I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was, dressed in a brand new burgundy linen dress, faux alligator pumps and matching purse, small, tasteful pearl earrings and my subway token held tightly in my fist. It was my first day of work in the world of adults.
A few weeks before, I had graduated from high school. I did not have the summer off to celebrate as some of my friends did who were headed off to college in the fall. In my family, the only reason for girls to go to college was to take up a profession that one could fall back on should anything happen to your husband, like a teacher or a nurse. The rest of us, even though we may have been college material, were fated to go out into the world, get a job, and find a husband. This was, after all, 1967.
So off I went to begin my new adventure as an adult. Let the others continue to behave like school children. I was a real grown up, moving in a grown up world, earning my own way (all $75 a week of it which was huge money in those days) in the world of business. Never mind that I was so very jealous of them, of missing the college experience and the world of thinkers, and doers, and writers … I was a working girl.
It did not take me long to learn that being an adult was not all it was cracked up to be. The subways were crowded, your co-workers were only too happy to climb to the top while stepping on your back on the way up, and every single girl in the secretarial pool was after every single, available man in the building, and that included the elevator operator. Just to add some spice to this story, let me also explain that this was all taking place in that exciting metropolis, that subject of numerous movies and musicals, known as New York City. So, in essence, I was, literally, one in a million.
I recently stumbled upon a photo of me taken in Bryant Park in Manhattan that first summer. My best friend, who was headed off to college in September, had come into the city from Queens, where we both lived, to have a picnic lunch with me on my lunch hour. We are standing there arm in arm, she in her shorts and top, me in my tailored cotton summer dress and heels, with my hair teased into what resembled a bowling ball (ah, the hair styles of the 60’s), smiling away at the camera. Inside I was seething, grateful that it was black and white film so no one would capture the green monster staring back at the lens. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be reading books, and listening to lectures, and learning about the rest of the big world out there, not just the world of work, competition, pettiness and a future doomed to domestic arts. I wanted to be a writer!
How idealistic we all are when we are that young. We think we’ve got the world and life all figured out. Then we get a dose of reality. Even today, young folks are graduating from college with no job prospects, a huge college debt to pay off, and no idea what life is about outside of social media and the latest technology. What’s a young person to do? Write. Write it all out. Write out your hopes, your dreams, your gripes. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? Where do you want to go? Write about it. And here’s the best part … you can be 19 all over again on paper! Even if you’re old enough to be watching your own kids or grandkids go off to start their new lives, you can still create the life you truly, truly want, but it starts by putting it all into words that you can look at, and understand, and claim for your own. Go back to school just for the love of learning. Sit down at your desk every day and start writing that book. Create a work plan for that business you want to start, or a travel plan for that trip you want to take. Just make sure it’s your life you’re creating, and not someone else’s idea of what it should be.
I just pulled that photo I mentioned before out of the box and put it on my desk next to the one I have sitting there of myself at age 5 pretending to play the piano. No more pretending. Like the lyrics to that golden oldie: “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!”
Peace and blessings.