There’s nothing like a visit to my Michigan hometown to remind me of all that I had thought in my youth was completely, distinctly, humorously incorrect. Not that I begrudge my dreams or naïve outlook of having endless possibilities in life and utter absence of setbacks and disappointments. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Those ideas allowed me to dream without disastrous consequences, mostly because I was too chicken to take risks anyway. Did you have that notion in adolescence where you just felt like the world was waiting for you to do something great and your dreams and desires are just around the corner? And of course you’ll be successful at anything you try, anything life throws at you? “Glory Days” as Bruce Springsteen would call them. Glory days, glory days.
Had you asked me at high school graduation (Class of ’96!), how I see myself at 40 years old, I would have guessed career military, expert in some field or administrator of some sort with a like-minded husband, 2.5 kids, and a Mustang. I do have an (un)like-minded husband and 3 kids, so I was close there, but neither of us stayed in the military for a full career and I’m nowhere near an expert nurse, especially since I work part-time so I can write. And writing? Well, to go from novice to expert, you must cross a precarious bridge over a depthless pit while you are gushing blood and sweating profusely—a journey I have only just begun. And the Mustang? See, I’m holding out for the day when I can be impractical— after the house is paid for, no repairs needed, the landscaping looks great, and the kids are out of the house. For now, my protagonist in my book drives one (damn seventeen-year-old punk).
Speaking of impractical dreaming, I had often thought I would take more risks in life, like I would someday wake up more brave and not care about criticism or what the world might think. I daydreamed about riding motorcycles and wearing the black leather garb—you know, the biker look. Maybe even pink hair and a few tattoos. I thought I might have a husband who likes fast cars (he doesn’t) and we could go to car shows and he would smoke the tires at a Woodward Cruise (if you are from the Motor City, you understand). When I left home at eighteen, I took it for granted that I would be excellent at not only my career, but running, dancing, singing, cooking, decorating, keeping in touch with people, socializing, saving and investing money; I presumed I’d be well-rounded academically, read all kinds of books, keep up with current events, travel extensively and have a killer beach-body with minimal effort. (Insert snort here)
Going back home every so often brings all those wild concepts to the surface. I suppose if you don’t leave your hometown, you may not go through quite so much head-drama, but I don’t know, all I know is my own experience. What about you, readers? Did you dream big? Are you living the dream? Do trips to your hometown trigger any grief or laughable fantasies like mine do?
R.I.P. Emily’s 1996-vision-of-what-life-will-be. Maybe I can resurrect you someday, you know, in a work of fiction.