Saturday, April 05, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My Life?

The other day I wore to work a motorcycle jacket I bought the evening of Nov. 24, 1988, the day before Thanksgiving, from Wilson's Leather store in Christiana Mall, for $248 (I have a weird memory). After work, I stopped at Safeway and, before getting out of the car, slid my BlackBerry into the inside pocket.

As I did so, it struck me: I was placing a smart phone in a pocket that was created when cell phones and the Internet didn't exist, at least among the common population.

It got me thinking back to that year, when I was a junior at the University of Delaware studying English literature and journalism and working as an intern at the Wilmington News Journal. I was living with V.L., the earwax artist, in Southgate Aparments, and having one hell of a time.

Imagine being a reporter before the age of faxes and cell phones and the Web. Yeah, we actually had to go get documents, call information, knock on doors, track people down.

In 1988, I had a Radio Shack Tandy that had no hard drive; I inserted a floppy disk to install a word-processing program every time I used it. It was connected to a daisy wheel printer that never worked quite right.

Our phones had cords; CDs were new, and mostly we listened to cassette tapes.

And I had dreams.

I was to be a magazine editor in New York, with a red convertible '67 Mustang.

Previously, in my adolescence, I had aspired to be (in no particular order) a go-go girl (I didn't know what it meant, but saw the sign on the way to visit my aunt in the city); a nun; a spelunker (before I realized I was claustrophobic); a jet pilot (before I realized I was afraid to fly); a cop; a firefighter; a cosmetologist; a best-selling author; and a stay-at-home mom with lots of kids.

In high school, I realized I could write. And I realized that the only sure way to make money at writing would be to become a journalist.

So I did.

But now, I can't help wondering where the life I dreamed of went.

My close friend Shaken Mama and I have an inside joke where one of us will say, "I thought it was different!" And the other will say, "No, it's just like this."

I recall a wonderful piece that was published -- I thought it was the NYT but now I can't find it -- by a woman who married a man who developed a brain tumor and died. I read it about the time SM and I were deciding whether I should accept Mark's offer and move to California and get married. This author said she didn't think she would ever get married, and she felt like her alter-ego, the woman who didn't get married, was the persona stuffed into her back pocket.

I have often felt that way: There's me, and then there's where I thought Me would go.

I thought it was different.

But no, it's just like this.


Shaken Mama said...

Your jacket pocket was thinking it was different and your BlackBerry said no, it was just like this.

General Barnicky said...

I thought your 1988 was a very good year! Vintage, in fact.