For today’s post, we have to start a little ways back.
High School. Now I went to a very small, private, religious high school where, if you were interested, you could pretty much do anything you were willing to put time into. So I was on the Varsity basketball team all four years (no, I was not very good, and no, I hardly ever played in the games, and no, there was not a JV team), I was an officer of NHS, Homecoming Princess, Senior Class Treasurer, and Student Council President. Everyone knew everyone and it was easy to be well-known. I wouldn’t say I was “cool”, but I suppose you could say I was ‘popular’, or at least well-liked.
When I went off to college, I was still at a private, religious university, but it was much larger than my 19-people-in-my-graduating-class high school. Even still, I was excited about becoming involved on campus. My freshman year, I tried out and ran for everything I could. Student government class representative, dorm representative, a drama troupe, our class sing song act, the freshman action council, and a few other things. I did not make anything. Any. Thing. Having had come from my high school environment, where I was able to get any position I wanted, these new continual college failures were hard on me.
However, one of the things my college had was that each year 10-12 senior women were chosen to be part of the Homecoming Court. Being part of the Court was kind of a big deal: you got your picture and short bio posted in the campus center, you were presented at Homecoming Chapel with a slide telling all about your campus involvements, you got to ride in the Homecoming Parade, you were invited to a special Queen’s Tea during Homecoming Weekend and overall, you were just made to feel cool. Very, very cool. Oh, and on top of all the fun Homecoming activities as a senior – 10 years later at your reunion, you’d get to once again be presented at Homecoming Chapel and ride in the parade, but this time as part of the “Coming Home” court!
So in the midst of all my freshmen year discouragements, I decided that hey, even if I was nobody at this new school now, that in 3 years time, when I was a senior, that *I* was going to be part of the Homecoming Court. Somehow, someway, I was going to be friendly and nice and keep perusing leadership roles and keep trying to be someone at my new college. I was. Perhaps it was a vain desire, but at least it was a desire that compelled me to keep going instead of giving up and admitting defeat that college social life was not for me.
Fast forward three years, and yes, I did stay involved on campus, and yes, I did finally start getting the leadership and social positions I wanted, and yes, though I don’t know if this is something too vain for me to admit that I’m proud of – but senior year, I achieved my goal and was nominated onto the Homecoming Court.
As a member of the Homecoming Court, I was matched up with a member of the Coming Home court who’d graduated 10 years before me and we rode in the parade together. I don’t remember the name of the lady who rode with me, but I remember how it felt being next to her, and what it was like trying to imagine myself in her shoes, and where I’d be in 10 years when I came back for my reunion. I tried to imagine how my life would change when I was her age, you know, when I’d be “so old” at the age of 32. In our brief, and polite, conversations during the parade, I remember two things that she told me.
1) She couldn’t believe how fast the past 10 years had gone for her. And
2) That even though she knew it was shallow, that she was still worried about how she looked to her old classmates and put way too much thought into what she was going to wear for the parade and other homecoming activities.
And it was from that very moment, that I started mentally thinking ahead to the day that I myself would come back for my very own 10 yr reunion. And the kind of person I wanted to be. And the success that I wanted to have. And how young and attractive I still wanted to look. Even at age 32.
After college, I moved to Los Angeles. Moving to L.A. alone, from my more small-town, conservative community, took a lot of independence. For the last year or so of college, I had secretly felt a bit of an oddball at my college, wanting and aspiring to more than it seemed to me that most other people did. Even the previous Coming Home court women, while being presented during homecoming chapel, had seemed to all be the same. Stay at Home Mom, Pastor’s Wife, or if they worked, it was at a church, or a school, or some other ‘domesticated’ profession like that. But I wanted to be something different. I wanted to be something more. I didn’t know what exactly, but I was determined that 10 years later when *I* came back – that my presentation slide would be different than everyone else’s. And by “different”, what I secretly and very vainly meant, was ‘better’.
Yes, I wanted to come back and be better than everyone else.
(I did preface this blog post by titling it “VANITY and Humility”. 🙁 )
You know what’s funny? I was never one of those girls who thought about and planned out my dream wedding for years and years and years. But you know what I did think about for years and years and years? My 10 yr college reunion. As the 10 years after college passed, I’d daydream about the amazing dress I’d buy, hip and cool, but also classic, so that I didn’t look like I was trying too hard (even though of course, I was) to be trendy. I’d think about how far in advance I should start getting facials done so that my skin would be beautiful and glowing. Every time I took a new job, I’d think about how I could spin it so that it sounded super successful – any anything but ‘domesticated’ – on that slide that gets presented during Homecoming chapel.
Yes, I thought about all these things. A lot. Probably more than I should. I’m admitting it.
My 10 yr. college reunion was last October, in 2013. I did not have this blog then. Even if I had, I don’t think I could have written about any of this at the time, and hence why it’s only in hindsight that I’m writing this all out now. Oh Life. Irony. Karma. Or whatever else you’d like to call it. It’s funny how it works. I’m going to call this my long-taught lesson on vanity. And humility. Because the reality of my 10 yr college reunion was that I was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like my 22-yr self had once decided I was going to be.
But perhaps, that’s exactly how I was supposed to be.
Had my 10 yr reunion been in 2011, I would’ve been riding high. KP was writing on an HBO show and his career seemed to be taking off. We were good with finances and could spend money on things, like oh, facials and new dresses, had I wanted to. We’d had a young baby, so you know, we could’ve still been part of the ‘parent in-crowd’, but since our baby was still in the easily-transportable yet not old enough to be in the run-you-ragged stage, we could’ve still done whatever we wanted for the most part. I could have maybe, just maybe, been as fabulous as I’d always planned to be and I could show all those young, naive 22 yr old girls currently on the Homecoming Court that you can still be awesome at 32 and that 32 is not that old and that your life is not over after your 20s.
My reunion was not in 2011, it was in 2013.
2013 was the most difficult year our little family’s seen (yet, knock on wood). We were a year out from my Hindsight #1 post. Finances had been hit hard. We were barely making it on my less-than-average teacher’s salary and the little bits KP brought in from freelance work. We could not afford to go to the reunion. And I don’t mean that oh, we had some money saved up that we were saving for something else that we could have used but didn’t want to, I mean, we had no money for anything other than very bare necessities. No savings. Practically nothing left of a credit limit to charge to credit cards either. There was nothing financially wise about our decision to go to Homecoming in 2013 other than appeasing the very last little bit of my vanity…if you could call it that anymore. After having imagined and thought about my 10 yr reunion for over a decade, I couldn’t bear the thought of not going and missing out on it, no matter how unglamorous my life had actually turned out to be. In an already rather discouraging time of life, it was the one last shard of something exciting to think about. So we packed up the car and some PB&J sandwiches and drove to Texas.
I did not have a hip, cute, fabulous new dress to show off how cool and “L.A.” I was. I did get a new dresses from the JC Penny sale rack thanks to a gift card we’d had though. It wasn’t the amazing dress I’d always thought I’d have, but it was good, and it was new and it helped hide my newly pregnant and awkward belly. My skin was awful, and blotchy and very broken out. I had early small wrinkles on my forehead and around my eyes. My skin looked tired. I had not been able to afford facials or dermatologist visits in the months prior to the reunion like I’d once planned. Thankfully, my morning sickness had subsided by week 11, but I certainty did not feel nor look my best in any way, shape or form.
I did not have a cool entertainment job for my presentation slide, as I’d long ago given up that career for something more steady that allowed me to work from home (that was, dare I say, a ‘domesticated’ teaching job). KP had recently gone through a long series of allllllllmost hitting the big time with several projects only to see them passed on at the last moment. After so many hope-disappointment cycles, we were mentally exhausted. Sure, there was that FX pilot that had been bought and was being written, but it was hard to believe that that could actually turn into anything (spoiler: it didn’t). We were uncertain if we should even continue on in L.A., and keep fighting the fight and chasing the dream. But no one ever wants to hear about that part of living your dream. Not unless you can subsequently follow it up with a “Hollywood ending” where everything works out in the end. So when you can’t follow it up? Or when you’re still struggling/hoping/wondering if you’ll ever get there? No one wants to talk to a Debbie Downer, so you don’t talk about it. You do like we do here in Hollywood instead: feign confidence, speak vaguely, and hope to convey a sense of being a big(ger) deal (than you are) so that no one asks more specific questions.
No, Homecoming was not at all like I’d always dreamed it would be. No, I did not look or feel like I originally wanted to. Yes, I’m sure the 22 yr old graduating senior women on the Homecoming Court thought we were so old just like I once thought those before me were.
But yes, I still had a blast. And yes, it was still a happy weekend.
It was happy because while I may not have met the goals that I had set at age 22 in relation to others – I had inadvertently met those goals in relation to myself instead. I had previously vainly wanted to become BETTER than my peers. That did not happen – but because it’d didn’t, I became a better person for myself. I had previously vainly wanted to do MORE than my peers. That did not happen – but because it didn’t, I was able to understand more about which things are truly important in life.
I like how Wikipedia explains humility:
And that’s what I think my 10 yr college reunion ended up being about for me. It allowed me to have a clear perspective – and respect – for who I am and where I am and who we all are and where we all are.
We all have different places in life, different paths to walk, different lessons to learn, are called to contribute in different ways, and are meant to do different things. It is never about being ‘more’ or ‘better’, but just about doing what you can from where you are with what you’ve been given. And this is the lesson that I’ve had to realize.
My semi-successful, still struggling screenwriter husband and I live here in L.A. Still. Perhaps always. And all we can do is what we can from where we are while being thankful for what we have. And that’s what we’re doing.