“When you were 15, what did you think you’d be doing now?”
We were at lunch and my co-worker had posed the question as part of a conversation we were having about the pressure to go immediately to a four year college, rather than saving a significant amount of money by taking basic classes elsewhere (such as at a community college) or by pursuing a trade.
I knew my answer immediately.
“I was going to be living in New York City, writing my latest bestselling novel (the first bestseller having been published by the time I was 18, of course) and having a fabulous career.”
(If those words sound familiar, you either knew me when I was 15 or you’ve watched at least the first 15 seconds of my Listen to Your Mother video.)
At 47, the closest I am to living in the Big Apple is the fact that we have an apple tree in our backyard. In Pittsburgh. And yes, I have a career, the same one for the past 25 years now and one that I generally like and (in my opinion) am pretty good at. And I am indeed writing a novel (or a memoir, or a collection of linked stories) — the same one I’ve been writing on and off for years, and which probably won’t be a bestseller because my last name isn’t Kardashian.
Several times this week my younger years have crept into my present. They’re always there, of course — they’re not called one’s formative years for nothing. I’m sure that has to do with the release of my Listen to Your Mother video since my piece focuses on my teenage years in a significant way. I also spent Tuesday evening in the company of the one and only Judy Blume, who wrote the script for my adolescence and every else’s in the sold out crowd. (I know, I promised you a post. I’m working on it.)
My girl and I got to the Judy Blume lecture more than 90 minutes early, snagging a good spot in line and seats in the third row. While we waited, I started re-reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret on my Kindle. As I posted on Facebook, there’s only one book to read while waiting for Judy Blume.
(Incidentally, did you know that Judy Blume wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in approximately six weeks?! It’s true; she told us so herself on Tuesday night.)
So I sat there reading and being transported back in time to my pre-teen self. My girl’s main reason for coming was to “see an icon” (clearly, I’ve taught her well) and to get an autographed copy of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret for HER best friend, who lives in Texas and who she had plans with for today.
Those plans changed due to a death in their family, but we still managed to get the girls together for a quick breakfast at Panera this morning. While the girls sat inside laughing and talking for an hour and catching up, I sat outside on the patio, finishing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and keeping an eye on the girls without being intrusive on their conversation.
It felt somewhat surreal, watching the bond between my girl and her BFF and reading this pivotal book from when I was almost their age. I believe books (even ones we’ve read previously) have a way of finding us when we need them most, not unlike how a good friend shows up when we’re struggling.
The themes within Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret of changing bodies, friendships, and questioning the beliefs handed down from one’s parents seem especially resonant for both me and my girl right now. We’re both dealing with changing dynamics within friendships and while neither real-life story is one that can be told in this space, suffice it to say both have been difficult and painful journeys.
On Tuesday night, I was trying to think of a question for Judy Blume that wasn’t the usual stuff of author Q & A (“how do you get your ideas?” “what advice do you have for aspiring writers?”). This morning, it occurred to me that I would love to know what Margaret Simon, Nancy Wheeler, Gretchen Potter, and Janie Loomis are up to now at 58 years old. Did Margaret ever find religion or is she still searching?
Sitting at the Panera reading Judy Blume, I was mentally kicking myself for not asking her if she had ever considered writing a sequel of sorts to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
While seeing life come full circle by watching my girl and her friend, I realized that perhaps we didn’t need a sequel to know how their lives turned out.
Life has already written it for us.
This is post #47 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.