1999 Anne Horton Writing Award
"And the Band Played On"
Hindsight can be so odious; it casts an eerie glow on the things we thought we wanted, and the things we got--the work we put into our wants, and the effort with which we slogged through our needs. I thought I was living the life I would always live, droning on day after day, with no end in sight for the work load.
I had the odd jobs that filled in the monetary glitches my husband's salary sometimes left. Whenever the crisis passed, I would quit and return to the time honored job of motherhood. As the children grew older, the need for me to be home decreased, and I found myself bored and in need of something regular to do.
With no formal education beyond high school, I was somewhat limited in my scope of possibilities, but I have a very strong work ethic. I have never sat on my laurels and let anyone do my share, so I have trouble working with others if they don't pull their weight. I needed something I could work solo in.
I started my "career" with an ad in the local paper that stated that I would clean houses and, of course, I was absolutely effervescent with experience and knowlege. I got calls, and, in time, thought I was really something when I could name off influential home owners as clients. I enjoyed being in the nice homes and seeing the results of my work; with a household consisting of four boys and one sloppy girl, a clean house was a rarity.
Although the work and the money were fine, there was a part of me that really wasn't happy. I tend to be somewhat of a comic and am quite gregarious in nature, so while the work allowed me to be alone, instead of with workplace sloths, the noisy part of me was jumping up and down to come out.
One day I happened to hear an ad on a local radio station for a DJ position. I hightailed it over and offered anything they wanted as a reference. Years before I had tried to get a job as a DJ and had failed miserably; I would have told them I was a correspondent for CNN if it would have gotten me the job!
Man, my life was all set now. I had the work I wanted; I had finally become the DJ I had always wanted to be, so there could be nothing else I needed.
For about three years things went this way. I had the feeling though that I wasn't done evolving, and when I get a feeling, I listen. I have very good instincts.
All my life I had been fascinated with the idea of going to college. As a parent, I transferred the urge to the kids and encouraged them to further themselves through higher education. As time went by and they barely finished high school, if at all, I began to realize that I was the one who needed the higher education.
I now owned my own business called, "The Clean Connection," and I was making pretty good money. However, the work had taken its toll on me, and I was getting less and less out of the things I had worked so hard for. The body that had always been there for me was beginning to break down, and I let a lot of clients go.
The thoughts of going to college were prominent in my mind and I even went out to the local community college and walked around to see how it felt; I left feeling like it was what I wanted but would never see happen. The family needed the money I was bringing in and where would I find time...I came up with so many what-ifs that before I knew it another couple of years had gone by. I was no longer on the radio; I found I could not work for a company who employed "Captain Putz" for a manager so I quit. The unravelling had begun in earnest.
The summer of 1998 I finally awoke from the sleep of ignorance and made the decision that if I could get a full Pell Grant, I would go to school. My husband was all for anything that would put a smile back on my face, I was not at all happy in my life and everyone knew it. My body was crippled and my soul was distressed.
I had no idea how my life would change, but I jumped in with both arms outstretched and my heart full of--well, let's face it--I didn't have a clue.
I was suddenly surrounded with all the ages that I thought I was trying to escape--young people. The day had no boredom, it went on forever, and I couldn't get enough of any of it. I bounded out of bed as fast as my poor crippled feet would let me and raced to school. It didn't take long to figure out how wise it is to race; if you don't want to park on Hwy. 2, claim a space early!
In the midst of bounding and racing I happened to look at the marquee in the east mall one day and, lo and behold, there were play auditions coming up. I felt my pulse begin to race and I might have even gotten a little light headed, I don't remember, but I knew I was going to be in that play. I searched out the script in the library, memorized what looked like a pivotal part, and, armed with the tancity of a bulldog, went to auditions. Lo, and behold, I got the lead female role of a major play!
The fact that my husband had always said he was glad that I wasn't an actress was a moot point. I was meant for stardom--even if only in my own mind. Obscurity had been my lifestyle for so many years, watching my birthdays slip away along with my looks till my only claim to fame would be in playing Angela Lansbury's declining years.
I was definitely in the deep end of the pool now and swimming furiously. I only came up for air when the weekend came and I could stay home for more than five or six hours. There was nothing in my life that meant more to me than what I was doing. Being in the hallowed halls of education has no comparison for me, someone who thought her only options in life had been reached already.
I love every minute of my school day and in the course of time I may come to understand directors (ha ha). My teachers are challenging and stimulating, and I wouldn't trade any of the new found latitude of my present life for the languid though lucrative life I used to have. Once I finish scraping the barnacles off my febrile mind, I will step into the Looking Glass and hold my dream...at last.