Reality Truck: New Year Priorities
I look back and realize, once again, that I haven't achieved half the things I set out to over the past year (or the past ten years, for that matter). When my college recently sent me an alumni questionnaire asking for a list of significant accomplishments since graduation, I wrote, "I've finally gotten my hair all one length." I guess that probably sounds kind of shallow to anyone who didn't go to the same college I did. Our seal read, "Doctrina lux mentis." We all thought that meant, "Where appearances still count." It's just hard to compete when you have overachieving friends like I do. In the past year, I've known people who've become doctors, finished a novel (writing one, not reading one), gone back to graduate school, created new life, ran the Boston Marathon, painted a masterpiece, and written some songs that would melt your heart -- all in the past year. It kinda puts this whole hair thing into (really unflattering) perspective. So the new year dawns, and with it an enormous amount of pressure for people like me who always need something to complain about. There's something about the whole concept of a clean slate that compels one to take stock. So mostly, I spend my time worrying about trivial things because it keeps my mind off the big stuff, such as the suspicion that maybe I'm wasting my life. Like I have this pretty idle fear that somewhere locked inside my brain is the cure for cancer, but I've wasted the space on the lyrics to old Kansas songs. ("Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man/though my mind could think I still was a mad man/I hear the voices when I'm dreaming..." well, you get the idea.) Then I worry what would happen if someone decided to make a movie of my life (not a documentary, mind you, but a major motion picture). My biggest fears are: 1) I'll have no input on the soundtrack. It won't be Johnny Cash or Lyle Lovett; instead they'll play that stupid REM "Everybody Hurts" song every time something sad happens to me. And 2) my "love interest" won't be Sam Shepard or Tommy Lee Jones -- it'll be that obnoxious Ace Ventura pet detective guy. And then there's the omnipresent Martha Stewart. What are we going to do about her? I'm sure it's not her fault she's an obsessive-compulsive Stepford wife. And I'm sure, in her mind, none of this is personal. Before she came along though, I used to think I gave a pretty decent party -- everyone seemed to get enough to eat and drink and have someone to talk to. Then there was Martha. At a casual get-together, she makes blinis to order, grows all the flowers for the centerpiece, and sends everyone home with pine cones hand-dipped in gold she mined in the back yard. Thanks. Unable to compete, I simply lowered my standards. Now I give parties where I'm just relieved when no one throws up in the ficus. And do you want to know how mean-spirited I am about all this? All I can think is, "well, at least her husband left her." In a world where Martha Stewarts are allowed to live, breathe, spawn, and proliferate, it's difficult to improve on oneself in any meaningful fashion. The only thing I can say for sure is, I'm not going to cut my hair. This all-one-length thing may not mean much to the rest of the world, but at least I have priorities.