The housecleaners kick me out of the house today.
So I find myself at the local library, crouched behind a pile of self-help books, staring through the window at a clump of high school kids in the parking lot.
Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. What five-letter-word-that-starts-with-“b” can afford a housecleaner these days?
That’s not the point.
It’s the kids who are the point. Our next generation – what are they calling them these days? ““ the ones who’ll inherit this fine, slightly used world we’re throwing away; the ones who look like they’re still wearing smelly diapers.
They all seem so”¦ young. There’s no way they’re in high school, are they? I can’t be that old…
My mind sprints. What woman’s doesn’t these days? Has it been that long? And what have I done with all those years?
By this age, I should have been famous, racked up a cool mill in the bank, been on the verge of retiring, had a few best-seller books under my belt, been traveling the world giving lectures that thousands would attend, been running several profitable businesses by now, had exactly 2.5 kids and a huge house in the suburbs, not to mention the other holiday homes in Hawaii and New Zealand…
Oh, right. I’d be happy. Very happy.
Let me tell you, despite the cleaners (who I try not to shamelessly exploit like my guilty-as-charged landscaping company), I’d have to steal Johnny Depp’s heart from Vanessa, get sloshed with him in the Fountain of Youth, and collapse into his arms in a blissful stupor on the white sands of a desert isle if I were to believe that I’ve actually achieved what I said I would.
So my dream-film plays out as my fingers drum over the title, “Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow.”
What if, just what if, someone wanted me to speak at these kids’ high school graduation ceremony. I wonder, what would I say?
Would I be able to inspire them with words of wisdom about the world they’re about to enter, tell them that if they become a doctor or a lawyer as their parents insist, they’ll be successful, tell them to work hard, save money, compromise themselves and their lives to chase the wills of others, buy a big house, employ housecleaners and landscapers, live the American dream that maybe, just maybe, they would become happy and successful?
When the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008, so did my job as General Manager of the Universe.
After I finished high school, I went to university. I graduated by age twenty-five, and was professionally employed. I listened to my parents, I worked hard, I got married, I got a great job. I was going places and doing things.
And then, suddenly, it wasn’t enough. I was still unhappy. I moved to another country, got divorced, formed a company and used all my life savings to do it, got fired, sold my shares, formed another company, got a business degree, borrowed more money from friends and family. The economy busted, I made mistakes, I kept losing money, I couldn’t get ahead, I felt like I couldn’t do anything right and wasn’t able to have children because the stress was eating my body alive.
In the back of my mind, I heard voices. You’re not good enough, you’re too stupid, you’re colored, you’re a woman, don’t risk that much, get a regular job, listen to me, why are you doing that, stop dreaming and get practical, this is your problem, you didn’t work hard enough, it’s your fault you’re not… happy.
I’d like to say it was an act of God. I’d like to say that golden light shone on my soaking cheeks one day, and I was handed my Destiny on Ten Golden Tablets. But it wasn’t like that at all.
An odd couple strolls past the window, bathed in Arizona sunshine. He’s lanky with electrocuted black hair, clutching a few books to his concave chest ““ do they still use those things? She’s short, bone thin with black cheese mascara, lime green hair, and butterfly tattoos on her shoulder, underlined with a coral spaghetti-strap.
I wonder, what do they dream of at night those kids? Who do they want to be, what do they want to do ““ who do they think they are?
The clock tells me it’s time to go home. I pick up Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Own North Star and weave through the tin bookshelves.
And then suddenly, I stop.
A child whines and tugs her mother’s arm. I hear the tap-tap of the computer keyboard and the cracked laugh of a pubescent boy at the far end of the room, and I know the answer.
At graduation, standing in front of all those bright, hopeful faces, I wouldn’t tell them a thing. Not a single thing.
I’d simply show them the pages of my life, the failures and the disappointments, the voices that said no, that said I couldn’t, that said I shouldn’t. I’d show them the battles I’ve fought and won, and lost, to prove to them, to prove to myself again and again who I was and what it was I wanted. I’d show them the passion that drives me still and that makes me feel fulfilled, purposeful, and happy to be just as I am.
No matter what this world thinks.