Alternate title: Eventually you have to leave the house
Some things came together in an odd way today. Other things completely fell apart. Well, one other thing fell apart – my Cardinals in post season baseball. Everything else just came together. Let’s focus on that, but warning: as true in all of my rambling, sometimes I take a while to get to the point.
(Editor’s Note: As I started writing and noticing all the connection points, I decided to start highlighting the themes. That’s why certain words are underlined, they’re part of the theme. Go with it.)
Earlier today one of my favorite essayists, Mark Manson, puts this blurb up on Facebook:
This weekend a friend told me a story about his grandmother. She was 60 when her husband died. As part of dealing with his death, she started taking piano lessons and practicing every day. People thought it was kind of sad and pitied her.
Now she’s 90 and she is a fantastic piano player. People who hear her play regularly assume that she used to be a professional musician and that she has been playing her whole life.
It’s funny, she told him, that when she started playing at 60, people thought it was stupid, a waste of time, that there was no point because her life was essentially already over. People don’t realize, she said, that if you start learning something at 60, and you practice it until you’re 90, you’ve actually been doing it much longer than most professionals have.
I hate to break it to Mr. Manson, but this is not an original idea. I had a grad school mate named Steve who told the story of a buddy who wanted to go back to medical school in his 40’s. Some people in class scoffed, Steve explained, 8 years of med school, he’d be resident by the time he was 50 and could practice medicine for more than 20 years potentially. 20 years is a long time to do something you love once you realize you love it.
In May of 2008 I bought a book called I Was Told There’d be Cake. (I didn’t remember off the top of my head that it was May. When I went to pull the link from Amazon, Amazon was kind enough to tell me I had already purchased this book on May 18, 2008.) I’m pretty sure Entertainment Weekly reviewed it and I loved the title, so I bought it. I had not read a lot of essay collections before this, probably only Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day (home of the essay I read whenever I need a good laugh, You Can’t Kill the Rooster). Sloan Crosley is the author and she is about my age. (One year and one month older, to be exact.) I read her essays and they were funny. Her NYC life very different from the one I was living at the time, married and in St. Louis, but she was relatable and I recommended the book to several people. I remember being curious about the idea that a woman our age could write a book of essays about her kind of regular life and it was published, and people were interested. I got kind of into essayists that were my age for a while, a few months later (October 2008, again, according to Amazon) bought Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs. Again, an author about my age, writing about things like Saved By The Bell. Umm, hello! There is almost no one more qualified to discuss Saved By The Bell than me. I own them on DVD. That’s right. I do.
I started this silly piece of the internet in November of 2008. Probably not a coincidence. I’ve always liked to write. I’ve never particularly cared if people were reading what I wrote or not. I just liked to practice the craft of writing. I like to tell stories. This has been a through line in my life. The first career I remember wanting is a librarian so I could be surrounded by all the books. Then I wanted to be a writer from about 4th grade on until high school when I decided I was going to be a film director so I could tell the stories even bigger. I took creative writing classes my freshman and sophomore years until practical Sarah overcame and I switched to a major that made a career.
Months ago I saw that Sloan Crosley would be in town promoting her newest book, not a collection of essays, but a novel called The Clasp. I thought that seemed like an interesting evening and asked Jenn and Shannon to come along.
That event was tonight. I am just home from her speaking, reading a bit from the new book, and then answering some questions from the audience. She is delightful and polished. She opened with an introduction of herself, what she’s done and a few anecdotes from the book tour so far. The worst question that can be asked of a humorist, she says, is “When did you know you were funny?” She talked a bit about this and said, “I didn’t always know I was funny. I knew I always wanted to tell stories.”
One of the reasons I let practical Sarah win all those years ago is that I was worried all the stories have already been told. There are no new ideas anymore. If you wanted a tale about X, I will find you a story about X. In Kurt Vonnegut’s book A Man Without A Country, he has this chapter about there are only so many story arcs, I think he boils it down to three. My friend Jenn says there’s only one – A person goes on a journey. There it is, every story is essentially a person on a journey.
Maybe I let fear of coming up with original ideas stop me from really pursuing writing all those years ago. I wanted to be a film director because I didn’t think I had good, big ideas, but I was sure that I could interpret the story from paper to a screen. I could see the book or screenplay. I was good at taking an idea to the next place. Tonight, Sloan talked about how she was inspired by a short story called The Necklace, and used that as a springboard for her novel. I had not heard of that story before, and just read it moments ago. It’s totally worth a read – but to sum up – the theme is: Do you even know what you’re working towards? Are we fumbling towards false goals?
This idea that she weaves this tale and it’s themes into her novel (I’m not quite sure how yet, I haven’t started reading The Clasp yet – but as soon as I finish rambling here I can start) is so intriguing to me. Why didn’t I think to incorporate and collaborate years ago when I wanted to write? Why did I think everything was already done?
And if I started right now, I could still be a writer for 30 years.
Did that come together like it did in my head? Eh, I don’t even care if it didn’t. I’m eager to start reading my new book. Even though I need another book to read like I need a third cat.
Lastly, W30D3 –
This is where the alternate title came in: Eventually, you have to leave your house. I had lunch with a colleague and dinner with the girls tonight. No getting around it, so I went in with plans. Lunch was easy, I talked the colleague into going to Chipotle where I can get a salad with carnitas, pico and guacamole. Dinner was going to be tougher. We went to a bar that does Tapas Tuesdays! (How I’ve never participated in this event before is beyond me.) If you’re sitting in their bar area and ordering a drink, they just keep bringing out little plates of food. I’m not drinking and I couldn’t partake in the little plates of food since I wasn’t sure what would be in them. I had checked out the menu in advance and knew I could order a couple dishes that seemed compliant. I’m sure the chicken skewers I had were. The roasted potatoes were probably ok. Good news is I didn’t even flinch when Shannon ordered chocolate cake, or when one of the tapas dishes they brought around was a fruit mousse. Day 3. Eye on the prize. Have a plan for going out to eat.