Monday, September 27, 2010

Turn Around, Bright Eyes

Growing up, my parents nixed all expensive extracurriculars. As a result, I've never learned to ski, golf, or play tennis. I never went to overnight camp. Instead, I spent my summers putting on backyard carnivals, the finale of which was a one-woman acrobatic show that culminated in a forward diving somersault from the A-frame of the jungle gym. When that wrapped up for the season, I started a calligraphy business- my best seller was a neon sign that proudly proclaimed "God Bless This Mess!" in what I called 'Victorian script'. When a friend recently told me he once spent a summer building a to-scale replica of the Chicago skyline, I totally knew where he was coming from. I'd spent an entire childhood learning how to entertain myself.

I love the way I grew up and I wouldn't change any of it to have attended hourly lessons at a country club or make lanyards at Camp Hochiwaka. Yet every once in a while, I'm reminded that my upbringing puts me at a bizarre disadvantage. Like today, when I had to go on a golf outing for work, which I'd completely forgotten about until I showed up at the office this morning.

There I was, taking my first ever swing right off the tee, in front of co-workers I've known for exactly two weeks. Good times.

It was in this moment that I cursed my parents- first for getting my mom's utter lack of athletic ability, second for not ever having been brought to a driving range. Then I cursed myself for forgetting about the outing.

Then I started to pay attention instead of thinking of all the people I wanted to curse, because in my usual daydream state I putted the first hole with my 7 iron. Which was actually not the most embarrassing moment of the day- that came when I hit my head on the golf cart as I got in. Two different times. Ask to see my bruise if you are wondering if this entry is purely hyperbolic.

Before you start wondering if my co-workers now hate me, or just feel bad for me, I should mention I lucked out because one of them was also a first-time golfer and the other was skilled but not at all judgmental. Plus...

Something happened on hole four- I hit the ball on the first try, and it went sailing IN THE AIR instead of skipping like a smooth rock across the water as all my others had. It went pretty far, too- the hole was a par-4 so I didn't hit the green but I did stay right in the center of the fairway. In the end, it was the best shot of the day for our group. A sigh of relief, as always, in these situations- I'd just hoped to be pass-able.

Much like my calligraphy sign business, my day job is to find the right words for the right moments. Like my one woman carnival show, my night job now is to pick the best combination of music, costumes, and choreography. It's impossible to not see the parallels between the five-year-old me and the adult me; the life I'm mapping out now is perhaps just a more lucrative, adult version of the one I started twenty years ago. I'm grateful I learned early who I was, and why it was important for me to stay equal parts word nerd and bedazzled spinning top.

I'm grateful I learned when to laugh at myself, when to take pride in myself, and how to remain unscathed by moments that others would find embarrassing.

Most of all, I'm grateful my parents never splurged on a video camera so there is no evidence of me bossing around my light man (neighbor) as I walked across the stage (backyard) in a gold leotard and fringed skirt to begin my opening number, a Total Eclipse of the Heart/Toni Braxton mash-up.


Jamie said...

Sounds like you could have been Glee material from that last line :)

I love this post! What a wonderful way to grow up. I wish kids had more of that now... So much about getting them from point A to point B.

The dreaded golf outing. One of my friends at college made me take lessons with her, because we had to fill our P.E. requirement and she was going to be an i-banker and probably assumed I would do something like that too. Turns out we graduated during the recession. Now she's working at a foundation and I'm working my way towards a profession where athleticism (yes, even golf) is a totally foreign concept. Figures.

Teresa said...

1. omgggg how much I would pay to see you dance to that mash up.

2. I always wanted horseback riding lessons, but my parents nixed that for a combination of being too expensive and my dad's deathly allergies to horses.

3. Beautifully written post.

Anonymous said...


I havent commented on your blog in a while, even though I have been reading (to keep me un-bored at work). Anyway, the title of this one cracked me up and here's why:

I hope you get as much of a kick out of it as I do!

p.s. I never had any paid-for fun when I was younger either. Mine involved running around the cul-de-sac with my neighbors finding "clues" to mysteries on the telephone poles... playing in makeshift sandboxes that contained cat poop...and making up dances on rollerblades to songs such as "My Heart Will Go On" :)

Gina Marie said...

Jenna- glad you're still reading!

That video was the all-time best thing I've ever read. I'm about to make my co-workers watch it.

And I REALLY wish I'd thought of rollerblade dances. That sounds brilliant!