Marc, Chief Troublemaker number 1, over at Sorryless, has once again issued to both Karen, KC Sunshine Troublemaker number 2, of Table for One, and me, Notorious Q Troublemaker number 3 (hey, my blog, my order), a writing challenge. I love that he calls us the Holy Trinity and Karen has her own ideas on who’s holds what position, and after quite the discussion last night, I have agreed to her order.
So, what’s the challenge, you ask? Sounded like it was simple enough. Go back in time to meet someone in 1985 (a nod to the Back to the Future original movie made that very year) and explain to them what 2018 looks like. As this is really close to the last day of said 2018, I realise it is high time I do my part. I have started and chucked and started and chucked again. Ideas coming in and then being dismissed. Marc’s brilliant post is here and Karen’s just as brilliant one, here. Their writing is so wonderful and heartfelt and true that I found myself even more stuck because I thought, shit, unlike them, no particular event in my own life happened in 1985 that affected me so deeply that I could dig it up and use it like they did.
Hopefully, without sounding schizophrenic, I’ll meet up with my own 21-year-old self and have a little chit-chat with her. To avoid confusion, me, aged 21, shall be known as Rog, a nickname used by four people for me.
“So, Rog, 1985 has been quite the year for you, hasn’t it?”
“Whoa, Dale, am I that old in 2018?”
“What? I’m not that bad, for Chrissakes! 54 may seem old to you now, but trust me, when you get here? You’re gonna change your mind on what one defines as old. It’s all relative.”
She eyed the signs life had left on my face and body so far. “You’re ten years older than Mom is now but I’ll tell you what, not too shabby.”
“Gee, thanks. How gracious you are…”
“To what do I have the honour of hanging out with my future self? Are you here to warn me of something so that I don’t fuck it up?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Besides, messing with time can have some dire consequences. You saw the movie—
“Movie’s not reality—”
“Maybe not. But I’m here now and best we keep this little conversation to ourselves, k? Anyway, I’m not here for changes, because I wouldn’t change a thing. OK, that part is not entirely true… Some shit I wish I didn’t do, but it’s all part and parcel of where I am now, so. Just know there are some really good things ahead for you. And, yes, there is some heavy shit coming your way, too. I don’t know if I really should tell you but I’m here now so I’m going to fill you in anyway.”
“More than you want. And, as you can see, it’s not going to kill you. That old adage of ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’? It exists because it’s true.”
“God I hate that one.”
“Yeah, I know… can we continue?’
“Yeah, yeah. What did you mean by ‘quite the year I had?'”
“Lemme see… you ditched D after you refused to move in with him – kudos to you for knowing what you want and what you don’t – but you kept him around as a friend with benefits, went with him on vacation—”
“Best vacation ever! Know why? I didn’t give a shit. He couldn’t tell me what to do and convince me to participate in stuff I didn’t want to because I wasn’t his girlfriend!”
“You do realise, don’t you, that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have been obliged to do anything you didn’t want to.”
“Well. I guess. Maybe…”
“If only you had kept that confidence in your own judgment. However, here you are, living with P, your former gym teacher. I know. Kind of has that fairy tale feel to it when you guys reconnected five years after high school, eh? But now you find yourself a weekend stepmom. How’s that working for you?”
“It’s cool. Really, it is. The rest of the week, it’s just the two of us. With the requisite phone call to the kid on Tuesdays.”
“Uh huh. Keep trying to convince me. Well, Rog, here’s what’s coming. You are gonna last five years with this guy because, why really? After two years, you’ll have come the conclusion that this union was all about him and not about you. You’ll go nowhere, do nothing, plan zip. Three years later, by the age of 26, you are going to finally break free because you’ll realise you are too mature for his 37-year-old ass. Friends and family will come in to help you and you will move out on your own. You and P will drift apart because you didn’t have the balls to just say it was over.”
“Shit. You mean to tell me I am gonna waste five years of my prime?”
I smiled at her. “Nothing is a waste. Every choice you make, brings you to the next phase of your life.
“You won’t be alone long. You’ll meet R at work. A guy so totally not your type that you are immediately attracted to him. Before your one-year lease on your apartment is up, you guys will decide to move in together and the timing is perfect because Lisa and Chris, who are now married, will move out of their apartment into their first house and you and R will move into it. You’ll stay there a grand total of four months because Mom and Dad finally get divorced and you’ll buy the house. Within three years, R is going to go against everything he believes in to make you happy and ask you to be his wife. At 29 you feel it is ‘time’ to be married. The morning of the wedding your thoughts are going to be ‘what the fuck am I doing? Is it too late to cancel? This is so not what we should be doing!’ But you’ll convince yourself that yes, you can make it work.”
“Ah come on, Dale, am I that desperate?”
“No, you’re not desperate, you just think that’s where you should be in your life and you still don’t believe in yourself enough to say no. It’s a farce of a marriage over within 17 months. At the same time you also lose your job but the six months you live in that house solo, sans job? Turns out to be a priceless gift. Lisa was home with three babies. The twins were six months old, and Jennifer was only 20 months so you spent your days together. It helped each of you not lose your minds.
“Come March 1995, your life will change drastically.”
“Please give me good news!”
“You start a fabulous job with a great group and your friend Kathy convinces you to join Tele-Personals.”
“What? A dating service? I don’t need those!”
“No, well, what’s the harm? You meet some nut-jobs, but you also meet Mick. You guys go on your first date, and he never leaves. Mick buys R’s share in the house a few months later. Even quicker than you can bat an eyelash, you are pregnant. An oops, to be sure, but you both decide to embrace it. It is not a perfect pregnancy. You think you lose it twice and then the baby decides to come early. One month before your first anniversary of meeting each other.”
“Whoa. Um. Not too responsible of us.”
“Ya think? Anyway. I won’t give you all the deets because I can’t stay all day. Suffice it to say that you will have the challenge of your life ahead of you. Austin is what you guys name your little 4 lb 8 oz preemie. Born with a heart defect”
“Oh. We’re going to lose him, aren’t we?”
“After seven months and twenty-three days. This precious time you have with him will teach you just how strong and capable of anything you are. No one will ever be able to convince you otherwise because, for the first time in your life, you will be so confident in your abilities.”
“I don’t know if I wanted to know this.”
“Too late now. Do I stop here?”
“Losing Austin puts a strain on you and Mick but it also cemented you. You decide to stay together and, after mourning, decide to build a family together. You have two more boys. Iain and Aidan, born 19 months apart.”
“We didn’t waste any time, did we?”
“You were already in your mid-thirties! But life is good. You guys have a great relationship on the whole. Sure you breathe each other’s air occasionally and there are gonna be fights because let’s face it, life cannot always be a bowl of cherries. And you need the pits to help remind you of the sweet. You’ll go on vacations and camping with Tracy and Sébastien and other friends occasionally and have many an adventure. And after seven years, you finally get married.”
“Jeez, what’s the rush?”
“Hah! Life got in the way and it wasn’t that important until it became something Mick and you really wanted. The whole big shebang with the dress, the open bar, the band, the party and your two precious boys, aged 2 and 3 as little groomsmen in their tuxedos just like Daddy’s.
“Mick started his own business and the family house became something he just didn’t want to have to keep renovating. So we got our big-ass house where Mick could have his office on the ground floor and watch people running to the bus stop. More trips, more camping, entertaining, activities. A really nice life.”
“Why do I have a horrible feeling, suddenly?”
“Dad died in May, 2013. Mick died in December the following year – God, he was only 51. It’s been four years already.”
“Aww come on! This can’t be real? I’m going to be a widow? Why are you doing this to me?”
“I’m sorry, Rog. This is your life. The good, the bad, the ugly.”
“How have you not completely fallen apart? How are you now, Dale? Is life good?”
“You know that much about us, Rog. We don’t fall apart. I’m doing pretty well, all things considered. Life is good.
“I’ve just come to the realisation that I’m not here for you at all. I’m here for myself. My telling you what lies ahead for you is really a reminder to me to look back at my journey so far, take stock of all my learnings and remind myself that I am who I am. That I am enough. And I am still learning.”
Another Olde Lang Syne to say good-bye with a toast to the past and look forward to the future.