My Inner 8-Year-Old Thinks I'm a Rock Star
At 8, I assumed I had plenty of time. Plenty of time to get it all right.
I'm not sure I ever knew what this mysterious "it" was, or how to define "right." But I was sure that I'd figure it all out by 40. By 40, I'd have "it" in the bag.
When 30 came around, I was newly married and newly knocked up. I'd had a play published and several more produced. I'd been invited to a corner office at 30 Rockefeller Center, to discuss transitioning from playwriting to screenwriting at NBC.
The world was my yummy, chewy oyster. Money was tight at 30, but man, my future was bright. I was on track.
I figured my 40s would center around a terrific kitchen with a built-in dishwasher, an overhead chandelier of copper cookware and some kind of gorgeous, perpetually clean flooring underfoot. The rest of my 40-something-self's house would be equally killer -- full of light and air and charmingly painted antique tables and overstuffed couches and roaring fireplaces and iron claw foot tubs. (I was desperately unoriginal in my wishes, but in defense of my 30-year-old self, I have to say the scenario still sounds awfully nice.)
I also thought my 40s would be privy to a terrific view every morning: a rocky, windswept coast, perhaps. Or a meadow full of wildflowers, with a picturesque creek snaking its way through. Maine? Nova Scotia? British Columbia?
I'd be in top demand in L.A. and New York, of course. My 40-something screenwriting career would be fab and varied -- jetting coast-to-coast for meetings, visiting movie sets in Europe and South America. I'd manage it while also making a name for myself as a superb character actress in various highly acclaimed indie films, being an absurdly fantastic mother to my three or four angelic offspring AND running several nonprofit animal rescue organizations.
Oprah would have me on speed-dial, natch.
Cue the laugh track. Go ahead. I'll wait.
We tell our kids to dream big. The messages run rampant in our culture: Reach for the moon! If you don't make it, you'll still land in the stars! If you can dream it, you can become it! Believe in yourself, and nothing can stop you!
Nothing can stop you, except maybe ... uh, life. Life has a funny way of mucking up the best-laid plans.
I did what I was told: I dreamed big. I put in the work. I had a few lovely highs along the way, but for the most part, the failures have been just as colossal as the dreams once were. And I wonder sometimes if I should've expected a little less from myself or made sure others expected less of me.
I'm wondering if there's a middle ground. I wonder sometimes if we shouldn't be encouraging our children to dream moderately, to dream realistically, to prepare for stagnation and disappointment. But nobody wants to think that way, especially about their own kids. Heck, it's downright un-American. Folks went ballistic recently over Tiger Mom, but I think a Sloth Mom ("Let's watch Scooby Doo, honey. No point in practicing that violin, sweetie. Trust me, Mommy's heard you play.") would provoke even more vitriol from the American masses.
In case you hadn't guessed, things didn't quite work out the way Thirty had hoped. Thirty is no longer speaking to Forty; Thirty is downright pissed off at Forty, who's pointing the finger at Thirty-Five. And now, Thirty-Five refuses to talk unless she has her own lawyer. It's a stalemate.
But my 8-year-old self adores Forty. Eight thinks Forty is pretty awesome. After all, Forty has a little house in the country, full of little girls and dogs and cats and toys and NO BOYS and a super-cool thing called a computer. Forty writes stories for a living. Forty can drive a car and have Cocoa Puffs for dinner. Like, whenever she wants.
Eight thinks Forty is a ROCK STAR.
Forty can work with that.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.