Lifelong Search

Esther gets better. They don’t tell you that. Here I am, approaching the end of The Bell Jar, thinking the novel is going to end in her wretched suicide or a ghastly vision of her stuck in an asylum until she dies of shock treatments by overzealous “doctors.” But she gets out. At the end of the book, the girl regains her sanity and re-enters society.
However, she has no way of knowing if her sanity will stick. In the final chapter, Esther says, “I wasn’t sure at all. How did I know that someday – at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere – the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”
            My questions about my life may not be certifiable but it is insanity of a sort, and the insanity in it is Esther’s bell jar, hovering overhead. The uncertainty may come back at any moment. I thought I made a choice: to write. At the time it seemed simple. I had direction, motivation, and drive in a way that I never had before. As I navigate this path, my once-simple decision blurs. What do I want? What am I going to do (with my life)? These questions reappear again and again.
My father wrote me a letter from the east coast, when he went to New York for his Cornell reunion. He wrote: “Seeing classmates I haven’t seen in 44 years was interesting; some are busy, some are retired, some gave up on architecture and are writing or making pottery. Everybody’s trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. It never changes. We’re all searching.” And I thought I would reach a turning point, one decision in which I would figure out my life, and everything after that would be easy. I found my father’s note very comforting. People in their sixties are still trying to figure their lives out. This is not a line from point A to point B. My questions are not going to disappear. Rather than fearing the descent of madness at any moment, I might as well embrace the journey. 

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