Hindsight is 20/20 on Future Plans

A picture of my coffee this morning . . . because why not?

Eight weeks from today, my youngest son turns 18. The very next day, he graduates from high school. The day after that, I will officially be an empty nester; I already have plans to pack up all his stuff in extra large Hefty bags and leave them outside the door, along with a McDonald’s coupon for a small Shamrock Shake as an extra special treat.

Of course, it will be May and Mickie D’s will no longer offer the Shamrock Shake, but it is the thought that counts, and he’ll understand that.

I’m kidding, of course. My plans with Youngest Son are still evolving, as his ideas of what to do for college and a long-term outlook have been rather murky. If he had to take a quiz over his future plans, I have a feeling that a lot of answers would be the famous “IDK” (I don’t know). My only hope is that none of those answers would be the irritating “IDC” (I don’t care). As a teacher, I see plenty of both those answers.

Honestly, I know very few people who knew exactly what they wanted to do out of high school. I mean, we thought we knew, but we really didn’t. When I had to take an interest survey at 15, I was obsessed with Elvis. I loved playing music on my keyboard and dreamed of being a singer someday. Y’know – just like Elvis.

There was one problem: I was an introvert, and the thought of standing on a stage, singing and being vulnerable, made me want to vomit. (I did it once as a senior, as all seniors who got a superior rating on their vocal solo had to. I sang the shortest solo out of anyone and got the heck off the stage before I passed out. Here is the proof.)

However, having that idea in the back of my head, I answered all the questions correctly so that my #1 field ended up being in “entertainment and the performing arts.” It soon dawned on me that my reluctance to perform in front of other people might be problematic for a career such as this.

Back to the drawing board.

I wrote for the student newspaper throughout my high school years. I don’t think I wrote well — for most of my pieces were dashed off in the last few moments before a deadline — but I wrote something to fill the space anyway. I received good feedback from my advisor and relished in the compliments. This, of course, made me start leaning toward my next chosen career. I was going to be a journalist!

There was a problem with this career, too – part of which involved my reluctance as an introvert for talking to people I didn’t know. Apparently, journalists sometimes have to do that every now and then.

However, I had inspiration. I read a lot of Bob Greene back then, the since-disgraced Chicago journalist who liked to wax nostalgic about his adolescence. I had stumbled across his book in my father’s library called Be True to Your School, where he published his journals from his high school days, and I was intrigued. I loved how by the time I was done with the book, I felt I knew the people he had written about. By the time I had discovered the book, Greene was writing daily for the Chicago Tribune, and once the Internet became a “thang,” I made a habit of looking up his columns and keeping up with them.

In 2002, his life came crashing down around him, but those details can be easily found in a Google search and don’t need to be hashed out here. The fact remains that I was intrigued at the prospect of being a journalist with my own column and possibly a book deal or two.

One month into my freshman year of college with a media professor who was dour, gruff, and wholly unpleasant, I started rethinking my journalism plan. It really wasn’t the professor per se who turned me off from journalism; it was the stark reality that the chances of my being a columnist were almost null and void, unless I wanted to write for the local rinky dink newspaper with an audience of 12. I would most likely be writing obituaries and police reports for who knows how many years.

During a college break, I remember riding in my car with my mom as I shared my confusion about my career options. She suggested that I look into teaching English. I loved language, I loved to read, I loved to write, and who wouldn’t want those summers off?

Ah, yes. Those lovely summers off – where we teachers do not think of school at all. I laugh to think about that now, for I have spent many a summer re-designing curriculum, taking classes for recertification, or whatever other demands my job made of me. I also didn’t realize at the time that teaching in general was a 24/7 job; I find it impossible to go home and NOT think about school or things I need to do or units I need to plan or students who are struggling. It is ALWAYS on my mind.

Anyway, that was the turning point. It only took me until midway through my freshman year in college to figure it out, but I did eventually figure it out.

So when my son tells me that he really doesn’t know what he wants to do, I certainly am not panicking on his account. He’ll figure it out.

I’ll only start to worry if he tells me he wants to be the next Elvis.

Because that role has been taken.

By me. In secret.

Have a great Saturday!


Hating March — and a tale of three books

I’ve been writing on this blog since 2008. I think there are probably a handful of posts where I talk about how much I loathe this month, so I debated whether I wanted to rehash that terribly ancient subject yet again. However, today’s weather just underscores one of the many reason why I dislike this month. Today was 70. Tomorrow will be 44 and rainy. Today we got a brief, beautiful taste of spring, and then my mood goes sour when I see what lay ahead. There isn’t another 70-degree day in the extended forecast. This was it.

Adding to my pessimism is the fact that it seems to be Murphy’s Law that the most beautiful weather we’ve had yet will coincide with the end of the quarter. It never fails! This means I can be found sitting inside, staring at a computer, while the forest animals dance underneath the brilliant sun, teasing me. I did manage to get out a bit this weekend, but I dislike having that “dark cloud” always on my mind, poking my brain, whispering, “Ya gotta get your grades done!” My grades are due by midnight tonight and I just finished them. Of course, there isn’t an actual “being done” with grades anymore. Current education trends demand that students get until infinity to turn stuff in, so I will have to redo these grades again and again until all who want to pass do so.

I wish I were joking. That’s another loooooooong post for another time.

I’ve been trying to get back into a reading routine. I’ve always been a reader, but sometimes I do not prioritize it during school because, well, I get tired of reading stuff all day long. My husband and I love to visit Half Price Books when we are in the Chicago area, and I usually add 10 more books to be TBR pile each time we go. My tastes have evolved in the last twenty years from romance novels (yes, I knooooooow) to biographies and history-based books. For Christmas, my husband bought me two books about two of my favorite movies: The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption. I finished those not too long ago, and both were quite fascinating. I never realized how absolutely fraught with chaos and conflict the making of The Godfather entailed. I see there’s a new show coming out about this called The Offer, and I am stoked to see it. Poor Coppola – he had such a great vision, yet he had to claw his way through all the corporate bullcrap and naysayers in order to bring his vision to light. I mean, Jack Nicholson was considered for the role at one time, and Robert Redford was a favorite among the corporate bigwigs to play Michael.

No. Just no.

Luckily, Coppola got his way in the end and the cast was mostly of his choosing.

Sometimes it’s scary to think about what might have happened had the people with a vision not been able to carry out that vision.

The Shawshank Redemption has always fascinated me because A) Stephen King is a genius and B) Frank Darabont was the perfect person to channel King’s novella into a superb film and C) This film had the unfortunate timing to be pretty much overlooked at the Academy Awards, due to the existence of a few other blockbusters coming out at the same time: Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Legends of the Fall, and Interview with the Vampire. I teach a cinema class, and Shawshank is one of the last movies that we get to by the end of the semester. It never fails that a good portion of the class not only has never seen the movie before but they unfailingly point to Shawshank as one of their favorite movies in their final reflections.

This book provided some interesting insight into the making of the movie, including how the interior prison block shown in the movie is actually a set built inside an old warehouse. As much of a fan of that movie as I am, I did not realize that they did not actually film inside the massive, gothic reformatory that the movie made famous and saved from demolition. It is also interesting to see the impact that one movie can have on a small town. I learned that there’s a “Shawshank Trail” where tourists can visit some of the filming locations, and I’m putting that trip on my bucket list.

Everything in that movie is perfect to me: the cinematography is beautiful, the music is perfect, and who can ever complain about Morgan Freeman’s silky voice narrating? The underlying message is endearing, and the actors are top-notch. What’s not to love?

The last book I finished recently was, well, kind of a let-down. I am a huge Elvis fan, and anyone who has followed the blog lately knows that my life has started to revolve around the “Elvis world” in a big way since meeting my husband. I devour Elvis books. In particular, I am intrigued by Elvis’ comeback with his ’68 special, then taking over the Vegas scene like a boss. For a few years, he was at the top of his game. Those were great years and fun to read about and watch. If you have ever seen the documentary That’s the Way It Is, you see that tanned, golden specimen of a man who laughs and jokes with the guys one minute but is serious as a monk the next moment when it comes to perfecting his music. It’s mesmerizing to watch.

When I saw this book, I had to have it.

If you read it, be prepared to read very little about Elvis at all until about page 171. I wish I were kidding. I got in depth information about Sinatra, Dean Martin, and every other Vegas staple – a portion of the book meant to provide background about why Elvis succeeded in Vegas, except that it doesn’t provide any of that background. Sinatra has little to do with Elvis. Elvis came along at the right time bringing entertainment that people wanted and needed at the time. Sure, one could argue that there’s an old guard/new guard component to all of it, but the connection between the two seemed weak. I couldn’t believe that it took 2/3 of the book to even get to Elvis’ stint at the International. I mean, if you’re going to name the book “Elvis in Vegas,” one expects the book to be mostly about Elvis in Vegas. The book was well-researched; it was just misnamed.

Well, that’s all the news from Iowa, land of corn and critters. If you made it this far reading this drivel, then you are the real MVP. Thanks for stopping by.