When I was a minor and thus still under the organizational genius of my type-A mom, I was made to sort through each year’s worth of homework and mementos for future keepsake purposes. At the end of every school year I’d experience a mixture of joy and dread; joy for the upcoming freedom and swimming pools and late-sleeping provided by the structure of summer vacation, and dread for two very memorable reasons:
1. Impending summer homework (as generated by my mom’s aforementioned organizational genius)
2. Categorizing my mounds o’ crap into an easily filed folder of the most meaningful assignments of the year
I hated it…hated having to sort through page after page of Geometry homework and sight-reading practice sheets and color-coded maps of America and what have you. Sister and I would sit down together and proceed with our sifting, and absolutely every year she finished first; partly because she saw it as a friendly competition that she WOULD NOT STAND TO LOSE, and partly because I’d get so distracted reminiscing that I’d become sidetracked and forget my objective entirely. Ahh, ADD.
But. I am now thankful for my 14-color-coordinated folders (one for each year from preschool through 12th grade). My mother’s meticulous foresight has provided hours of nostalgic remembering, and yesterday provided one such incident of looking-back. Instead of writing my 20 page literature review or searching for summer employment or seeking more freelance work, I chose to go through my Complete Education History: Abridged. The ADD of my childhood follows me still (and also does the laziness).
So I started with my countless craft projects from Peace Lutheran Preschool; there were finger-paintings and construction paper cutouts, but most of all there were drawings. I loved to draw from the first moment I held a pencil (left-handed, of course), and I still find myself doodling when I should probably be paying attention in class. The creative mind must not be stifled. My parents love to recount the day I drew every scene of The Nutcracker from memory, and in my preschool folder I found the infamous collection of sketches. I was 4 years old at the time (and quite a bit awesome, I might add).
Then I filtered through 1st grade, and found a letter from my teacher saying that I was an excellent writer. 6 years old and already a master of the written word…my school folders were proving to be an unexpected and welcome ego-boost.
I went all the way through high school, which helped replant my feet firmly upon the ground…I knew I was obsessed with *Nsync in the 9th grade, but I’d chosen to forget that I signed all of my assignments as “Frankie Timberlake.” I am dead serious. I’d also chosen to forget that my vocabulary sentences revolved entirely around *Nsync members. Example:
“Joey hoped a friendly smile and wave would help appease his adoring fans.”
One such assignment (which also included a darling little sketch of Justin with an unidentified blond girl (what do you wanna bet it was Frankie Timberlake?)), was graded with a 95% and an “ugg!”. Dear Mrs. Spain had written “ugg!” next to my drawing…not because it was bad necessarily, but because beneath it I’d also written “Justin is my baby!!!!!” I kid you not. 11 years have passed since my wayward years as a teenybopper, and yet I still felt mortified upon seeing that.
But by far and without a doubt the most appalling part of my walk down Memory Lane came in my 4th grade folder. On a poorly folded piece of notebook paper (as I was never one of those girls who could fold paper into a triangle or a bird or the Taj Mahal), was a list:
10 things I want to do before I’m 20
I was immediately enticed. What could my 10-year-old self have dreamed for my future? What great goals of grandeur did I wish to attain? I anxiously read through the list, mentally patting myself on the back upon each aspiration achieved. Go to college…check. Get a puppy…check. Go to high school……they were a little out of order, but check! I was 10 for God’s sake; when you’re 10 college can come before high school. The only goal I didn’t meet was to become a professional dancer, which I discovered at age 14 was not something I really wanted to do. Socializing, having functional toes, and eating were far too important to me. But then, just as I was feeling good about my life’s achievements as of age 20, I got to number 8…and I stopped.
Because the list stopped.
I made a list entitled “10 things I want to do before I’m 20”…and I stopped at number 8.
At first I just laughed, because it is so very like me to get distracted and quit mid-project. I can’t tell you how many short stories I found yesterday that ended suspensefully with “and then,” a doodle of a butterfly, and several pieces of blank paper. Following through was never my style. But as I let myself ponder the list and my mindset as a 4th grader, and as I took note of the carefully written “9.” and “10.” that had no Life Dreams to accompany them, I came to a very real, and very depressing, understanding.
I was born without the motivation gene.
My whole life I’ve felt a little without. People all about me seemed to be chasing fantastic dreams - dream jobs, dream houses, dream cars - while I plodded along, happily but carelessly with my head permanently stuck in the clouds. I had aspirations, sure…but the central theme to my aspirations was that they changed. A lot. The only reason I stayed in Oklahoma for college was that I simply couldn’t make up my mind; one day I wanted to go to New York and study fashion design, the next I decided to head to Stilly for Vet school (until I realized Vet school required loads of math, and then it was promptly back to fashion). And as the years have progressed and my search for a Life Passion has improved with no statistical significance, I’ve really started to wonder if I’m destined to be a wanderer. A flake. A lost soul.
Then I found my list of 10 things I want to do before I’m 20, and I’d only filled out 8. And yeah…that pretty much sealed the deal on that whole debacle.
It seems I’m never going to be chasing the dream, as it’s hard to chase something you cannot see. Where’er I am, I’m this much happy and that much looking for bigger and better things. True, I go through better times and worse times, but I’ve never felt like I reached a pinnacle and could thus sit back and congratulate my awesomeness. Maybe it’s because I’m still young…or maybe it’s because my life isn’t defined by achievements.
But then, what is it defined by?
I think I was born in the wrong generation. I’m sure you’ve felt that way at times too; everyone learns about a certain period in history and thinks “damn, I would’ve made a fabulous Viking.” But it’s more than that for me; the ideology of 2009 just doesn’t fit my genetic make-up. I should’ve been a hippie, I tell you. I could’ve been happy protesting Nam and reciting poetry in the back of somebody’s VW (plus, I can rock bell-bottoms with the best of them).
Sister is well made for modern-day. She’s the perfect blend of nurturer and career-woman; she’ll dote on you and hold you when you cry, but if you go up against her for a job she will absolutely kick your ass. Yes, Sister will do fine in this new millennium. She’ll have a PhD, 2.5 kids, far more stress than she can handle and a house on the good side of the tracks. But as for me, I’m afraid I’ll always be one of those people who doesn’t quite fit. Others will look at me and think, “huh…such potential, and yet she remains a drifter. Tut tut.”
(We should all really start tut tutting again.)
I suppose I’ll stick with the old adage that my existence is not defined by the acquiring of tangible things. I will not be pacified by a house on Newport Beach or a Mercedes McLaren (although GOOD GOD I’d love to have one of those). No…my life - the life of a drifter, apparently - is about self-improvement, growth, learning, and a constant effort not to be a prat to those who love and care for me. And who knows; maybe someday I’ll discover a hidden dream that the gods of motivation have been leading me towards all along.
But until then I’m going to focus on the present. My newest goal (which is infinitesimal when compared to Aubrey’s goal of becoming a novelist or Chris’s goal of going to Dental school) is to get a dog. In a year, I’ll have a master’s degree and will be a far more matured and responsible person (and if you laugh I will cut you). So, my reward to myself will be a dog to call my own: a companion that will love and adore me and think me a god among men, simply because he won’t know any better. This plan is indeed flawless.
And, I’ve even decided upon a breed! I want a Bernese Mountain Dog. A Bernese Mountain Dog named Bernard. Yes, it is decided. It’s a small step, but for a dithering flake with little ambition and diagnosable ADD, it’s a start.
In one year, I will achieve my newest life goal: I will get a Bernese Mountain Dog named Bernard.
(….or maybe a German Shepherd named Lupin.)