Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I hated it when, during writing courses, we were told to write about the most embarrassing experience of our lives. I know I've got plenty to draw from. Who though, can ever remember one when it's a timed writing? But here's one I do remember, and one that changed colors over the course of time. I know I will completely lose you "younger" readers, but just pretend along with me. You can google it all later if you want to---or not. OMG/TMI/BTW/LOL
In eleventh grade, our English teacher asked our very advanced class to each write down the one person in the world we would most aspire to become. After giving us time to ponder and chew on it for a bit, we handed in our folded little slip of paper with our visionary role model's name on it. I am truly a "gut" type of person which basically means I react from my gut without much twisting and turning, mulling or stewing. I did not realize I was about to be side-swiped (for life?) by this seemingly benign assignment.
One-by-one, Ms. M. unfolded the slips of names, offering much affirmation, adoring head-nodding, and proud smiles that shouted, "Oh, just look at these, my students-- our next generation!"
Names like Golda Meir, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer rolled off of our teacher's tongue as if we, her students, had already made our indelible marks on a changing world. Looks of acknowledgment and agreement were exchanged between us as each person envisioned the life awaiting us--after 11th grade. Everybody sat proud and tall ready to justify the name that had been submitted. But not me. I was about to throw up. I squirmed and writhed knowing full well that life, as I knew it, was about to be over. For on my little scrap of paper, I had written that I wanted to be like ......Hazel. Yes, you read it right. Hazel of
the Hazel that played the live-in maid on the 1961 television situation comedy.
Forget my being a world leader, a top humanitarian philanthropist, a renowned scholar in any field. Nope, my idol, my role model, the person I guess I looked up to most in the world was a live-in maid played by Shirley Booth. (I can't believe I'm telling this story out loud. Wow, I've come a long way.) Needless to say, the teacher thought she had read it wrong, asked me if this were some sort of joke and gave a grunt of total condescension and utter disgust at the lowly goals I had set for myself. "Who else?" she promted me. "Who else could you be?"
A feeble, " Well, uh...uh...maybe Jackie Kennedy," puddled out of my mouth.
Yes, indeed: elegant, thin, private, rich, equestrian, poet, trend-setter. Yep, cut from the same cloth she and I! Now we we're getting somewhere. Silly me.
Cutting to the chase (thank goodness), it was many years later, that, when in telling this story to a wise friend, I was led to see why Hazel had popped into my head that day and why I had gone with my gut. (The same gut that my teacher challenged, by the way. I felt ashamed that the traits I recognized had been summarily rejected and ridiculed. ) Hazel, in her role on that show (Called Hazel) was a peace-maker. She was a problem-solver, a doer, a believer in others. She was there to serve but she did not see herself as a meager servant. Her insight and wisdom and truth-telling to the family (The Baxters, remember?) brought meaning and purpose to difficult (albeit contrived) situations. Hazel was a mediator, a communicator, a negotiator, kind, friendly, loving, honest and loyal. That's why I wrote Hazel down on a slip of paper. I like those kinds of traits.
What my teacher totally missed in my response was that no matter what our situation, what our calling, what our station in life, or who we are--- we can bring those invaluable qualities to the table. And, yes, this is what Taylor has made glaringly clear to me. Each one of us has a calling. Do not look at others and assume they have no dreams or that their "hoop" is too low. It may not be where your hoop is, but for them, it's at the exact right height.
No matter Golda or Thomas or Harry or Albert, or Taylor....we each one have valuable gifts to offer to this changing world. Are we (or is it just me) so arrogant that we have defined which of us can leave the greatest imprint on this life? Taylor opens my eyes to the "what else"--to what other traits are precious and prized. I am wondering who you would write down if asked today? Who do you want to be when you grow up? And, if you can't answer that, I just saw something that will give you a hint. It says, "When I grow up, I want to be me." Write that down on your slip of paper. You will have chosen the exact right person.