Yesterday, I began reading a book by the celebrated linguist Steven Pinker. I wanted to be him, or something like him. A brilliant scholar. A Harvard heavyweight. I felt the need to scramble to catch up. Maybe … just maybe.
The day before yesterday, I was reading Cormac McCarthy. I wanted to be him, or something like him. How much writing do you have to do before you can make words dance for you like that? Is there still time for me to catch up? I hoped so.
The day before that, I read a little about Simpsons show runner Al Jean. Man, do I want to be him or something like him. I won quarterfinalist in a script-writing contest some years ago with my Simpsons spec script. Who am I kidding? That’s a crazy-tough business and you have to get in young. Still …
In late June, I performed standup comedy as an opening act for Paula Poundstone. It was a lifelong dream. Back in college I once vowed I would take a stab at a local open mike night someone had told me about. I never followed through. Poundstone’s had some troubles I wouldn’t wish on anyone. No rational person would ever want to be her. Still, watching some old clips on YouTube, I couldn’t help but wonder.
A few weeks ago, I saw some old photos of Brigitte Bardot. Man, do I want to be a once-upon-a-time her. I know she didn’t turn out too glamorous. But the longing affixed to a 1970s photo doesn’t care. Surgeries are much better these days. Diets. Chemical peels and rhinoplasty. Maybe …
A week or two before that, I watched a special about the Mars rover and the men and women at JPL, just a few miles from my house, who against insane odds landed a rover on Mars and subsequently proved there is water on that planet. Has that door slammed shut on me? Of course. Don’t be ridiculous. (Still …)
On August 23, 1986, twenty-two years ago today, I took my last drink. It ended seven years of blackout drinking and wrecked cars and early-stage DTs. It began a struggle I wouldn’t have undertaken had I known what I signed on for.
Today, I don’t want to be Pinker or McCarthy or Jean or Pounstone or Bardot or the most accomplished JPL scientist of the bunch. Today accomplishment is not an elusive wisp. It’s rock solid.
Today what I am is what I am.