When I first moved the United States I was 17 years old and within months I entered into an unlikely career as a freelance makeup artist for the movies and fashion industries. I had no previous experience (personal or otherwise) with makeup, and this was really a matter of letting life do the driving. Which it did beautifully, all the way to the homes of stars and movie sets.
It was great, it was strange, and I know for sure that in my agent's mind, my French accent made up for my lack of experience.
Now, here is the thing that I carried along with me as I showed my portfolio to major studios: my age. I was young. So very, very young. And so, in order for my prospective clients to focus more on my accent and growing skills than on my age, really in order to belong, I padded it a bit. Just to get me closer to that 20 year old line, which I saw as much more respectable. It worked, and eventually my age caught up. It does that, if we're lucky.
Fast forward to today.
Here I am in Europe, and starting to feel a strong yearning for both Community and Contribution. The pangs are powerful and painful, and even the blue hue of the Med is not softening them.
So I get into action.
Following my kids' advice, I sign up for Workaway and start applying for a few short term gigs: help with the maintenance of an ashram in Tuscany, teach English in a school near Venice, give support to a budding community center in Sicily... NOTHING. No response. Not even from the school lady who said she needed someone right away. I look at my applications again. Did I misspell something? Did I accidentally come across as difficult? No... I don't think so. And that's when my mind decides to jump on the age story. Look! it shouts. Right there, where it asks how old you are? Don't you see? You are tool old. Sure enough, as is often the case when one wants to listen to a story they've made up, the evidence floods in. Most Workawayers (yes, that's the name) are in their 20s. Once again, I do not belong, my age is out of sync, this time, in the other direction.
That age thing.
Having spent plenty of time in airports lately, I have started to think of age as one of these moving carpets that take people from one terminal to the other. You step on, you wait, and eventually you get out. We all get on as babies, and we all get out ... older. If we're lucky, a lot older. And at every bit of the journey the scenery changes, our physicality changes, our wisdom changes too. In a way, it's very beautiful to me, this carpet that we all ride. It's sweet and it unites us. It asks us to remember that we've been "there," and we will also eventually, be "there." In doing so, it invites compassion, too.
When I was 17, I wanted to jump a little ahead on that moving carpet, so that I may powder movie stars' noses. Now, I am confused that I somehow, without realizing it, go so far ahead that I may not be a good candidate for Ashram sweeping.
Today, I am going to take my middle-of-the-carpet self on a long walk along the sea and trust that in the midst of this discomfort, a beautiful gift is on its way.