"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What Would You Do?

Did you exchange your walk-on part in a war for a leading role in a cage? - Pink Floyd

I was cleaning out my filing cabinet shuffling through old poems and rejection letters when I came across an old letter from a friend in college. A friend I lost track of as we went our separate ways to pursue the careers we had supposedly went to college for. College was ideas and lofty discussions, poster art and handmade dorm curtains, group pictures of suitemates in their underwear with their hair in curlers, because we didn't care what we looked like. College was running to class and staying up late to cram for a final, but it was also walks along the river, winter camping trips and writing letters.

Then came the careers, succumbing to the machine, art reproductions on the walls and expensive treatments on the windows, running late to the job and too tired by the end of the day to walk to the mailbox. The letters stopped.

We were idealistic. We protested. We wore MIA bracelets and sent letters to boys in Vietnam, because they didn't have a choice.
(Photo Credit - Tim Page)

We made our own kahlua and yogurt. We changed vacation plans because of the gas shortage and looked at MPG stickers on cars. When Carter lowered the speed limit to 55, we complied. We were conscious of our footprint. The letter I told you about? It was from my lost friend suggesting that we should cancel our planned camping trip because of the gas shortage, and we did.

Maybe it's not good to read old letters. To realize how far we've retreated from what we were.

18 comments:

Murphyfish said...

Sometimes though those old letters can show us how far we have come. Although the change from dreaming about your future life and looking back over it can be harsh sometimes there is always a balance if you care to look.
Regards, John
(hope this makes sense?)

Anne Gallagher said...

I heard this song 3 days ago and have been singing just that line ever since. It always hit me in the guts when I heard it. Still does.

I never re-read old letters or try and contact old friends. The idealism that we/I once held has given way to melancholy and depression that our/my dreams didn't come true.

I still hold to my convictions, and yes, check the mpg and recycle/reduce/reuse to the extreme, as well as try and do my part for the environment but the politicians and the government have taken away any hope I ever had of making this world a better place.

So now I trust that what I do, and what convictions I have that still remain, will allow my daughter to see that mommy DID try to make the world a better place. Hopefully, she'll take that with her when she grows up. It's all about what we/I leave behind now.

Wine and Words said...

A lot to think about...especially the last line and the quote.

rosaria said...

"The way we were" is both a sweet remembrance of times lost, and a sweet reminder of all the things we are now.

Talli Roland said...

What a powerful post, Yvonne. I love rereading old letters and journal entries. It's like a snapshot into a different me.

Jannie Funster said...

Wow, your writing is always a treat, at once funny, deep and full of that je ne the sais quoi that is art's combination of ethereal truths and awesomeness.

And this reminds me how much I love sending "real" letters and look forward to catching up with my buddies before too long, but not until after Feb 12 and the gala.

xo

Jemi Fraser said...

So true. As we get older, we change - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the less risky.

Anthony Duce said...

It was interesting to go back in time with you here, and be a little nostalgic remembering how views have changed over the years. I wonder at how reckless we are willing to be when young, and how protective we become when less life is left, when more has been lived.
I liked the post, although I must say there were always choices and a price to be evaluated for each choice. I’m not sure retreat in the last line is the right word.

Judy Croome said...

Here's another quote: "Autumn, thou hast thy beauty too..."

Yes, with the careers and the homes, we may lose the fiery idealism of life, but that doesn't necessarily make it a loss...each age has its compensations and each choice we did or didn't make helps us evolve into a new (although not younger!) person. :)

Thought provoking post, Yvonne!
Judy (South Africa)

Jean said...

But maybe it is a good idea to read them. It reminds us of our past. Of different times. Of what was important to us then. And maybe remind us a little bit about how and why we got to where we are now. It can help us move along to the right path if we've stumbled off course.

Those letters are precious.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Murphy,
That does make sense, and I'm usually a more positive person. Present day events are a bit overwhelming. Thanks for your input.

Anne,
Old Pink Floyd always hits me in the gut. Your comment made me want to cry, because that's what I feel too, that we've been beaten by politicians and lobbyists and the corporate consumerism that threatens to drown us as well as our dreams for a better world. What depresses me is the younger generation: young people who engage in celebrity worship and read People Magazine and shop shop shop.

I'm sure you will instill your convictions in your daughter. I hope I have. The future lies with them.

Annie,
Thanks for reading. I love the lyrics to that song. Just listening to it in the car brought this rush of emotion and I had to write it down. Some of it. Thanks.

Rosaria,
Yes, and hope for what will be. Thanks for reading!

Talli,
Hi. I think that's true....a snapshot into a different, idealistic me. I haven't changed, but it seems the changes we thought we were on the verge of making never materialized.

Jannie,
Thank you so much. Wow. Now what gala do you speak of??

Jemi,
We change, of course. It's the only thing that's certin.

I guess it's the things I have no control over that are changing in a different way than what I foresaw when I was in college. Thanks for commenting. These comments have all been thought provoking.

Zev said...

Maybe it's a reminder of what you used to dream. Do you still dream those things?

Yvonne Osborne said...

Anthony,
Maybe it's not so much a retreat as an acceptance of our limitations. Thanks.

Judy,
I love autumn. Thank you for that.

Jean,
Hi! Yes, I think of them as precious because they nudge the old memories of what made me the person I am today. Nostalgic, yes, but precious. Great to hear from you.

Zev,
Well, the dreams are the same but reality is setting in. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That was beautifully written (you do that thing of opening a vein when you write). I get what you're saying. The world is in a precarious position, politically and environmentally, and we keep taking steps backward. Ideally, we should be giant leaps forward.

SAMUEL PARK said...

Oh, it sounds like it was a wonderful letter. I wonder how much gas cost back then compared to now, oil crisis or not...Anyway, thanks for taking us on a trip down memory lane--I loved the wistfulness of your tone and felt like I was right there with you through it.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Tricia,
That's it, exactly. How did things get so turned around? Thank you for commenting, always a treat to read anything you've written.

Samuel,
Thank you so much. I think gas hit $1.00/gallon and everyone was shocked. The thing is, would we change our plans like that today? Probably not. We'd charge ahead with our blinders on, or just put it all on a credit card. Thank you for commenting.

Helen Ginger said...

So many changes since college. We knew there would be changes. After all, we matured during times of great change. But we thought it would be magnificent, world changes, but the biggest change was to each of us. Life.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Helen,
Thank you for commenting. Your words are so true. It seemed that magnificient, earth-shattering change was just around the corner, then I think everyone just got....tired.