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The history of my aspirations

Thursday, October 15, 2020
The history of my aspirations

My earliest memory of having a sense of what I wanted to do when I grew up was when I was around five, and I announced to my oldest sister and brother that I was going to be an astronaut.

My brother said, “Oooh, I’m going to be a dancer!” Then my sister chimed in, “And I’m going to be a cowgirl!”

Even at five I was fluent in sarcasm, having four older siblings to school me every minute of every day. I don’t think I even realized at the time that there were no female astronauts, I just knew that I liked stars.

A short time later, I changed my gaze from the stars to the animals and told my mother I believed I wanted to be a veterinarian. She thought it best to share with me how cows are tested for pregnancy, and I decided then and there, I would do anything that didn’t require latex gloves that go to the armpit to be successful.

. . . So a gymnast it was. Nadia Comaneci was all the rage and the gymnastics world was on fire. I particularly liked the fact that very little clothing was required because I was at a time in my life that I wanted to feel free, apparently. I took lessons at the YMCA, and changed my vocational aspirations when I busted it straddle-style on the balance beam. It was a deal breaker.

But I was young and had time on my side. Saturday Night Live premiered when I was 10 years old and I was lucky enough to have a mother who was not only honest enough to explain the delicacies of bovine gynecology but also let me stay up late once a week to watch the show that would capture me for a lifetime.

Before I had reached my teenage years, I knew that I was going to be a writer for Saturday Night Live at the very least, or the next Gilda Radner at the very most.

That was also about the time I began reading everything Erma Bombeck could type. I was hooked.

Then life happened. I survived the hellscape I knew as junior high then began thinking of nothing but boys through high school. Then, I did what many girls in the 1980’s did – I went to 13th grade, which is code for getting married the year you graduate high school. Three years later, I had the first of my two children.

I spent the next several years doing what every young married mother does for the most part - surviving and figuring stuff out.

I only bring this up because a dear friend, Gina Barreca, posed a really interesting question this week. Gina is an author and a woman whose humor and ability to convey it captivates me.

One time she made a comedian laugh so hard she threw up in the bushes and it is one of my favorite all-time memories. In fact, it would be an amazing SNL sketch. But that’s a story for a different day.

Gina’s question was, “How old were you when you became YOU? I know we change every day, but WHEN did it happen?”

I answered Gina, truthfully, “Perpetually, I am tomorrow year’s old. “

Then I thought about it some more.

One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain, “Against the tyranny of laughter, nothing can stand.” It sums up my many close friends, all of whom can make me cry down my legs with laughter, as well as my core values. It also reminds of me of of my first real love - humor.

I know humor and value it - almost to a fault, I’ll admit - and one of my few talents is that I’m a decent writer. Not for Saturday Night Live, and while I’m not Erma Bombeck (nobody could or should be that utter genius) I’m lucky to have Iowa Park and even beyond as my willing and family-like audience.

It means the world to me when you call or email me to tell me I made you laugh or you related to something I said. Thank you.

Those messages always come when I’m beginning to question my life choices while waiting for the lightning strike of an idea to hit me, and when I’m about to give up. I don’t think that’s an accident.

I regret nothing, you understand, because of my two children. I mean, have you met those incredible human beings and their people? And I’m proud that they both took my advice to not go to 13th grade. They are light years ahead of me and that’s what every parent should want.

I’m a lucky woman, because I was today years old when I consciously realized who I am and felt the gratitude for those who keep reminding me I am on the right path.