

Inside of this notebook, I keep a piece of paper that I printed out from The Listserve from a woman named Laura2. She talks about her midlife crisis (you can read the entry in its entirety here). The paper is creased and a little worn because I take it out at least once a week to reread her words. Her words could have been written by me; her fears and hopes are close to mine. It’s validating to see that I’m not the only one with them.

I am a little concerned that I’m wasting this life of mine away behind a monitor (something my ex calls the square).The square is omnipresent and, to be honest, I’ve spent much too much time behind one. I love what I do; I adore programming. To have an idea and a few hours later have something to show for it truly is a high and a rush for me. My most recent project is something I’ve invested many hours with, keeps me busy, and I’m having a blast coding. The problem though is that I haven’t found the balance between sitting in front of the square and being out in the world.

When I look back on the past decade of life, a decade filled with some exciting times as far as my career is concerned (the Aereo ride was wild), it has all blended together with early mornings and late nights of programming. Of stressing over servers going down or code causing “ghost subscriptions” or angry clients. I understand this is all part of the life of a programmer and, to be honest, I enjoy the mad dash to figure something out before the world implodes (in the moment, I’m probably cursing like a sailor and wishing that I was home in bed).

But the square comes in the form of my television set, my phone, the windshield of my car as I drive to and from work, the windows of my little cottage. I’ve stopped interacting with the world in a raw, exposed way. I was a kid that loved the outdoors. I would camp and hike, snowboard and bike, no matter the weather or circumstances. I have since replaced it with watching YouTube videos of sailors and makers. You know what my evenings look like? Reruns of 2 Broke Girls and The Big Bang Theory. It’s truly sad.

My doctor, at my annual physical yesterday, asked if I was dating anyone. When I said no, she asked if I was doing anything to put myself out there. I thought, I’m not doing anything out there! How sad! And now I’m here, sitting behind my square, writing about my little life, watching snow fall behind another set of squares.

I don’t like making declarative statements so I’m not going to state “I’m going to change! I’m going to live a life without squares!” Because then, how am I going to make a living? Really, it’s about finding a balance. I’ve let fear and complacency dictate my actions—inactions, more accurately—for too many years. This is something I recognized a while back and I’ve been working toward breaking away from the squares. I only hope that 2017 brings me closer to a year of adventure than the previous decade did.

I’ve thought of writing Laura from The Listserve and seeing how she made out. Did she make it to Mexico or South Korea? Is she teaching English? Has she found someone to love and love her back? I’m scared of the answer. I’m scared she’s still stuck. I’m scared that the reality won’t live up to the dream I have of her, sun-drenched blonde hair, smiling for a picture one of her students is taking, the aqua blue waters of the Pacific behind her. I fear she is still behind her own square, wishing her life were different.

  1. No longer true. For the past few years, I have a simple leather cover, roughly 12x18 centimeters that holds a slightly smaller Clairefontaine Brochure rembordée. As they fill up, I just replace them and stick the used ones in the bookshelf. ↩︎

  2. I still have this letter from Laura. ↩︎