I’ve not been my chipper self the past few days. If you really know me, you know that cheerful is the candy coating. Inwardly, I’m often a royal mess. I’ve been thinking a lot about goals, progress, and lack thereof, and I was telling hubby that I can’t seem to get a grip on everything since I haven’t been staying home that long. He gives me that look like I’ve lost my ever-loving mind (I get that a lot) and says, “But you’ve been staying home for four years now.”
Four years? Really?
It was bad enough I graduated college and took a minimum wage job because I didn’t have the good sense to major in something useful. (For the record, you know what you do with an English major? Teach Spanish. That’s what you do.) Around twenty-five I hit some serious doldrums, too. A quarter of a century and I hadn’t accomplished jack in the quest to make this world a better place.
Then I did something really stupid. I told myself I needed to get published by the time I was thirty. Well, guess what? Thirty-six, and I’m still not there yet. I finished up co-chairing the conference with Anna, and I told myself, “Things are going to change. Now you’re really going to be able to get your act together!” Somehow a half a month has gone by, and here I am. Between the conference and our trip to Disney, I gained back every pound I lost between July and October. I have sent out Beulah twice, but I’m well below my 2011 goal of fifty queries. Still haven’t finished Starcrossed. Still haven’t cleaned my house.
I caught myself thinking, “Man! My high school self wouldn’t be this way. Sure, my room would still be messy, but all of my homework would be done, and I would still be writing. I used to be much more focused in high school and college.” Then my husband laughed, and I realized I was speaking aloud again. He said, “Um, you’ve never really been a laser beam of focus, dear. You were more like, ‘I need to write a paper tonight, and—squirrel!’” (Yes, he implied I share some similarities with Dug the dog from UP!) Indignant, I decided to check in on my sixteen-year-old self and see which of us was right.
Precocious Sally: (Looks up from her copy of The Winds of War) Whoa, what happened to you?
Jaded Sally: Life. How’s it going?
Precocious Sally: It’s Sonic. It stinks. Literally.
Jaded Sally: (shrugs) At least you don’t have to pay the bills with this job.
Precocious Sally: (shrugs back) Good thing since it’s only part time and pays $3.25/hour. It doesn’t matter, I’m going to go to college and make something of myself. Maybe a songwriter or a lawyer or a politician….
Jaded Sally: Yeah, about that….
Precocious Sally: What? Oh, no. What have you done? I’m only a few points away from Valedictorian, and I’d be at the top of the class if not for that ridiculous driver’s ed teacher and his book tests that didn’t have anything to do with what he actually taught!
Jaded Sally: Well, studying isn’t everything, you know.
Precocious Sally: Oh no. You stayed here for college, married a redneck, and now you’re living in a van down by the river. I can’t believe this. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
Jaded Sally: No, no. I live in the suburbs of one of the wealthiest cities of the South. Uh, the difference between the two is not as much as you might expect.
Precocious Sally: Where do I live now? Is it exciting? It’s not here, is it?
Jaded Sally: No, it’s Atlanta, but you’d be surprised how much you miss home sometimes.
Precocious Sally: (wrinkles nose) Really?
Jaded Sally: Yeah, really. So about this follow your dreams business, you might want to change your major. Maybe you should major in something practical in college. You know, be a lawyer or at least go ahead and get your teaching degree while you’re there.
Precocious Sally: Teach? Are you out of your mind. That is the LAST thing I would ever want to do.
Jaded Sally: You’d be surprised. Sometimes it was actually fun.
Precocious Sally: Sure. And you fell and hit your head somewhere in the time warp on the way over here.
Jaded Sally: Don’t you want to know if you got married?
Precocious Sally: I guess. I always envisioned myself as more of a career woman.
Jaded Sally: Well, it’s a little harder than you think to take care of kids and work at the same time. But you’ll be happy to know you married a handsome, intelligent, and charming man who has never made you live in a van down by the river.
Precocious Sally: Oh? How will I know when I find him?
Jaded Sally: Oh, you’ll know when you see him. Just like you’ll know when to have your kids.
Precocious Sally (gulps): Kidzzzzzz? As in plural?
Jaded Sally: As in two. As in you might have had more if a) you didn’t think it would push you over the edge and b) you had won the lottery and were thus able to pay for their college educations.
Precocious Sally: So, I didn’t do so badly, huh?
Jaded Sally: (stops to muse) No, I guess you haven’t done so badly after all.
Precocious Sally: I hate to end this little chat, but I really have to get back to my carhop shift.
Jaded Sally: Remember to keep writing!
Precocious Sally: I’m no good at that. I just do that for fun.
Jaded Sally: But you are pretty good at it. You might be able to make something of yourself a little quicker if you’d write a little more and play a little less Uno when you get to college.
Precocious Sally: (rolls her eyes) Uno? That sounds stupid.
Jaded Sally: (sighs) Whatever. Keep writing, okay? Maybe in an alternate universe you actually will get published before you’re thirty.
Precocious Sally: (narrows eyes as if older self has lost it) Oooo-kay. Bye.
Jaded Sally: Oh, and be sure to sue Sonic for sexual harassment when they tell you to switch shirts from the large to the small just so they can continue their game of guessing who has the biggest cup size. And I’m not talking about the Route 44, if you know what I mean.
Precocious yet Naïve Sally: What?
Jaded Sally: Nevermind. Your parents would never pony up for a lawyer for that. Just be smart about drinking and stuff—your instincts are right there. Bye, now.
Precocious Sally: Hey, you!
Jaded Sally: Yeah?
Precocious Sally: Have you at least had fun?
Jaded Sally: Lots of fun.
Precocious Sally: Then I don’t think I should change a thing.
And maybe I wouldn’t change anything after all, so nose to the grindstone. Surely, there’s a little more hope left, a little more faith. Lord willing, there’s a lot more will power and discipline because that’s probably been my problem all along. After all, I have always liked to do things the hard way.