49: Forever – Waiting

Even though I have attained the age by which a proportion of men retire and begin to ease them­selves into old age (though, in fact, my state pension cannot be claimed for a few more years), I am all the same hounded by that deep and power­ful impression that has always been near the front of my conscious mind since the age of nineteen, that my life’s mission will soon commence – what­ever it is – and that in this new condition, I will feel differently about things, value things, value myself, differently. For over four decades I have sensed that my life’s mission – whatever it is – is about to begin, and I so very much want it to begin. Of course, I have already discovered, and completed my other mission, to care for my sick wife for the entire duration of her adult life, and I know that many people will look askance and think, but that was his life’s mission, surely? It was a mission, yet it never at any point attained the sta­tus of the mis­sion. That unknown mission, so my gut feeling tells me, is yet to begin. I accept now, after all this time, that it may never begin. That sense of hoping for, needing, a beginning, is just that, an always-to-be-unfulfilled sense of not being where I want to be. But, dear goodness, it is such a strong feeling, so dominating my waking experi­ence, it is as if everything is muted and suppressed, further away than it should be, not properly expe­rienced at all.

On this new mission that will not present itself, I am at least content, perhaps even confident, in some measure fulfilled or wholly fulfilled, if not objectively valued myself by the wider world, at least finding value myself in what I am doing, that this thing, or rather its fruits, will be of use to oth­ers, something that will give my life a purpose that will lift it above the purposeless that so weighs on me at the moment, and has weighed on me since childhood.

But what a strange circumstance this is! I may choose from so much, read anything – in English – from the world’s massive, massive repository of books and articles, perhaps even find a way of learning new skills, earning new qualifications (if I could have my life over again, I would put archae­ology near the top of my list). Yet I do not know how to choose from this bewildering array of alternatives. I think someone in my predicament would be better off in the pre-Roman Iron Age, where my choices for what to do in life could be counted on the fingers (not including the thumb) of one hand: become a farmer, an artisan, a black­smith, or a healer. But the world has grown com­plicated, and I do not know what it wants of me. Time is running short, and I suspect, with a sense of dread, that this unknown path I cannot find, so cannot tread, will elude me all my days.

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