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When I Grow Up… I Wanna Be A Pasta Sauce Scraper

first, second, third place awards, blue ribbons, red ribbons
[pullquote]I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
~ Douglas Adams[/pullquote]

I was a talented child, blessed (perhaps cursed) with all sorts of abilities, which as I grew older, made it difficult for me to choose a career path:
I wanted to experiment with everything!

A true jack-of-all-trades, and master of none.

Whenever I stumble upon my childhood awards, trophies, and ribbons, packed in cardboard boxes from our many moves… I feel a pang of regret and loss.

I had so much potential and so many dreams. I was going to become “Someone”, which is ironically my mother’s pet-name for me.

The majority of them were for Speech/Dramatic Recitation – my performances of T.S. Eliot’s cat poetry made it to State Level, but there were also vocal awards, creative writing ribbons, painting awards, and even one for my attempt at playing piano.

A few weeks ago, I was reading Jessica Doyle’s blog post, Finding Passion Without Becoming Addicted, and it seemed to mirror the dissatisfaction I’ve been lately feeling but haven’t really expressed on this blog.

I try to maintain a whimsical and cheerful face on the Internet, pushing past my personal doubts and disappointments, very much like Jess’s closing remark ~

“It never goes away, but you can use it to your advantage and work with it, molding it into inspiration to continue living and striving for the life you want.”

But although I haven’t felt like writing, today I wanted to share these feelings.
My Facebook wall has been abnormally quiet… I’ve actually received messages from people “checking in”, assumedly to see whether or not I’m still alive and breathing.

You know how actors and artists have the unnerving ability to drop dead unexpectedly…

The truth is less tragic, and more a “sign of the times” ~ I’ve returned to work part-time in the evenings, Monday through Thursday. I have Fridays off, and every other weekend (depending on my husband’s work schedule).

We were starting to slip behind financially, and Joe’s usual easy-going Jekyll was morphing into a hideous Hyde: hiding away in our bedroom, watching television for an hour or two before falling asleep early, and spending the night tossing and fretting and waking up every few hours to take medicine for his chronic upset stomach.

I walked on eggshells for weeks, feeling like a failure for spending any unnecessary money… (we really didn’t NEED that $40 Baldwin Classic piano from the neighbor’s yard sale)… and the children became more willful and temperamental, picking up on our emotional stress without understanding its reason.

The dynamics of our household may soon be changing, as my husband and his boss have a nonexistent  poor relationship that doesn’t seem to be repairable, and we’re still waiting for that axe to drop. We’re expecting a pink slip for Christmas.

I’m still tempted to take over his role as breadwinner, and give him a much needed break.

And as I try to resign myself to this ironic transition ~ back to the florescent-lit hell of grocery shelves, after having spent 2.5 years as a stay-at-home mom and artist ~ I find myself looking back on each decision I made, each choice that led me further away from my childhood goals of spotlights and top billing….
To this place where I am.

It’s not characteristic of me to pine over opportunities lost and paths not taken.

I know that every choice I made was honest and heart-felt at the time, and its doubtful if I would have chosen differently even if I could have foreseen the outcome.

However understanding this doesn’t help to ease the embarrassment when I overhear a mother telling her 8-year-old daughter,
“Keep up those straight A’s, honey. You don’t want to end up stocking shelves.”

I was standing in the Sauce Aisle, replacing old shelf labels and plastic strips.
I knew the comment was directed towards me.
And I desperately bit my tongue until I tasted my own blood… because I really wanted to retort,

“Yes, honey, but remember… you need more than straight A’s to avoid my fate. You also need a laser-focused, unwavering sense of purpose.
Don’t let anything or anyone distract you.”

For I made the “A” Honor Roll every year in grade school, and kept a 4.0 GPA in high school. I graduated near the top of my class, I grudgingly told myself while scrubbing petrified spaghetti sauce from the bottom shelf.

But my list of accomplishments abruptly came to an end over a decade ago…
What have I done lately??

Perhaps I have continued pursuing a college degree in hopes of landing “a better job”…? Except that I was majoring in Theatre, and what exactly do Theatre Majors do for a living?

They become waitresses, and bartenders, and singing/dancing pizza delivery guys…
Or they become drama teachers who watch their brightest, most talented students graduate to pursue stardom, only to return a few years later with crushed dreams and an application for Food Mart.

All-State blue ribbons, red ribbon

I would probably still wind up stocking soup and sauce, while peddling my head-shots and acting resume to every casting agency on the East Coast.

I could have moved to different state…
I could have married a richer man…
And not gotten a divorce…
I could have postponed having children…
I could have done so many things differently….
And maybe I should have…

But I didn’t.
I’m standing right here, scraping this blasted sauce off a shelf.

One of the evils of our Facebook-era is that you can easily compare your life to everyone else’s… your former classmates, childhood crushes, distant cousins, and business peers/competitors…

You can see which girl married the handsome guy, had five children, and bought a white-picket fenced home in the suburbs.
You’ll become envious of friends’ nomadic, unburdened life-style… always exploring on cross-country road trips, and vacationing in Italy and Japan.

You will start to measure your success by what you have, what you don’t have, and you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel because your chosen career isn’t paying for swanky hotels and VIP tickets.

You’ll begin to feel worthless and insignificant. And you will be deceived.

Aside from the few DK&Qs on Facebook – and some bloggers – who update their status regularly with personal drama, scripting and starring in their very own reality show, where nothing is TMI or off-limits….

Most people will not welcome you to peer too closely under the beds, in the closets, attics, or basements – wherever it is they hide their skeletons.

Their seemingly perfect lives and marriages that you are envying came at a price ~ which they are not willing to divulge, or perhaps are not even aware they have paid.

They might be working for a tyrant boss, in a soul-sucking 80+ hour-per-week job, to afford that beautiful 5-Bedroom 3.5-Bath castle in Shangri La.
They might lavish expensive presents on their wife and children to compensate for a lack of family togetherness.
They might even be having an affair with their secretary. ;P

Those jet-setters might not be so much bohemian free spirits as fearful of settling down and getting their hands dirty… perhaps they’re escaping from something?
Maybe they can’t hold a steady job, or afford to live anywhere except their car or tent.
But they make it seem like one big adventure.

NO matter what choices led me to this place… here I am.
And you are here, too… well, okay, not HERE. Not scraping sauce. But living a life that you probably didn’t intend to live.

Rather than mourning what we’ve sacrificed, or envying what we can’t obtain right now, let’s be resolved to look at our glasses as half-full.

And all that additional room in the glass? That is our future, baby!

We may not achieve everything we long for ~ I’ll probably survive if I never perform on Broadway ~ but having dreams to chase after will keep us from dwelling too much on the past.

If, at this moment, our family needs some extra income… I will stock a few more cases of sauce, and do it with a smile.
Maybe I’ll even go out on a limb, and ask whether I can help you find anything. ;)

A little humiliation and an occasional reality check won’t hurt me.

But you’ll excuse me if I decide against cooking pasta tonight!

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