Why I’m No Longer Jealous of My Beautiful Friends

I used to believe my love life was cursed. Then I told myself a different story.

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts


Illustration: Cat Finnie

I’I’m driving from Pittsburgh to New Orleans because I might be having a midlife crisis. This is stupid, mind you. Not the driving to New Orleans, which is always a good idea, but the midlife crisis. I’m 39, I’ve published a bunch of novels, I’m an associate professor who’s recently earned tenure, and I’ve just been granted a one-year sabbatical.

I’m told I have it all.

And yet, the day before, I’d been sitting in my house, staring at my calendar and panicking. I’m out of contract and I want to write something new, something challenging. But I’m ricocheting between a half dozen ideas, none of which feel right. I’ve also been struggling, post-tenure, with the idea that I have no more ladder left to climb. What am I supposed to do with myself, now that I can do whatever I want?

As if by fate, I stumble across the perfect writing class in a city I love with a passion. I’ve always been terrified of writing personal narrative — of exposing my vulnerable underbelly. As someone who can’t resist a challenge, this means I’ve become obsessed with writing it.

Conveniently, New Orleans is close to an old friend, who has very recently become…