Interpretation by Heather Reynolds
When I was a youngster I dreamed about marriage (check), home ownership (check), being a cat mom (check), traveling in France (check) and of course having a successful career (Oops) and lots of money (Oops again).
Now that I’m, ahem… “older” I dream about looking out my kitchen window and seeing a tidy flower garden instead of patchy grass, thriving burdock and hardy dandelions. But for YEARS (and years, and years, and years) I berated myself, maybe even defined myself, by my “failure” to meet the American cultural, career and financial expectations that go along with the traditional getting-to-know-you questions like, What do you do?
Back when we were allowed to have social gatherings that was THE question I always dreaded. Raise cats? I wanted to say. Instead I hemmed and hawed and excused myself to refresh my drink just to escape those dreaded four words that I couldn’t succinctly answer because I don’t have one lanyard and I don’t have one title.
And then I came across the BEST. ANSWER. EVER. It was given by author and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams. “So…What do you do?“ came the standardized question at a party that she’d soon leave and soon forget.
“About what?” she replied.
About what! Exxxxxactly. What do you do about WHAT?!! I heard myself yell to the wall.
It was an epiphany. Here she was, a successful writer who could label herself, claim “success” and step into the American-Dream-Achieved line. But even though that’s how other people might define her, that’s not how she defines herself.
I’d like to say that my epiphany has resulted in unassailable self-confidence and love, but no. I still cringe and flush when that ugly question surfaces, still hem and haw, albeit not as much. I’m still working on self-definition, still working on my inner and outer gardens. And as everyone with a garden knows, it’s always changing and it’s never really done, is it?
But, I can dream.