Monday, September 10, 2012

Well, How Did I Get Here?


There's a line I love in Mrs. Doubtfire, one of those wonderful movies that you can see over and over and still enjoy. Really, it's on basic cable all the time, and I always stop and watch for at least a few minutes. 

Anyway, Robin Williams (in pants as Daniel, not in a dress as Euphegenia) says:

"Ever wish you could freeze frame a moment in your day, and look at it and say 'this is not my life?' "

I've had a lot of those moments lately. I'll be driving somewhere to run an errand or doing yet another load of laundry or editing a client's copy (for like the eighteenth time) and I'll think back on the hopes and aspirations I had years ago. And I wonder ... WTF?

Or, to quote David Byrne this time: "Well, how did I get here?"

My teen daughter just started high school. Agh! Between having a freshman who is about to turn fifteen, starting to go grey, watching my waist thicken, and experiencing new aches and pains at the gym, I'm feeling particularly old. When I get out of bed in the morning, I make those "Ennnnhhhh ..." sounds that Felix Unger used to make in The Odd Couple.

Yes, I'm old. And, I'm also reminiscing a lot. No matter how different my high school was from my daughter's (different towns, different sizes, different male/female ratios), getting her acclimated has triggered some pretty powerful flashbacks.

I loved, loved, loved school. The classes, the teachers, the assignments (really). But, despite my nerdly ways, I was really looking forward to going out into the world and living a grownup life. Here's what I assumed that life would be like ...

• I'd be a famous actress
• I'd write a bestselling novel
• I'd live in a loft 
• That loft would be in a glamorous city
• I'd go to the Oscars every year (and the Emmy's and the Tony's)
• I'd have a miniature dachshund
• I'd have a home in Cap Ferrat

Here is what I certainly didn't assume ...

• I'd give up acting in college
• I'd write a non-fiction, fairly academic marketing book that was never anyone's definition of a bestseller
• I'd live in a 200-year-old crooked house

• In a sleepy little town in New England
• I'd watch the awards shows — on TV — every year but never stay awake until the end
• I do have the germanic dog
• But, I do not have that home on the French Riviera — not yet

When we're young, we just assume that we will live an extraordinary life. Nobody says, "When I grow up, I want to write direct marketing campaigns for business-to-business technology clients." No one wishes, "Gosh, I hope I can someday be the recording secretary of the PTA." No one thinks, "Wow, maybe someday I can spend hours and hours of quality time sitting in traffic." At least I didn't. 

But, here I am.

My daughter has never been interested in the performing arts, despite delivering a showstopping single line in the third grade production of The Patriots. ("The rest of the world watched in wonder. Never before had a colony declared its independence.") But, she has dreams. Competing in elite world-class equestrian events, owning her own stable, meeting Darren Criss. Y'know, realistic goals like that.

I'm a little past my prime and some of my dreams are a little past their "use by" dates. But, I don't discourage my daughter. Her fantasies are not mine (note the total absence of the word "horse" in either my before or after list), but it's important to imagine the possibilities.

I'll add one more quote to end this post. It's from the late Phyllis Diller:

"Aim high, and you won't shoot your foot off."

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