This is Now by Liz Thorpe

I was on my annual family pilgrimage to midcoast Maine, a tiny hamlet where my parents took me starting at age 2, and where I am now bringing my daughter at 18 months when I noticed a short note on the arm of my friend’s wife—the place where you scrawl “Milk” or “Call Mary” in ballpoint pen so you don’t forget.

It said This is now.

Turns out it’s not a washable reminder but a tattoo she had made, in her own handwriting, after reading the concluding pages of Little House in the Big Woods. I’ve been turning it over and over these past seven days, like some kind of miraculously smooth rock, marveling at the way it captures both the forgotten magic and the seemingly insurmountable of everyday life.

This is now!  It’s unfolding, temporal, and worth stopping to recognize: the little snorting sounds my kid makes when she falls asleep on my hip, nose stuffed with a summer cold; the business-owning, car-owning, house-owning, responsible, loving parents who used to play Dungeons and Dragons and Monopoly beside me on rainy days when we were all 8; the cottage where my family slept one week each summer, sharing a rickety bathroom, when my father was still alive; the picture window overlooking water and sailboats that I can look out of while I do my work, on my schedule, as I dictate. The great blessed freedom of that.

And this is now. The unexpected emergency room visit and ensuing convalescence I wasn’t counting on—it’s passing as I type and I feel better each day; the cold, dreary rain and howling wind that makes every rug and sheet clammy and unwelcoming—they’ll dry; the deep, gut sadness each time I read the news of war, of the shooting of kids—will this be the crossed line that forces a new kind of action? It could be. I hope it will be.

When I chose to leave my well defined, respected and generally understood career to start a new one of my own making it all felt very cavalier. This is now!  I was going to do my own thing, make my own thing and it was going to be bigger and better than what I already had. It was mere days before my this was: unknown, unattached, undefined, uninspired. Scared. All in a very present and immediate way.

Two years have passed and I’m still making my own thing. It’s not like cookies. You don’t follow the recipe and get the result 16-18 minutes later. The making is continuous and the this in my now makes me want to jump up and down, and also just makes me want to jump. It depends. Worth paying attention to, I realize, is that they’re both passing, as they should be.


I Have Fear. But I Don’t Have a Business Card. [Part 1] by Liz Thorpe

My last visit to Italy was also my first unattached trip into the professional world. I'd left my job less than three weeks before. Few people in the industry knew that, after ten years, I was a newly free agent. I boarded for Milan feeling deeply satisfied, ready to present myself solely as the spokesperson of Me.

Italy is like balm for my body and soul. Its charms and delights are too numerous to list, but in particular I am at ease because Italian is the only language (aside from English) I can speak even a fleck of, and the ability to communicate makes all the difference. In France or Spain I'm constantly low-grade anxious, wondering how adept I can be at spotting bathrooms in public areas, lest I have to try and ask for one.

One of the brilliancies of Italian is the literal owning of emotion. In English, we say "I'm scared." Our actual language is to take a state of being and modify the verb "I am", or "To be." It's a clumsy formation, and not a terribly accurate one, because it negates all complexity and depth of feeling. One is never Scared. There might be a current of fear or a wall of a terror, but alongside, beneath and around it are countless other nuances. I've never bungee-jumped, but I imagine I would be scared, and exhilarated, and, upon successful jump completion plucky as a rooster. What's so groovy about Italian is that the language is structured to accommodate this complexity. So, to be scared is "to have fear." In Italian, even when you're afraid, you own it. You don't become it. I imagine these emotional and physical states hanging in a closet that one opens and dresses from. There's an implication of choice. Am I going to wear fear today? Or am I going to put that sack back because I don't like how I look in it?

Needless to say, "ho paura," having fear, isn't typical for me in Italy. That trip to Parma changed the status quo. Being the spokesperson of Me was deeply uncomfortable. The first question everyone asks, is "Who are you?" And what they mean is, "What company do you work for, what do you do, and, perhaps, how can you be of use to me?" I didn't have a company. I'm wasn't sure (I'm still not) what I want to do next. Ultimate transgressor that I am, I was at an international conference and I had no business card. I might as well have been the Invisible (Wo)Man. That's how it felt.

Boarding the plane, my narrative was wobbly but promising. Upon arrival, I opened my Italian closet and donned a coordinated outfit of fear, complete with hat, handbag and matching shoes:

I am alone, and lonely...I don’t deserve to be here, and tricked people to get here, and am bad for doing so...Ho paura, ma non ho un biglietto da visita. I'm Scared, and I don't have a business card.

One early evening, alone sipping Campari, that radical, brilliant red, deeply bitter acid-trip of a drink I had a conversation with myself. There was no one having a drink with me, who else was I to talk with?

No one here knows me. No one knows what my job was—who I was—and no one knows what my job might be, and what I am capable of. I am a blank slate for these people. That can be the blank slate of ill-use and irrelevance. Or, that can be the blank slate of possibility. Perhaps I know exactly what I'm doing, and why I'm here. No one need know whether I know. It's all in how I wear it. There is an adventure to be had here.

I came to understand a fundamental thing. A thing I thought I knew about but really knew nothing about. Fear is a choice. I'm not saying you can choose to be unafraid, or that ignoring it, or pretending it doesn't exist will make it go away. But you can Be fear, or you can Have fear. One consumes and identifies you. The other is merely part of you. A part. Of a greater whole. I can pursue the adventure, or I can carry fear instead of a calling card.

Like  choosing to manifest , or choosing to see the great good in your life and acknowledge it with gratitude, or having faith in what you can't see (even when it feels murky and maybe even impossible) the outcome shifts when you tell yourself a different story. And, of course, they are both stories: I am a fraud, or, I am on an adventure. They are equally true and equally untrue and equally incomplete.

In Part 2, the things I said yes to that opened doors on that Italy trip, and made it what it was meant to be: a hell of a good time, with some pretty spectacular meals.


When the Dream Job Just Isn’t Dreamy Enough by Liz Thorpe

When I was 23 years old I walked away from the structure and predictability of a familiar career path and decided that I wanted to learn about cheese. I wondered if it might be possible to make a career out of something simply because I found it intriguing and inspiring and delicious.

I didn’t really understand what I was doing, but I knew there was an insistence I couldn’t ignore. A repetitive whispering, a core of assurance that kept poking me, an older, wiser piece of myself who knew that I was deeply unhappy and that my only shot was to reach for a thing for no other, no better, reason than because I desired it.

I wanted to know about cheese. That was my desire. I thought it was fascinating. There were so many choices. A rainbow of colors, a veritable Benetton ad of shapes and sizes. Looking back, I can see that it was more than just the cheese, though. What I wanted was a job, a career, a life’s work that thrilled me. Something I did every day that I cared about, that I constantly learned from, that actually inspired me and perhaps even the people I met at the odd cocktail party.

And you know what? Cheese stuck. It became my career. And over the years, that first little shop I worked in morphed and evolved and became my life.

You are a more creative thinker than I if you can imagine what it felt like, then, after many years and many successes and indeed, what many (including me!) called a “dream job”, to begin once again to feel the uncomfortable poke of my inner whomever. That daring, visionary, wiser risk taker who held my hand and pulled me into cheese in the first place was once again extending a finger. Crooked toward a big, dark, expanse of The Unknown my gut started suggesting lewd, unimaginable things.

What If…there could be more than my dream job? What If I could keep the parts I loved and ditch the parts I didn’t? What If I could rediscover the parts that I’d cast off, that were dying from neglect, that used to make me giddy with pleasure? What If I could stretch myself, my imagination, my brain, and invent a Dream Job that was even better than the one I had? What would that even look like?

So, finally, after years of debate with my crooked finger, come-hither whisperer, I did the (semi) unthinkable. I quit my job, nearly ten years to the day after I started. I walked away from a place I loved, a place I shaped and was deeply shaped by. I left with no plan, no next step and no intention but this: to follow the part of myself who seems to know where we’re going, on the path to an integrated life of work that is play, and play that enriches my soul.

Oh, and as a major part of that, to rediscover the sheer joy that fed me in the first place.