Last Wednesday, I ran through the New York City Port Authority like a banshee, my fifty-pound book bag slamming against my back, sweat breaking out on my forehead. The clock flashed 8:27 PM. I had three minutes to make the bus or wait until 11pm bus, which wouldn’t get me home until 1 AM. The national guardsmen eyed me as I flew by. One touched his gun and then he smiled, surely figuring that the capri-wearing middle-aged woman wasn’t a terrorist. I bounded down the escalator to gate 19 and stopped. There were only three people in line.
“Is this the 8:30 bus to Reading?” I huffed. “Where is everybody?”
“The bus leaves at 9.”
Well, lucky for me! I slid into line delighted I’d read the schedule incorrectly. How could I not be happy? I was in my beloved place. That’s right. The New York Port Authority is one of my favorite spots. The air, exhaust, and hustle and bustle. This is where it all started thirty years ago. I’d travel to and from PA day after day hunting down my hope to be an actress. Now I’m lugging it from my small town to the Big Apple to study writing with Susan Shapiro. My novel What The Valley Knows will be published in January. I’m excited and feel alive.
As I waited to board the bus, a pigeon walked by as I adjusted my book bag. Oh, it’s even more charming than I remember. Birds to boot!
All of this makes me happy. Sometimes, I want to pinch myself. Pursuing my creative dreams again feels right. Maybe the idioms I’ve come to live by, the ones I’ve posted on my computer desk, and said enough times to make my kids vomit, have really worked. So I made a list on the bus ride home of the sayings that have pulled me through to this point. Would any of the following find a spot on your list?
It’s never too late to be who you might have been. (George Eliot, the pen name of Victorian novelist Mary Ann Evans). When I used to think about who I set out to be as a young person, I felt like I’d strayed so far from my true self. But now I’m taking little steps to become a writer, because . . .
From small things, big things come. (Bruce Springsteen – lyrics here) When I’m facing a huge project, I try to do the next small thing. Like the Army General Creighton Abrams was famous for saying, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” Life can be overwhelming: kids, work, household chores, let alone the pursuit of our own ambitions. Take little bites. I’ve found that, one sentence at a time, the 80,000 word novel gets written. Because at the end of the day you need to . . .
Play the cards you’re dealt. (Randy Pausch) Instead of curling up in a ball upon learning he had pancreatic cancer and only six months to live, the Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor gave a lecture series entitled the “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Childhood Dreams.” His talk became a YouTube sensation and led to a book deal creating a beautiful and financial legacy for his family. Play the hand your dealt, otherwise the only choice is to fold. And then there’s no chance of winning. But even so . . .
Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) My dad used to say this all the time—whether we were celebrating a big win or bemoaning a crushing loss. I found myself telling my son the same thing, after his high school team’s spectacular defeat in the first round of the PIAA State Lacrosse Tournament. They were winning 7-0 late in the third quarter when the bear began to feast. Our opponent scored 8 straight goals to win the game and knocked us out of states. And while the loss was painful to witness, and it left some of our strong sons in tears, I know our boys are beginning to learn that . . .
This too shall pass. (King Solomon) The bad stuff always gets better if you just give it a little time. Things usually look brighter in the morning. There’ll be another chance to make things right. There’s next season. And that’s why it’s best to . . .
Be kinder than necessary. (Suzie Christie—my mom) You never know what someone is going through. A “good game” after a humiliating loss or a word of kindness might be the nudge a person needs to make it through a tough time. My mother is also famous for saying, “Never miss an opportunity to give a compliment” and she invented The Compliment Game. It’s important to be kind first, not only with our co-workers and friends, but also, even more importantly, with our children, because . . .
The days are long, but the years are short. (Gretchen Rubin) All this hyper-focused, time-consuming parenting eventually ends. I stand on the precipice of a new world. My son will graduate next spring and while this is a bittersweet time, I’ve noticed a flicker of excitement in my gut, for both of us—we’re both about to face new adventures. The return-to-me-phase descending, which makes me know that I need to . . .
Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal. This has become more evident as I’ve contemplated what I want the second half of my life to look like, to consider what my “work here on earth” is supposed to be. I’m trying to get in the game more, stand on the sidelines less. I tell my kids to leave it all on the field, to give it their all. I’m trying to do it, too. With my launch book I don’t want to look back and say I wish I’d done this or that. So you might see me acting a little crazy! Because I will . . .
Never give in! (Winston Churchill) And I hope you won’t either. Discover your passion. Your meaning. Your reason for being here, and LIVE IT! You might find yourself my seat mate, pulling into the NYC Port Authority, chasing a dream! All I can say is, “Let’s roll!”
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My greatest beauty secret is being happy with myself. I don’t use special creams or treatments – I’ll use a little bit of everything. It’s a mistake to think you are what you put on yourself. I believe that a lot of how you look is to do with how you feel about yourself and your life. Happiness is the greatest beauty secret.
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