For the last few weeks I’ve been waking up each morning at exactly 3:30. I know this because I instinctively reach over to hit the backlight button on my alarm clock and see how far I am from dawn. My dog curled up beside the bed stirs and lifts his head. Upon realizing I am not about to produce either a walk or a meatloaf, he goes back to sleep.

Not me.

My life revisits me at 3:30. A snapshot collection; the opposite of a highlight reel. I relive the worst days, I feel again my greatest humiliations. The hot-faced sadness of my 12 year old self is close around me like a blanket. I take a wincing walk through my own bad decisions. All the worst of me sits around the bedroom like a vicious middle school slumber party looking for someone to turn on. Good memories never jolt you out of sleep but the bad ones are always waiting in the wings. I marinate in my faults. I feel the constraints of my life closing around my wrists like vines. I wish I were anyone else.

It’s probably normal to have doubts about the work/life you choose (if you are fortunate enough to have had such choices) but in this job doubts are harder to manage. Having jumped through a fair number of hoops and waited out any number of obstacles to even get the job any doubt is magnified by the niggling dread that all along you’ve been chasing an illusion. So at 3:30 you lay in bed and wonder whether you can trust your own judgment any more. Should you of all people really be running your life?

It’s not so bad — my life, that is. It has its very good points, it has some not good. On the whole my life is a charmed one. Only I wish I were awakened in the night by good memories to usher me towards morning. The memory of my mother’s hands on my forehead when I was sick as a kid; the taste of strawberry shortcake at a fairground; a rainy day with a good book; the lacerating cool of the Pacific Ocean on the Washington coast; the safety of another body curled against mine before I fall asleep. These things remind me of all the good parts on the path so far. Remind me to be less afraid of the steps coming next.

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