Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to the Future?

I'm heading to Pittsburgh this weekend for a few author appearances and to attend my 30 year high school reunion. As the date has gotten closer I find myself thinking a lot about the past and the girl I was in high school and how she became the person I am today.

I have to admit I have never been someone who lived in the past or thought very much about it. I don't believe in regret and strive to make the most of all my experiences both good and bad. I keep many stories in my repertoire and enjoy reminiscing every now and then but for the most part I am all about the future, often at the expense of the present.

Back in high school, all I wanted was to leave Pittsburgh. This started around the time I was twelve and was my primary focus until I landed in Greenwich Village in the fall of 1979. My focus was on my future, away from my town, my family and the pain of my childhood. I was sure my life was in New York and wanted it to begin as soon as possible. Every day I spent at home felt like time served before my release into the real world.

That drive affected how I approached everything from school to extra-curricular activities to relationships. Every test, homework assignment, paper and course needed to be good, my grades had to be the best they could be. When I discovered my creative passions, I knew they would be a lifelong pursuit and I wanted to make full use of the opportunities afforded to me. I took every performance seriously, studied every facet of acting and writing I could. Even in my relationships with boys I kept things casual. Although I had deep feelings for a few incredible young men, I didn't want anything to keep me from my goal.

Yes, I had good times, formed a lifelong bond with my friend Gwyn, and enjoyed my accomplishments but still, I was living for the future.

As news about the reunion spread to my classmates, I reconnected with so many wonderful people from that time, many of whom have commented that my life turned out exactly as they had thought it would and that I "haven't changed at all."

While this is incredibly flattering (especially the comments about still looking the same) it has made me think a lot about the past. It is one thing to have goals and another to not be present in the here and now. As I was focusing on the future, I was not seeing a lot of what was good in my life. I was waiting for my life to begin in New York rather than seeing it was already blooming in Mt. Lebanon.

On Saturday I will be doing an author talk at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, the same library I used to ride my baby blue banana seat bike to on the weekends to return books and find new, exciting stories of women living adventurous lives in faraway places. I would sit back in the stacks imagining and manifesting my future, never knowing decades later my adventures would lead me right back where I started. I worried then, as I still do, that I will not get to where I want to go, that my dreams are not attainable. Again, it is hard to see what is when you are focused on what could be.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a young woman who had learned about my appearance at the library and went to my website. "Tell me more about yourself," she said. I responded and asked her about herself. She said she loved the library and was a dedicated reader and an aspiring writer, she told me about her plans, her goals and her dreams. She said she couldn't wait to get there.

I know she wouldn't have understood if I had said, "take you're time," anymore than I would have so many years ago. The desire to succeed, to make a name for yourself is a powerful one but as I am learning it should never come at the expense of standing still and taking in what is good now.

After my talk, I'll take a walk back into the stacks and think of that girl I was then and let her know she did okay...hell she did better than okay. I will take a moment to remind myself, as I do every day, that the journey is better than the destination and throughout the weekend I will do what I couldn't do back then, I will appreciate being home.

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