Over the years people have asked me what it’s like to be a writer. They tell me they “could never do that” when I believe that we are all writers. All storytellers.
We rewrite our personal histories to quiet regrets, to prove any number of favorable traits, to impress bosses and employees, new lovers, family and friends. We decorate the oft-harsh realities of our pasts to color our present. To entertain. To comfort. And, especially, when our present isn’t what we had hoped it would be, our gussied-up pasts remind us that yes, we have been something special in this lifetime.
I often noodle this question, when is enough enough? What job or career is the one that cannot be recovered from if you lose it? Which is the one we cannot move on from? The one that nothing can follow?
If you are a professional baseball player, is that it? Your family, your hometown, your friends…They’re all so proud of you. Surely that must be the one career you can’t recover from losing. But even if you are the best on your team or the best in the league, is that enough? Is it enough when there have been thousands who have become professional baseball players before you? And, even if you are the best baseball player that has ever laced up spikes and taken the field, what does that mean?
What about becoming a doctor or a lawyer, going to Yale or Harvard? Is that enough? How about if you become a millionaire? Surely that must be enough then.
But there are 8.7 million millionaires in this world.
People in my community struggle so much with the life they lost. The careers left behind. What they cannot do any longer. Often, as it becomes more apparent that we will not return to those abilities, we paint them and retell them and romanticize them until nothing we are and nothing in our present or our foggy futures could possibly be as good as before we were hurt.
I’m sure that, if I live long enough, I will be the best caterer that ever choreographed a seven course dinner. Just you wait. Laughing here.
So I’m wondering exactly what particular job or position is enough. That one title, that one achievement…that so stands alone that we cannot recover its loss?
Michael Jackson was one of the greatest and wealthiest entertainers in the history of entertainment. Was that enough? Rumor has it he was obsessed with recovering his record-breaking status of the early 80’s and couldn’t accept that he had lost so much of his perceived relevance. That he never overcame it.
Why is it that so many of us feel that all there is is what was back there? That all that matters is we can’t get back that career and status we enjoyed before our lives changed?
People do it in all areas of life. How many times after a rocky relationship and breakup does that former partner become idolized and thrust upon a pedestal and emerges this glorified one that got away?
We storytellers and re-writers of our histories conveniently forget that it wasn’t all perfect then. Not our jobs and, often, not our relationships. We didn’t bring home paychecks of gold (unless we were hedgefund managers) and, if we got divorced, obviously the actual relationship we shared (not the edited version) with our spouse was not all smoothe chocolate kisses, diamond sunsets, sultry tangos and soaring rainbows.
How long does ideal have to last? How long is good enough, good enough? Why, when so much can go wrong, are we so surprised when it does?
Could it have been enough for Michael Jackson simply to enjoy that he once did it better than anyone else on the planet?
For 13 years I was a catering manager and a darned good one. I enjoy rehashing the “glory days” with former colleagues and friends. They are cherished memories.
But I am good with the fact that I did it once and I did it well. I don’t have to do it again. I don’t have to go back. I don’t suffer one moment when I believe that that was all that defined me. All that I was meant to do in my entire lifetime. All that I could succeed in. Or that my catering success was supposed to take me from A to Z instead of from C to F.
Is any job? Would it be different if I had been a critically acclaimed opera singer or a professional tennis player or a Congresswoman?
Our lifetimes are stories we write. Our injuries demand, this economy demands, life itself demands that we are able to close chapters and start new ones. The only one thing we are throughout our lives, after all, is alive.
A dear friend of mine was a therapist and a social worker before she acquired breast cancer. Now she’s a photographer, an art gallery owner, a breast cancer advocate and a painter.
I was a catering manager before my injury and now I’m a high school sports announcer, a dog sitter, an author, a blogger and a public speaker.
No book is one chapter.
No life is, either.
I was walking tonight and listening to one of my favorite songs, “I’m Movin’ On” by Rascal Flatts. I love the lyrics:
I’m movin’ on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there’s no guarantees, but I’m not alone
There comes a time in everyone’s life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone
Nobody has to be one thing all their lives. There isn’t one job that is the be-all and end-all in this world. Happiness is found in constants and commitments that aren’t dressed up as titles. Success and reward can be found in a thousand different places.
How do you explain the man who works as a sewer parts distributor making 23-5 a year and is happy as a clam? Completely delighted with his life. Or the woman who absolutely loves her life while scrubbing morgue floors on the midnight shift in nowheresville?
What is supposed to be the goal? Surely recent headlines must prove that nothing secures the perfect life. No amount of career touchdowns. Not money. Not titles. Not millions of adoring fans. Not corner offices or lifetime batting averages of over .300 or an armful of Oscars.
My goal and, too, my challenge to those like me…is to believe that we can write a fabulous next chapter. That every old chapter can end and every new chapter can begin and that we are the ones who fill it. We write it. We choose what goes into it.
Everyone is a writer. And, make no mistake about it, the book will end one day. But the book doesn’t have to end after the third chapter because of injury or difficult childhoods or terrible parents or lost jobs or lousy marriages. The rest of it doesn’t have to be blank pages. We have more power than that.
As authors of our books, of our lives, we write in the successes. As much as we want and in whatever area we choose it. We aren’t chained to anything. It’s OUR book! We put in the love. We insert the laughter. Wherever we want it! We create the characters who triumph over adversity. We choose the supporting characters who can turn the story this way or that. We start and end the chapters when we want to and on what note.
Nobody else writes our story and thank God for that. There’s not just one way to write our story. There’s not just one way to be happy. No one job to feel successful. No one path to find that equals right.
The greatest stories of all time all contain drama, sadness, heartbreak and struggle. It’s what makes them worth reading.
It’s our great fabulous wonderful exciting opportunity to turn the page. The screen is blank. The cursor blinking. I can’t wait to see what you come up with…