Wednesday, November 4, 2009

who will you be when you grow up?

It's a question isn't it? Here I am shepherding my younger son through his junior year and on to college. I know what he'd love most, to be up on stage with a band . . . well who wouldn't? It's a powerful position, serenading a crowd of hyped up fans. To be admired and beloved. I try to remember what it was I wanted, what I imagined myself as . . . I told my parents I would be a doctor, but that wasn't happening. I was miserable at science, let my fruit flies escape and cribbed the results. When I read about Amelia trying out the idea herself, I thought of that first year of college when I was pre med. I knew even as I was doing it, just how wrong it was for me. I gave it a chance, then gave it up. I've never regretted it, not for a moment.

Regret is beside the point. Amelia's life teaches us that. She tried to be good, to do the right thing, to be a doctor, a social worker, but then she got the chance to do something for herself. Yes, she also spoke about the role of women and how she was blazing a path, but was that what she was thinking of when G.P. Putnam offered her a chance to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic? I don't believe it. I think she would have given anything to try. She spent the rest of her life trying things out, she never settled for safe, she never wanted ordinary, she wanted to live like most of us live only when we're young. She was foolish and spectacular.

Of course the question of what one wants to be when you grow up, offers a different sort of answer. It requires a child to pick a career. Basketball player, rock star, rocket scientist . . .writer. All these require dealing with reality; you may not play basketball that well, or be seven foot four, you may have talent but not as much as Jack White, as for rockets, who knows how they fly. And writing isn't for the faint of heart, it's a world of hurt and rejection. There's bliss sometimes, but even that feels different from what you'd expected.

I used to have this recurring dream when I was a child, I'd take off from the roof of my parent's house and fly over the city. The sensation was remarkable, freed from all restraint . . . I haven't dreamed it in years and years. But I think Amelia always had that dream, she was always able to convince herself that anything was possible.

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