The Secret (A Working Title)

Have you ever imagined your perfect job? Envisioned your calling, had your destiny revealed, discovered your purpose in life? If so, you’ll understand me when I say that this moment of absolute certainty is one like no other. That it causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand and it brings to you a clarity the likes of which you never could have imagined.

I had the distinct fortune of such an occasion when I was just a young girl. It all began over lunch one day when my Dad had taken me out to the flashiest joint in town. I felt like I was in heaven. That’s when I looked solemnly into my father’s eyes and declared that my ultimate dream was to be a cashier at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sadly, I never made it that far and had to be happy with working the checkout at my neighborhood grocer until I moved away for college.

And there I was, off on a chain of failures, of settling for less than what I had once dreamed of.

Now, one might hope that I had learned a valuable lesson from the heartache and disappointment that came with never having been able to hand out buckets of that deliciously battered treat to eagerly awaiting customers, but, no. Instead, what I learned is that I survived. I put my head down and let myself live with second best, setting a trend that still holds strong today.

It’s not that I do a dance of ecstatic glee whenever I think about how I’ve never managed to see through anything on my list of must-do-before-I-die items (although I suppose there is still time, as here I sit alive and well typing these words). Perhaps it’s that I find this other lifestyle easier, more kind to my nerves. But it’s not all selfishly for me that I live this life, goodness no. I’ve learned that a gal should never let anyone think she’s one of those crazy, go-getter keener types. Too dangerous. After all, while I have had years of practice at fine-tuning my self-acceptance skills, others are not so lucky – they are only just beginning to learn how to accept me. And so, aim low and wow people with my ability to accomplish more than just the bottom of the barrel, that’s my motto.

“Look at you!” they’ll say, nodding their heads in approval. “Here I thought you were destined to be nothing more than one of those people who takes your ticket at the ball game, but there you are selling hot dogs in the stands and mingling about with the season ticket holders. A coveted position if I ever saw one! I tell you, I never would have thought it, but, here you are proving me wrong right in front of my very own eyes!”

Yes, that kind of satisfaction is the life for me. I’ve seen the alternatives and, let me tell you, this is the best way. And I should know. After recovering from the internal shame I felt from never having become a cashier at KFC, I’m certain that I went into protective mode and have been comfortably sitting there ever since. I’m proud to say that since that time I have yet to again disappoint a loved one through unfounded big-talk about plans for grandeur.

The trick to this type of success is simple.

Once you have recognized your talents and dreamt about a career that would absolutely knock your socks off, what you do is have a good long sit in front of the television, maybe gobble down a whole bag of potato chips for good measure. And, sure enough, I’m telling you that in no time you’ll have a blink, look around slowly and struggle to remember what it was you were thinking about before that infomercial came on demonstrating how to enhance your life by adding excitement to your tuna. All sorts of potentially productive time will pass you by before you know it, saving you from the pointless heartache of unrealized dreams.

“But what if I don’t even like potato chips?” you ask. I’m telling you, you’ll learn to love them, and you will be thankful that you did. You see, with this fool-proof method of self-preservation, you’ll never have to worry about letting those pesky dreams get in the way of happiness.

When I was younger, my mother saw that I loved music and thought that I might have a talent for tickling the ol’ ivories, so she enrolled me in keyboard lessons with the best teacher in the phone book. At first, I went to those classes religiously and even took up voice lessons while I was at it. Then, when my first round of performances got pretty good reviews, I saw to it that I didn’t practice once in the coming weeks before every recital from then on. In fact, I quit practicing full stop.

I couldn’t have the audience thinking that I thought I was some sort of child prodigy or something. I was no fool at the age of 13, let me tell you, and I knew that once you got the taste of excitement and love for music out of your mouth, all you would be left with is the bitter flavor of failure. After all, who would love you once you forgot that line, missed that note? Not the audience, that’s for sure. And then there would be the sympathetic looks from friends and loved ones. “Don’t worry, no one even noticed,” they’d say. “And look at the lovely dress you put on for the occasion. No one can take those impressive layers of crinoline away from you!”

What kind of life would that be? And sure, you could polish up and show ‘em who’s boss in the next round, but you know what they would be thinking. “My goodness, the whole show I was so nervous she’d cock up again that I couldn’t even enjoy myself! Would you look at how white my knuckles are?!” Or, “Yes, that one seemed to go more smoothly, but after a day’s grace I can only imagine that the disasters get bigger and messier the next time around.” And don’t even get me started on what would happen when you grow out of your cute face. Everyone knows that an awkward teenager gets not even half the desired amount of an audience’s sympathy should she happen to have entered that acne stage of things.

Who needs that kind of pressure when you can volunteer to be the usher, get a free seat to the show and impress your friends with your connections in the Arts? Not me, that’s who not. No, I much prefer to sit comfortably in the back of a dark theatre and think of how much better I would be than that lady up there on the stage, should I feel like it. (Which, of course, I most certainly do not.)

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