When everyone’s gone and the house is quiet, I think about what my life might be like in the future. With Mom sleeping in the next room, I realize that she won’t always be with me, and I will have to go on…
We’ve all got our dreams, and time and tide shape them as the years go by. I had so many, many over the past 50+ years I couldn’t begin to list them, starting with becoming a ballerina.
What little girl growing up in the 1950’s didn’t see herself in a pink tutu twirling on satin toe shoes and being lifted in the air by a handsome danseur? But I had a muscular, acrobatic/tap-dancer’s body even though I was a little bitty thing, and the other girls in class were picked for the choice parts. My dreams were bigger than life, and if I couldn’t be center stage, I didn’t want it!
So, I turned to play writing. I wrote a script for Sleeping Beauty and my father made copies at work on his mimeograph machine. (Do you remember those enormous things you had to crank by hand?) I gathered all the kids in the neighborhood and directed them in what was probably an awful production, given that I was a martinet and really serious about the whole thing, and they just wanted to play. Work, to me, was fun! But we did have invitations and snacks and ultimately, an opening day. I must have survived as I am here to tell the tale and have never stopped writing. (I’m not sure how many friends I had after that day though.)
The good thing that came out of that enterprise was that I learned to type. Not hunt and peck, or five-fingers like James Mitchner, but real Qwerty at 60wpm on a manual typewriter. Mom always said that as long as you could type and knew a bit of shorthand, you’d get by all right. (Mom graduated from Katharine Gibbs, that ‘venerable institution for executive amanuenses,’ so she would say that!) Little did I realize that that was the single-most important thing that I would need to know to make it in the Big, Bad, World…
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, women were still fighting the stereotypical image of wife and mother – maybe teacher or nurse, but the only other alternative was ‘gal Friday.’ It didn’t matter how capable or educated you were. You could stand on your head and spit wooden nickels, but inevitably, the same question would be asked:
“Can you type?”
And so it began.
I stopped fighting. Yes, I could type. I was a master at the Apple IIe, then Wang, followed by IBM, Lotus 123, Harvard Graphics, Word Perfect, all the Macintosh programs, Draw, and on to Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc., etc. I had a great job that took me all over the country. I rubbed elbows with the uber-wealthy and famous, and stayed in 4-star hotels. But I was still a secretary.
In the early ’90’s, I thought seriously about becoming an attorney. I worked for a man at Ernst & Young who had three advanced degrees: one in business accounting, one in engineering, and the third in corporate law. I was often called upon to act as a paralegal for this Renaissance man, and it was he who first put the idea into my head. He said that I could get a degree – not from a big school – but ultimately could do real estate or divorces. “No one cares how old you are when you practice that kind of law.”
I was going through a messy divorce with my first husband and I was distressed by the legal fees that were mounting for ‘document review,’ but nothing was actually getting done. So, I went pro se. I had to complete and file a lot of forms, research the law, write a memorandum with relevant attachments, and suffer a lot of people quoting that bit about ‘a woman who defends herself has a fool for a client,’ but I didn’t care. In the end, I saved thousands of dollars, and the presiding judge commended me on my “excellent documentation and understanding of the law and the legal system.” I got a transcript of the whole thing because of that statement. It was like getting an “A” in a graduate level course, and I began to think I actually could be a lawyer.
But the tuition, etc., stood in my way, and I just kept being an assistant, which was really only a glorified secretary.
Then there was the dream I had in the early 2000’s of becoming a psychologist specializing in bio-medical therapy. When I got my undergrad degree, there was no such thing as bio-psychology. I would have changed from English in a heartbeat if I could have chosen Nutrition and Clinical Health as a major. I filled out the forms and started applying for financing. I really wanted to do that as I have always been into natural health and did my thesis on ADHD and the Role of Nutrition in Behavior. But then I saw that after getting the MA, doing the internship, and finding a job in the field, I would have made less than half of what I earned as an assistant – plus I’d have all the school loans!
So, I just kept on being an assistant.
As the years passed, I’ve given up horseback riding, skiing, sailing, swimming, diving, jogging, bike riding and I can’t seem to do yoga anymore. I always dreamed of the day when I could retire. I only had a sketchy view of what I would do, but it would include writing, gardening, playing the piano and traveling.
And now I am retired, but I’m not doing any of those things. (Did you look up amanuensis? I should have put that on my resume because I am STILL one of those!)
Oh, I occasionally write in my journal, but it’s mostly a list of things I need to accomplish; my gardening consists of pulling weeds (I got a nasty case of poison ivy a few weeks ago); music is enjoyed on the radio and is not of my own making; and the only traveling I do is at 4:00 pm when Rick Steves Europe comes on the television and Mom and I stop to have tea and watch.
Yesterday, his show was about Paris.
Years ago, I said that I wanted to go to there with someone I loved. I did. I went with my sister and we had an absolutely wonderful time. It was truly magic!
But I should have been more specific about the most romantic place on the planet! The second time, I did go there with someone I loved.
Why do I keep forgetting that the way to make dreams come true is to see them as if they already exist? Some people say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But the reverse is the truth: “I’ll see it when I believe it.”
So I will henceforth envision my future in great detail. What do I want? So many good things still to come, and I do believe that I will have a chance to see Paris again. The next time, I want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower with the man I love!