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I Could Have had a V8

What started as a clever ad campaign for V8 vegetable juice somehow became a phrase synonymous with “Wow, if only I had known, I’d have made a different choice.”  Sometimes we don’t feel the accompanying thunk on the head until days, weeks, or maybe even years later often times because we weren’t aware that there was a choice.

Our society is obsessed with “making it big” and we’ve left little to no room for the pursuit of dreams.  We convince ourselves that our day jobs are all that we are and all that we can be and our childhood desires of becoming anything from an actress to an athlete, to a chef or a master Gardner get shelved away.  We buy into the notion that if we can’t make it big, there’s no point in trying and we forget that as children we once knew how to dream.  We “grow up” and we do the responsible thing, we put our aspirations on the back burner and promise ourselves that someday we’ll find our way back to them.

Often if we’re brave enough to admit our true desires we’re met with responses such as, “Why would you want to do ‘that’?” and with good intentions we’re reminded that “there’s no money in it,” “shouldn’t you focus on your career?” and “it’ll take away from family time.”  I think the most dampening of all is the one spoken without looking up from behind the newspaper, “oh really, uh huh, yeah that’s nice.”

I was raised during a time and age in which pursuing a practical curriculum followed by an equally practical and hopefully financially rewarding career may not have been expected, but it was encouraged.  I attended college during one of the first times in history that a career for a woman was not perceived to be limited to a teacher, nurse, or wife.  Like most seventeen year olds I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and in 1979 anything in the Business College was the degree of choice for those of us without an obvious gift or burning passion.

Unfortunately when I graduated, or more specifically after one more summer of life guarding, jobs were far and few between, and truth to be told, I hadn’t looked very hard.  Between believing I had landed the perfect husband-to-be and in spite of what I thought my aspirations “should be,” I was relieved to think that my degree was something I wasn’t going to need.   My thoughts hadn’t moved beyond enjoying one last carefree summer and finding a job to pass the time while I waited for his December commencement ceremony.  I was certain the summer would end with the question “will you marry me?” and not with the words “I’m sorry, I’ve met someone else…”

Heartbroken and irrational I somehow managed to convince myself that selling disability insurance door to door in rural Nebraska was a good opportunity and a way to move on.  During those brief months, I experienced everything from being invited into a stranger’s home for roast beef and mashed potatoes to being chased off of a porch with the wave of a shotgun. I also enjoyed the first and hopefully last experience of being stuck up to my ankles in sludge and being pelted simultaneously with rain and mud wondering if we’d ever get the car unstuck.

The car belonged to the only other woman on the road with me and many nights we laughed until we cried as we shared our mishaps and tried to convince each other we weren’t crazy. We concluded that we, in fact, weren’t crazy, the job and everyone else was.

One night we decided that it would be easier to just leave than to actually resign, so under the cover of darkness, we packed our bags said goodbye to the job, the run down motel, promised to keep in touch, and swore we would write a book.  We actually sat down at the typewriter and started composing on more than one occasion, but one reason after another got in the way and before long we convinced each other that it just wasn’t practical and we went our separate ways.

It was the last time I talked or thought about writing anything other than a business presentation, a cover letter, or an email until I heard about a place called “Sometime Isle.”  I heard about this “island” while attending a book signing and luncheon at a small café in Dorset, Minnesota.  I found myself surrounded by ardent fans of the author’s series about life on the plains.  They alternated between hanging on her every word and peppering her with questions about what would happen next to their favorite characters – their friends.

I didn’t connect with the personalities she described from her stories and I was relieved when she moved from her books to her personal experiences because that meant the lecture was drawing to a close.  Suddenly I found myself listening and not daydreaming.  She spoke of career, marriage, and motherhood; she revealed the dreams that had been tucked away with prayers that ended in “Sometime I’ll…”  She provided inspiration with her story of taking a risk, attending a writers conference on a whim, and becoming a published author after she turned fifty.

I surprised myself when I felt my hand raise in response to her question, “Do any of you have a secret dream? Have you ever said to yourself, ‘sometime I’ll write a book, sometime I’ll paint a landscape, sometime I’ll take a cooking class, sometime I’ll….” I recalled the book I’d started twenty five years before as well as the painting, drawing, and piano lessons I’d started and stopped in between.  She dared each of us to consider taking one small step toward moving off of Sometime Isle.

I’ve thought about that day often and wondered how someone so different from me could have made such an impact on my life. Since then I’ve taken half a dozen writing classes, started a blog, and have more than a few ideas for a book. I even pulled out my sketch pad and am taking a drawing class.  I may never have a book published, but I’ll write one.  I may never make a dime pursuing my passions, but I’m devoting time to them.

Every time I hear myself say “Sometime I’ll…”  I think of her story and remind myself that it’s never too late.

7 responses to “I Could Have had a V8

  1. Oh Excellent, Beth! Money is the lesser reward for some of our activities!
    Side note, I was taught to white water kayak by a woman who was 83 and learned herself when she was 79, It is indeed, never too late.

  2. This was your best post so far. Walking in this World was not really your story, but a very entertaining personal commentary. This story, your story is always the one you tell best.

    • Thanks Steve,
      I think one of the things that has happened is that I’ve gotten more comfortable telling ‘my’ story. Interestingly I submitted this piece to a magazine and it wasn’t selected but I felt it was still worth a read so I published it here. :)

  3. Great post, Beth. I would love to hear more of your own life stories.

    • Thanks Naomi :)
      I will give some serious thought to my life stories and how to tell them. Maybe the piece wasn’t published by the magazine so I could get some first hand feedback on it – one never knows, right?

      Cheers!
      Beth

  4. Pingback: I Could Have had a V8 « Philly Author List

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