One would think that with the wealth of free time I currently have on my hands ---summer vacation from teaching, kids no longer living at home, a clearer mind thanks to a brief respite from stress-induced impulse drinking...and...a laptop at the ready---I'd have written a long novel's worth of carefully crafted posts all published with the appropriate title Magna Carta Holy Grail but Kanye West totally scooped me on that front. However, it must be said that Kanye's reasons for using such a lofty title probably have more to do with the enormity of his ego and mine is just a symbolic accounting for the many, m-a-n-y times a day I thought about writing, said I was going to, and then... did not.
Oh...the promises I made to myself all those times
*The semester I was a "walk on" on the college track team because I was somewhat faster than many of my non-runner friends and because my experience with actual athletes was...how we say...non existent? I thought that I, with my whippet-thin body and "Elmo arms" that had lifted nothing heavier than a dictionary, would have no problem in being equal to everyone who had been running competitively since the invention of movies with sound. The willingness to have faith in oneself is important, but it is clear that it must also be grounded in some kind of reality. Obviously, I had not learned this yet. Oh, the hubris of youth!
Which is why during the inter-squad meet I didn't know enough to wear shorts under my thin white sweats, which were to be removed before we got into the starting blocks. I had to run in the sweatpants, which looked awkward not only because I looked like a white balloon in motion, but also because my bright pink underwear could be seen through the pants--not by only by those running nearby, but also from any low flying aircraft overhead. Also? I was the last one on my squad to cross the finish line.
*There was the time that I--in a fit of young teenage angst--possibly over dramatized the familial dysfunction that was going on inside my childhood home and wrote a lengthy and detailed letter to the advice columnist at Seventeen Magazine. Cut to a few months later when I get an envelope addressed to me from the magazine and a letter inside advising me and the fellow maniacs in my family to seek professional help posthaste. This was problematic for several reasons: 1) My mother did not allow me to read the magazine because--choosing to believe as she did a literal interpretation of its audience--decided I had to actually BE seventeen in order to be a legal member of its target demographic. Therefore, she could never know that I had written them in the first place, which was difficult since I was not of an age where I got personally addressed mail at my home unless it was my birthday. 2) I couldn't remember exactly what I had said (Had I exaggerated or not??) in the letter that had touched off the clear concern this stranger had for me, and 3) I was confused and afraid that--just perhaps--my family was crazy and now someone outside our family unit knew and would tell everyone.
It is my personal belief that the origins of my perforated gastric ulcer from three years ago can be traced to the moment immediately after I received that letter.
*There was also the time when, in a fit of good will for my fellow human, I was so moved by a lonely young man's Dear Abby letter that I decided to write him at the address he provided. Because he was lonely and sad. And (You've got mail!!) he wrote back!!!! From his cell at the state penitentiary!! Did I know he was in prison when I wrote to him?? Incredibly, the answer to this question is yes. Because I had been so chatty about myself in my letters about what I did and where I lived, my new jailbird pen pal began talking about what I might do to help him reacclimate whenever he got out. You know...maybe my dad could get him a job or something!? This unforseen turn of events would have necessitated having to tell my very strict father (Whom we sometimes referred to as Captain Von Trapp.) that I had helpfully provided an incarcerated man with information about our family. That I had thought writing to a prisoner AT ALL was a good idea would have seemed to them beyond the scope of understanding. Let alone that this idea, apart from all other worthwhile things in my life that I should have followed through on, was the one that took root inside my hormonal mind.
Tragically, there are plenty more stories like this and I suppose they could serve as an embarrassing reminder of how stupid I was and for how long I remained that way. Or I could decide to focus on the fact that I did eventually turn into a relatively normal person with a miraculously amazing family and a decent work ethic and not a walking cautionary tale. People grow up and they get smarter in the process. Most of them, anyway. But they, like me, have a secret list of horrific missteps to remind them of when this wasn't always the case. Even today, and just to be safe, I never wear white pants...with anything.