Fact: the older I get, the more years I run out of, and the less possibilities to accomplish great things exist for me. Certain paths in life are now blocked. Or compromised. It doesn’t suck! It’s just part of life. I’m realizing that the luxury of dreaming is getting replaced with the impetus to get things done. I have to get picky with what I want to do because I’m running our of hours and years to accomplish all of the things I have been interested in doing for years. I need to choose wisely and it’s not even bittersweet this time. It’s a real part of growing the hell up and realizing the obvious–all will not be possible. I actually came to this the other day and felt like I shed another layer of skin.
I was seven years old at one point and convinced I was going to “make the whole world beautiful and everything in it” by being an artist. I literally thought that’s what artists did. Like it wasn’t ambitious. Just part of the job. Those words are recorded on a piece of widely-ruled notebook paper that I wrote on in 1987.
Fast forward to almost two decades later. My $100,000 diploma from an art school sits on top of my beagle’s dog cage in the laundry room. I’m obligated to 55 hours a week to an internet company that is generic as Initech plus an average of 8 hours on top of that for random side gigs that net me enough money to smoke a few cigars and have a cuban or pasta dish with my best friend.
I’m not unhappy. Not completely compromised. Not pissed at the man like I was when I was just out of college and realized the hard way that the real world didn’t care how smart I was or how much I thought I knew. Now I’m just rounding another bend in life and realizing that realistically, I’m not gonna be able to run five marathons (because one isn’t enough) and may not find the time or opportunity to write and teach my own curriculum at a university like I foolishly assumed I would. When you’re in your young twenties you tend to confuse your ability to do something with the assumption that it’s gonna happen because life owes you based on your potential. NOT!
I’ve always wanted to be bilingual, and I’m damn near embarrassed that I’m not. I was very impressed that my undergraduate mentor was fluent in five languages. She was smart and thought carefully about the way she presented herself in academic and political settings–an incredible woman with all of these languages under her belt. Something tells you not to fuck with someone if they take the time to earn those credentials. Somehow you know that their contribution to the world, or just their understanding of the world is something to be respected. After meeting her, I felt I had no excuse to not bust my ass and use part of the brain that God was gracious enough to give me. I figured (assuming once again like an asshole) that I’d top out at two foreign languages– my “own” plus English. Not hardly…
Six months out of my undergraduate degree I started working at a bar where forty percent of the clientele were migrant fruit farm workers straight from Mexico. If I wanted the men to pay their bills and keep them drinking I had to engage them in conversation in a language that I knew three words of. Sitting in adjacent bar stools and grinning at them wasn’t cutting it. I needed a better connection. I resented the idea of a language barrier in general. I wanted to hold the candid, fluid conversations with them that I enjoyed with other people. I bought Spanish language text books in anticipation of the real-world application of my studious endeavors. I learned my numbers and colors. I began to put phrases together. I asked my customers to teach me a few words. I enjoyed the connection with them and the comraderie I assumed they felt as they got to teach a dumb, receptive American. And so Spanish became one of my diplomatic, post undergraduate goals in life. Like most other things, I approached it full-speed-ahead. Over confident and ballsy…
Five years later, it’s since been abandoned. And some part of me thinks its gonna be cake to pick back up because that’s the idealistic self I can’t help but hang on to. Will I ever learn Spanish? And furthermore, will I ever learn French? Will I have to tell young people to “learn Spanish because I never did. I always wanted to learn.”
Will I ever be able to use the phrase “my son” or ” my daughter” or “my family” like so many others around me candidly do? Although I am a complete person without children or husband, I will never have a life fully lived without them. I don’t like being part of the demographic that doesn’t have kids and therefore just doesn’t “get it” or hasn’t “earned it.” I love other people’s children, but I want my own. I’ve waited so long for a family, having had one that was so bad I had to get away from it forever. I have no idea what it is like to live in a home with my own like nearly everyone around me does. Those that have often do not have time or understanding for those that do not. They are often caught up in their own present fulfillment and lose the ability to connect with people that don’t have what they need. There is not a day in my life that I don’t wish I had my own family, and part of my peace is imagining that there is a place for them out there already–a house inhabited by someone else that will one day be my home. Knowing that it is a physical place that already exists–with real walls–real dirt–a real concrete driveway helps. It’s there–I’m just not there yet… it makes the journey survivable.
And back to that house. I want a damn house. This isn’t a white picket fence or rose garden dream. I just want something I am not renting. I have rented for all of my young adult life and at one point was nearly able to afford a down payment. And like what happens to so many of us… something unexpected and unfair happened and this goal was pushed back further. It needs to happen. Most people I know are on their second or third house. I thought I’d be there by now. I curb my disappointment by reminding myself that I’m not that unique. Everyone has set-backs. The day I sign on a home will be even sweeter.
Will I ever get that book published? The older I get the more people I meet that have actually written a manuscript and not gotten it published. I’m starting to think it’s not that impossible or rare so even less excuse to not do it. Once again, I felt that my story (not unique) was worthy of a book. Who doesn’t?
My thoughts have turned from I’ve always wanted to… to well you may not get to. I’m getting older and really busy with job and minutiae. The things I want to do or assumed I’d be able to do I’m realizing may not be as possible. I can’t let it be negative.
When you’re a kid you can imagine riding a horse, speaking five languages, and being a doctor all in one day. Get older and only one or none may be possible. You assume a vast number of things with candor. Today I admit to pouring a little bit of water on the fire to avoid disappointing myself. That’s probably bullshit, but it’s part of learning to balance my expectations with real life. I still expect a surprising amount to happen after some hard work. My exhaustive list of wishes and dreams has gotten reasonably smaller. French probably ain’t gonna happen. I will live with it.