May 31 is the big day- shave day! The annual Portland St. Baldrick’s event is happening. In the spirit of giving, and of change, I’ll shave my head that day. Generous friends and family have donated to the children’s cancer charity to support the cause, and, I’m sure, for the sport of seeing my “after” photo.
The responses to my news have ranged from “you’re brave” to “you’re crazy.” Neither really captures my feelings about being bald. Mostly I’m just curious. Curious about the feeling, the freedom, the total commitment. At least for a while, I will no longer be able to hide behind my hair, to pretend I’m invisible. It will be impossible not to stand out.
Are the good old days of buying a sports car and having an affair at midlife over?
Sure the sizzle of new red paint and driving fast with the top down still has its appeal, but in reality, the adrenalin blast is short-lived and frankly a little nauseating. I can only speak for myself as a mid-forty’s, mid-income, mid-attractive woman: I don’t have the energy to have an affair, nor the desire to implode my life in order to discover my real self.
So what now?
From reading tweets, posts, and talking to friends, there seems to be a move away from destructive, life changing events in lieu of a more subtle, internal shift. The new midlife crisis is positive; more grounded in change not as an act of rebellion, but one of exploration and growth. The drive to create, learn, and emotionally grow has squelched any carnal whispers of a secret rendezvous. The desire for fulfillment through authenticity and meaning is astoundingly stronger than change through separation or pain.
The new midlife crisis has a shiny silver lining. It involves travel to new places, deeper investment in good relationships, painting, dancing, writing, and acting without fear. Most importantly, this new approach is filled with emotional truth that feels not like an option, but an existential necessity. So welcome to the new, brighter and more hopeful face of midlife, and let’s say goodbye to the whole crisis thing.
In an effort to get to know my characters better, I’m exploring change. What makes one person change, grow, and adapt in the face of challenge and another regress or cling hopelessly to a fruitless past? Does change reveal a more authentic self or just a more polished interpretation of the practiced self?
February feels like the month of few words. Ideas, thoughts, and stories reside in my head but nothing seems to make it to the page. The blank page stares back, empty, hoping, waiting. I sit poised, pen in hand, longing for the ink to flow, but the words just jumble and clog.
So in lieu of finding my own original words, I will turn to the beautiful words of others.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.
Melanie Serpa is the late-blooming author of Through the Ganesh Gate, about a young woman who leaves her husband while traveling in India and goes on alone to see the world. To research her story settings, Melanie traveled abroad to amazing places and met interesting people that informed her cultural experience. In the 11 months that she traveled, she was able see 26 countries on 5 continents.
She returned home ready to start a new adventure. Melanie embarked on a Masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at Marylhurst University. During her studies she fell in love with the process of writing: stacks of books, long hours pouring over lines to get just the right composition. Academic writing ended at graduation, but her love for words did not. She enrolled in a Clark College class, Wildfire Writing, with a treasure trove of travel stories and character dreams in her mind. The dynamic approach of Wildfire Writing was just the thing to spark her novel writing journey. Several years and thousands of cups of coffee later, her novel was completed.
When not writing, Melanie works an Occupational Therapist helping people recover from hand injuries. She lives near Portland, Oregon where she spends many happy hours at her son’s soccer practice and cheers herself hoarse at the Portland Timbers MLS soccer games.
The passport slipped from Maddy’s fingers and her world blurred for a moment. The crisp, blank pages fluttered for an instant before they collided with the cold tile floor. She stood at her kitchen counter staring down at it. The passport was new, stiff and formal; the gold eagle embossed in profile. She lifted herself, pressed her palms to her forehead and leaned into her hands with a groan. What had she gotten herself into? She was not a world traveler, or any kind of traveler for that matter. Why had she agreed to this trip?
And then there was Richard. They barely got along at home even with all the built-in distractions. How were they going to travel together without killing one another? Maddy felt a sickening panic rise in her chest like a kettle nearing a boil. She wanted to scream, to run, but as always, she took a deep breath to slow her racing heart. She wiped her watering eyes and picked up the passport again. She would find a way to get through this. Maybe she would even enjoy seeing the world. If she could make it to Nepal, she could walk and walk for days. She would just have to hold it together until then; everything will be alright, she muttered.
Terrified of flying and in a crumbling marriage, Maddy Kendrick agrees to go on a trip with her husband to treat both problems. She soon realized that backpacker travel is no romantic picnic. Faced with unknown cultures and terse criticism from Richard, Maddy feels stuck between wishing she was free and needing her husband. Traveling in Nepal and India brings out the best and worst of their relationship. While visiting an ancient Indian fort in the city of Jaipur, Maddy finally snaps. She flees over the fort drawbridge out into the city streets.
Alone and adrift she follows the original trip plan to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. She meets a host of interesting, wise, and seasoned travelers who teach her not only how to travel on her own, but how to find what is most important in her life. Just as she is about to reconnect with Richard, she receives news that will change her life forever.