Saturday, June 27, 2009
The Long, Confusing Road Home (Conclusion)
Nearly a week has passed since my road trip back to my hometown. Since then, my mind has done little to move away from thoughts of the past. If anything, it has only gotten more stubborn. It didn't help that this week, one of my strongest childhood memories was playing in HD on my television, no matter which channel I turned to, when the news of Michael Jackson's death was announced. I'm sure if my childhood dresser mirror could hold a grudge, it would. It was forced to endure hundreds of bad renditions of the moonwalk, Thriller shoulder jolts, sudden head turns and more.
Jackson's death isn't what led me to call my dad this week, but it did start a conversation that would serve to give me some closure.
"I was thinking about you and your sister this week," my dad said, showing his rarely-seen softer side. "I know how much you liked his music when you were a kid. Do you still have his album?"
"No, my friend Julie melted it last year." (You'll just have to trust me that this is not the interesting part of the story.)
"He had a rough life, that Mr. Jackson. He got really messed up."
"Well, that's for sure. Hey, speaking of messed up, I have something to talk to you about."
I went on to tell my dad how things in my life aren't exactly working out like I always planned. Less than a month from turning 35, I suddenly feel like the baby zebra I saw on my place mat last week: lost in a maze, looking for some sign that I'm heading the right way. I don't normally feel this way, but the trip home seemed to remind me of everything I set out to accomplish--and while everything else has progressed, I feel like I still have a long way to go.
"Now wait just a minute," my dad interjected. "I was 35 when I married your mother. Don't you remember?"
"No, I don't remember, Dad. Because I wasn't born yet."
After we laughed, he continued, telling me that his life didn't start turning around until he was where I'm at now. That thought had never occurred to me: from my earliest memory, my dad went to work every day as a big, important vice-president of some big, important company, and we lived a good life in a nice neighborhood. I never even imagined he might have struggled in his early 20's or endured self-doubt. It made me feel better, and it also made me realize why I needed cheering up in the first place. It had been a long time since I had taken time to self-reflect. And there's nothing like a trip back home to to make you look at yourself with different eyes.
It was a long, and confusing, road back home but I'm glad I traveled it this summer. I had the opportunity to revisit the past with my dad, talk about the future, and think about where I'm going next.
Plus, while I was lamenting the past, I realized something really amazing. I never again have to look in the mirror and see a gangly, frizzy-haired white girl trying to dance like Michael Jackson.