Please indulge me in this walk down memory lane, there is a point to it, I promise!
You can't go home again. Well, you kinda can, I mean I do often, but it isn't always great. Home for me is Phoenix, Arizona, and it can be an emotionally charged experience. My dad is no longer with us and my mom can be a bit ornery.
Besides that, absolutely nothing is the same. The schools I attended are closed. The malls where I worked and hung out are gone. Sadly, Phoenix doesn't value its history and knocks down landmark buildings (like Macayo's on Central!) as though they're just in the way. That is tough for a sentimental person like me. Of course many of my favorite haunts that do remain are fraught with the angst ridden memories and what ifs that we all carry.
When I went to college (the first time...) let's just say I wasn't exactly a stellar academic success. I didn't realize the value of living up to my potential. Actually, I didn't realize what potential was or how to use it. Mom and dad didn't quite see the value in college, although they were willing to foot the bill.
They wanted me to be a teacher, a thought that was abhorrent to me. We kind of compromised on a business degree, but I really wasn't excited. My lack of interest in macro economics (and my extreme interest in parties and shopping) really wreaked havoc on my GPA.
I loved to hang out at the Phoenix Art Museum and what I really wanted to do was major in Art History and be a museum curator somewhere, oh, like the Vatican. I envisioned an early retirement of course, due to marrying a zillionaire, and I'd spend my twilight years as a volunteer museum docent somewhere, oh, like the Guggenheim.
Despite the fact that all my grades in my art history classes were As, my parents just did not understand that career option. They emphasized "getting on" somewhere with benefits, like the phone company, or a grocery store. I realize now that their vision of the work world involved filling out an application, getting hired and working there until retirement. Nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't the only way. They discouraged, dissuaded and just plain scared me from pursuing my passion. At the time, I didn't see clearly in terms of passions or dreams vs working somewhere for a paycheck.
I just got back from a quick couple of days in Phoenix, and the emotionally charged situations didn't stop coming. I'll spare the details of my lunch with mom, but if you have read my book, Love It Go, you will have a pretty good idea.
I made a pilgrimage to the Phoenix Art Museum. The pieces in the permanent collection are like old friends; nobody saw me crying when I was reunited with Landscape at Varengeville: Gray Weather by Camille Pissaro. I wrote a term paper on this painting, and it was the first A I'd received during my time at ASU.
Around the corner, I chatted with an older woman (well, admittedly only slightly older!) who, it turned out, was studying pieces in the collection as part of her docent training. As I watched her visiting with St. Sebastian and his arrows, it was like seeing my previous future being lived out. She did seem to be enjoying it. I felt like I was having a mild out of body experience.
What happens when we give up a dream? At the museum, for a brief moment, it seemed that it is simply given to someone else. Well, obviously just having the dream is never enough. Having the self worth and the belief that you can make it happen makes the difference. I don't know what this woman did along the way to her docent-hood. My guess is that she realized art was her passion and she made an effort to have it in her life.
Later that day I came face to face with another old fork in the road at the Red Hot Chili Peppers show. I was mad for RHCP when they first came on the scene in the early 80s, and was especially crazy over the lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, a primal, tube sock wearing (not on his feet!) poet. Of course we were meant for one another.
One night in 1988, my best friend Chris and I were going to an RHCP show at an unlikely spot, a Tyrolean themed venue called Alpine Village. It had once been a German restaurant, and the stage was originally meant for a polka band, but most of the tables had been removed and there was room for a couple hundred people to pile in among the murals of cuckoo clocks and strudel. Although X was more Lionel Richie than RHCP, he was coming along.
During the intermission (can you believe that?!) X and my friend made for the bathrooms, while I sat down on one of the few bar stools to rest my Doc- clad moshing feet. All of a sudden- could it be?! Oh. My. God. Anthony Kiedis walked right up to me in all his shirtless glory, shaking out his long golden mane that I longed to run my fingers through. Our encounter went something like this:
Me, "Hi, great show."
AK, "Thanks, we're having fun."
Me, "Rad" (probably not really, but it sounds 80s.)
AK, "Are you doing anything later?"
Now I was faced with a choice. The 23 year old man of my 22 year old dreams was standing in front of ME, asking ME if I was doing anything later. Part of me was thinking, "Whatever you have in mind!" but the angel on my other shoulder was remembering that I was there with my boyfriend, who was a very serious and stable person with a very serious and stable future ahead of him. Would it be smart to throw away a lifetime of security for one night of who knows what?
Serious was smart. Of course, perhaps Anthony would fall in love with me and I would be the wife of a rock star. Or perhaps, he was only after one thing. Well, duh. With that thought, the angel on my shoulder narrowly avoided being knocked off her perch.
Me, "Well, uh, I'm here with my boyfriend, so yeah. I am."
AK, "Oh, uh. Bummer. Well, okay. Have fun tonight."
Some decisions are more conscious than others, and I was conditioned to fear, so my life followed, whether I realized the basis for my decisions/reactions or not.
How many museums were there in the world? How many people wanted to be curators? Compare that to the number of phone companies who needed operators (ha!) and the choice was obvious to my parents. Do the sure thing and don't worry about things like passion and purpose.
X was indeed very serious and stable (albeit with some frat boy peccadilloes that I fully expected him to grow out of.) Don't get me wrong here, X had strong points and we loved one another, but he was also my safe choice. Well, safest choice, I mean, I was pretty sure he would grow out of those peccadilloes, and once he did, he'd be perfect.
Of course, without X two beautiful human beings wouldn't have been brought into the world; maybe sometimes we don't recognize the purpose we're living.
But, looking back on the night at the Alpine Village, it is so clear that at the ripe old age of 22 I was seriously concerned about MY FUTURE and its increasingly fast approach. Silly notions like being an art historian or boinking a rock star were not becoming to the serious and stable person I wanted to be.
(Of course I know I made the right decision that night at the Alpine Village. Not only because of honoring my relationship with X, but because I can look back on proof that I put some sort of value on myself.)
Here is a genius statement: life is full of choices. Less obvious: loving ourselves enough means to do what is right for us, but also to free ourselves from fear.
In the first few divorce go rounds that X presented, I admit that my opposition to divorce was based mainly on fear. I am happy that a couple of years before the real end I became a lot clearer on what my marriage and I were made from. I know that I was fighting for it out of passion and strength. Unconditional love isn't for the weak of heart.
In the end though, there wasn't a fork there. I only had one option. Sometimes we do have to let go of our passions, but at least we can say we tried.
I wish I could say that about an art history degree. Or maybe even Anthony Kiedis...
Thanks for strolling through a few of my what ifs.
Class, these points will be on the exam:
1) Ask yourself if you are making a choice out of a burning passion or fear.
2) If it is fear, ask yourself what you are passionate about and then consider doing that instead.
3) Safe choices aren't always the ones that are best for us.
What ifs are like water Under the Bridge. Sometimes you Fight Like a Brave, and sometimes your Fortune Faded.