By Guest Blogger Dana Kobernick
As I slide into my fiftieth birthday with all the grace and composure of a train half off the rails, I can’t help but go through the typical machinations of a woman approaching – or past – middle age. Until now, I have led a fulfilled life. I recognize my fortune that manifests primarily through my rich relationships with family members and friends. I have had a productive career, indulged my passion for travel and been active in community initiatives.
Still, there are regrets.
I have not (yet) married and I don’t have kids. Over the years, there have been brief moments of reflection, during which I questioned whether this was something I truly wanted or if I was buying into the social expectation that I get married and have a family. Those ruminations produced the clarity I needed to affirm my true desire to be a wife and mother. But due to circumstance, timing or other such explanations as to why this did not happen, today I do not fulfill either of these roles.
When so many claim their children as their greatest achievement, their legacy, it becomes that much more challenging to define your own measures of success. Notwithstanding what I have already acknowledged, I still find myself searching for some sort of validation, for something to show for the fifty years that I have spent on this planet.
Many of my friends, also heading toward this milestone birthday, are thinking about similar issues. Interestingly, one of them, who is in a happy marriage and has three thriving children, lamented the fact that she did not have a career. Another friend is now having to weather the fallout of a broken marriage. And another admitted to me that she regrets not having pursued her dream of becoming a travel photographer.
None of this is particularly surprising. That everyone has regrets is as much a cliché as my mid-life crisis, and no great revelation. But it made me rethink how I view and value my own accomplishments.
I have spent much of my professional life in communications and writing has always been an integral part of my career. But I have also used writing as my creative outlet to voice opinions, share experiences and explore thoughts. I can trace my love for writing back to my high school days, when I reveled in my ability to create a graphic description of a brutal shark attack. My writing is no longer quite so morbid but my passion for this form of creative expression, for producing a story where only a blank page existed previously, has persisted since that time.
For me it was just a matter of time until I would tackle a novel. And once I found my muse, I grabbed hold and didn’t let go until I gave birth to a 220-page manuscript. It’s my baby, one that I have nurtured and watched evolve over the course of five years. It has been joyful and exhilarating and also frustrating, daunting and overwhelming. But it is a great source of pride.
To be clear, I am not literally comparing a book to a baby. Nor am I suggesting that this endeavour can fill the void of not having children. Nothing can. But it is something that I can claim as my own creation, as something that I have produced because of an unyielding desire to chase the dream.
When I first started writing, I knew that if I wanted to publish my book through the traditional channels, I would be opening myself up to a boatload of rejection. Completing the novel, on the other hand, was fully in my control. And I realized that failure to publish would only occur when I stopped trying. As author Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City.”
So the dream stays alive. And I can proudly say that I am going after it, however long it takes. But whatever happens, I feel like I have accomplished something already.
Yes, there are pangs of regrets. There are voids that cannot be filled. And I wish there were do-overs. But to the extent that do-overs are not possible, I know that I am better off recognizing what is and what can be, instead of what isn’t or what will never be. At least for me, I’m hoping that I will not only accept my fiftieth birthday, but embrace it as well.
After all, some people don’t make it to fifty. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Dana Kobernick is a communications consultant and writer living in Montreal.
Read her blog post on The Hardest Part of Writing a Novel.
Dana was my sleepaway camp counselor when I was eight years old. Please share your thoughts with Dana, she will be reading. I’d also love to know, do YOU have any regrets? Do you have stones still unturned?