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  • I had a tough season, of sorts.
    Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: I’ve had a season of shedding skin.
    Skins. Multiple layers.
    Now at last I feel I have arrived in an interesting place.

    For a long time I have considered my life’s path an upward slope, a mountain to conquer. There was school to finish, diplomas to earn, a job to find, a family to build, a career as an author to pursue.
    For years I walked this imaginary path. I would get out of breath, and the lush green high-altitude meadows would seem ever out of reach. But I kept going, convinced that one day I would reach the plateau that distinguished the beginners from the experienced, the amateurs from the professionals. Once I got there, surely everything would fall into place.

    (You can see where this is going, right?)

    I suffered some setbacks. I started second-guessing my job. Mothering two stepchildren was a very unrewarding and emotionally draining enterprise. Birthing and raising my own son was a wonderful yet utterly exhausting experience. I managed to publish four novels in ten years, but I never caught on to the kind of flow in which your next book is expected and appreciated by both audience and publisher. Instead, I toiled, and I carried on, knocking on doors over and over again, and waiting – hoping – for the high altitude plateau to arrive at last.

    It caught me off guard somewhere over the summer. I had been in the process of slowly becoming more conscious of what I truly wanted to do with my life in order to make a difference in the world, and I had been letting go of some dear old pre-conceived goals and ideals I felt I had outgrown. It felt like shedding skin. And it felt good.
    Then something stalled. Evolution grinded to a halt, doubt crept in. I lost all sense of direction and purpose. I wasn’t getting anywhere, it seemed.

    I was in our family car, cruising along some curving Spanish highway, when the image presented itself in full force to my mind. I saw myself, standing in a meadow. The grass was summer dry and straw-coloured. The image had a worm’s eye perspective: all I could see was grass, and me in it from the knees up, surrounded by nothing but blue sky.
    In that instant I realized: I’m already there. I have in fact reached the altitude I was aiming for all along. I’m on the plateau. Only… there’s nothing here.

    I had imagined it to be a place where I could set up my tent – or build my cabin – and make myself a home. Explore, ever venturing deeper into the beauty of it all. Living and enjoying. And now here I was – stuck. Nothing but grass and sky. No meadow, no cabin, no more slopes to climb or trails to follow. I wondered: is this a midlife crisis? It sure felt like one.

    It took me a while (and a very enlightening conversation with my dear pure-souled sister) to understand the following: yes, I have indeed made it to the plateau. I have reached all those goals I had initially set out to procure. I have earned my place in the world, as mother, author, journalist and professional alike. I might not be the bestselling author I once wished myself to be, but I have nothing left to prove to anyone. I have matured, I know who I am and I am loved, appreciated and taken seriously.
    I have in fact reached what I thought of as my destination.

    So now what?

    Now – and this is what took a bit of adjusting to get my mind around – is not a dreary sea of dried grass. It is actually a place of luxury. I don’t have to climb steep slopes anymore, unless I feel like it. Instead I can just look around at my leisure and decide which direction suits me best. Perhaps there’s a sweet wind blowing and it’s nice to follow it for a while. Perhaps there’s a butterfly I want to chase. Perhaps I just want to lie flat on my back looking up at the clouds for a while. That’s just fine. All is fine. I can be here as long as I like. The privilege of this position is that I am at liberty to have fun.

    I realized I had been climbing for a very, very long time. The dream of the plateau – naïve though it was – kept me going. And as I was reaching the tree line, somewhere in the course of last year, I started shedding skin that had become superfluous. It felt like a liberation, until it left me naked. And now I realize that, too, is a liberation.

    So now I’m on the plateau. No more skin to shed.
    Now it’s time to start having fun.
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