Is 45 too late for a career?

I had a dream, back in high school.
I would graduate.
I would get a job.
I would study.
I would buy a car.
I would leave home.
I would have a career.

I woke up at 45 and realised
I’ve graduated more times than I like to admit.
I’ve been on disability since I graduated high school.
I have a twenty-year-old Lancer in my driveway and P platers drive newer cars than me.
I’m still waiting on that career.
It might be too late for a career.

*

It’s hard to get ahead in this world when you’ve been on welfare so long that the salary included in a job advertisement reads like a foreign language to you.

And you think over all the casual and part time jobs you’ve had and none of them required any of the study or skills you’ve collected along the way, the shells on beach walks.

You need someone to give you that big break.

That crack of an open door where you can use you skills.

You also need them to give you space to dip your toe in and make sure the anxiety monster isn’t going to do a Jaws on you and leap out of the water to chew you up. You need to get used the tides, the breaking of the waves and the calms.

*
Forty-five can’t be too old.
You have to believe this is true. To hold this truth like a sick bird in your hands, cupped so gently, with every good intention.
You need to know you’ll learn to swim in life, because if you can’t believe in that, you might as well drown.

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Being Vulnerable & Wearing Masks

I’ve become hyper aware that my writing life and real day-to-day life have hit a impasse that has never been apparent to me before. I love learning more about myself though writing and learning more about the world I inhabit.

In wiring memoir, the author, through her character self, is required to come across as a reliable narrator in the telling of her/his life. Of course, it’s a life the author picked apart so as to choose the parts that make for an interesting tale, yet still rings true for the reader. The narrative needs to both bare the soul to the reader and to tell a story that somehow shows the character changing in some significant way.

As Miss Mona, my pin-up name, I take on a whole other persona. When the winged eyeliner, the red lipstick, the tight sweater or swing dress go on, and the wet set gets brushed out of my temporary red hair I lose a large part of my daily anxiety, and a confidence pops up as soon as I catch a glimpse of the mask in the mirror.

As a teenager I was heavily into make up but it wasn’t until I started working after school and could afford the likes of hair dye and eyeliner that I found myself at home on a stage. Who would believe a periodic agoraphobic could suddenly perform in vaudeville shows, sing, dance, and generally become a person I have never known before. Now I wonder, where did she go? Perhaps she will only ever be seen on the papers of a memoir. For some reason I don’t want to write about that period in my life. It’s like if I pick it to pieces for a story I will kill the fairytale. What if I could find a way back to that place though? A place void of pills and panic attacks, a place where leaving the house was not a decision each day to worry about but rather a given, no thought to it whatsoever.

My mistake was in who I chose to associate with after school’s summer break over 1989/90. Teenagers can be caught up in dramas so much so that they don’t realise the impact they’re having on their friends. In this friendship I lost my identity and conformed to the standards of the group, which were set by the alpha-girl. I put the mask down and gave up on the me that felt good for the sake of acceptance. I put on a new mask, one to hide the pain, to blend in. I started writing. That was the only place it was safe to be me. Of course, no one read any of what I wrote.

To be vulnerable on the page do I have to take off all the masks, or to be vulnerable on the page do I need to find the mask that fits best for what I want to write?

Confrontations

Once upon a time, a young woman use to stand up for herself. Unfortunately she would do so even when the threat was only a perceived one.

Eventually she worked out this only escalated her anxiety levels.

Now she sits with that dodgy purchase she made, and contemplates ways to justify wasting the money, to write it off as just one of those things that happen to people.

Back to her writing project she wonders why she chose to write in memoir when she gets to one of those key scenes that she cannot work her way around, they have to be in the narrative for the story she’s telling to work.

But.

Her heart rate advances.

Her blood pressure drops, leaving her light headed, vision a little hazy as she writes.

Her concentration moves away from the scene she’s writing, and she forgets that even though this is memoir, these people can’t harm her anymore, they are just characters, and she forgets to take a fresh look at the events and remember that she can write this in anyway she wants. She’s not a magician and can’t change the facts, but she can put in her reflection, a magic that time passing allows her.

Breathe.

Write.

Rest.

Repeat.

Confrontation doesn’t always have to raise anxiety. (As for that dodgy purchase, she’ll have to work on that.)

Re-remembering the Past

Do you ever have one of those days where you focus on the past too much? I know the saying that anxiety is living in the future and depression is living in the past, but here in the present I’m writing about the past and there’s some really intense feelings coming up.

To set the mood I’ve also been going through photographs from that time in my life and listening to the music that I was hearing back then. Not just the stuff I liked, but stuff I hated too, because it all has feelings attached to it and if I do my job right I can get that layered into the text.

The part that is getting me down is seeing that I had no voice back then. There was some unspoken rule in my family that this anxious teenager couldn’t be trusted to make the right decisions for herself and so they were made for me.
I don’t think suffering panic attacks, or having generalised anxiety disorder should preclude anyone from choosing their life path, who they spend it with or what they do with their time.

I’m trying to rewrite this narrative so I have some kind of a voice in the end, even if it’s two decades too late. I’d love to have a do-over and go back in time, but I’m sure everyone has at least one of those moments they’d like to change, anxiety or no anxiety.

So I’m taking all the ‘no you can’t’ statements that were given to me as my story and I’m looking for the ways I responded by showing them ‘yes I can’ and bringing those to the front of the stage, and hopefully when I finish this what I’m left with won’t be a source of memory that causes depression, but will be a memory I can be happy to sit with. I know I can’t change the facts, but I can shift the focus, put the spotlight on the good things, and I get to choose how, in light of the years I’ve lived since, I remember things. I’m not going to be held hostage to the way other people want me to remember my past. Not anymore.

Just Me Here

Sometimes I get writing and don’t realise I’m home alone, that everyone else has places to be and jobs to go to but me. When I do work these days, it’s from home. And I write so that too is from home.

But even agoraphobics crave community. Perhaps I’ll find it through the life of Miss Mona, although she only exists online and to my family, close family. Although my daughter calls it a mid-life crisis I don’t think she understands how close I was to death and now I want to live every moment after three years of hell.

Do what makes you happy, not what others are happy to see you doing.

The Mona Mask

Since childhood I’ve had a fascination with Marilyn Monroe and everything classed as old Hollywood. I love the movies, the look, the storylines, the songs and the dancing.

And so it came to pass that I started wearing make up in primary school, and adding ‘doe’ eyes, as my mother called them.

As the years progressed I found the cover of a ‘look’ that wasn’t the frumpy stay-at-home me allowed me to venture out more often. I even did some acting in a local group and in the local eisteddfod.

One day, I don’t know when, I stopped doing my hair in the usual pompadour and stopped wearing eyeliner and bright lips. The colour in life kind of faded a bit too.

Now here I am, wearing red lipstick at home, doing a pompadour if there’s not been enough time for a wet set and dressing vintage once more. I must say it looks a lot different on my middle aged face than it did as a teenager.

This time I’ve given this alter ego a name, Miss Mona Maree. Maree is actually on my birth certificate and I use that to remind me that part of me is in this alter ego. Mona is a name Marilyn Monroe was said to sign when she was trying to be anonymous, and I’m trying to be a little bit anonymous in my playing with this character. It’s also a hat tip to Marilyn as she was the one that drew me into the 1950s, into old Hollywood and into what was my teenage look.

As of today Miss Mona Maree, (like how her initials are mmm?) is out of the closet and heading down the street to grocery shop in red lippy, bright red hair in a pompadour and wearing a half vintage ensemble.

 

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Hunting fashion

Being agoraphobic means online shopping is the best but being on disability means it’s just too expensive.

Op-shops win every time. They’re a quiet oasis to venture out of the house. That counts as therapy right?

And there’s plenty of clothes. And there’s the ever popular one dollar rack.

I’ve become a regular now I’ve put on weight which has basically necessitated a whole new wardrobe. So why not go retro, vintage, rockabilly, or whatever you’ve always wanted to do?

It’s getting me out of the house and I’m getting compliments from strangers. Way to boost the self-confidence!