While I may be a product of the 60s, growing up I was far more June Cleaver than Pepper Anderson. My goals were pretty ho-hum being far more familial than far reaching. I wanted to go to college, marry a Robert Redford look alike (I realized Dino was just a little too old for me), have four children, live in a two story colonial or maybe an American foursquare, have a very energetic golden retriever named Dandelion, and write for a soap opera. These things illustrated all that I wanted in my life. Of course, it could have been too much time in front of the television or one too many Harlequin romances that fueled some of these plans but at least I had achievable goals.
As you probably remember from an earlier chapter, my family moved a lot during my formative years. Dad always chased some business venture that never quite worked out as he planned. So I craved stability. A desire to plant roots and watch things grow. That no doubt was the foundation for Susan’s Plan 1.0.
Schooling was always important in my family. Just because Mom took a slightly different route using school for her MRS degree, that didn’t mean her children shouldn’t plan on at least four years of college. Thus advanced education topped the list. Check.
Paul Bratter. Sundance Kid. Hubbell Gardiner. Please give me a moment. *Sigh* Need I say more? A necessary component to Susan’s Plan 1.0. Check.
Four children just made sense. Better than two. Never have a middle child—so three was out. The number was always negotiable. I could be reasonable after all. Check.
Midwest and east coast definitely screamed colonial or foursquare or even farmhouse. Check.
Dandelion—sunny and all over the place. Happiness in a furball. Check.
I loved (and still love) soap operas. That addiction began at the age of three. It’s Mom’s fault. She used the TV as a babysitter at times. Probably because the Avon Lady stopped by for coffee quite often. But there I sat, cross-legged, three feet from the telly, a snack and a sippy cup at my side, embroiled in the lives of the Hughes and Stewart families. Super couples, heroes and heroines, villains and villainesses, romance, affairs, murders, courtroom drama, (baby) daddy issues, mommy issues—a soap opera had it all. By the time Susan’s Plan 1.0 took shape, I had at least 10 plus years of soap opera viewing. I wanted desperately to be in the driver’s seat creating the road map for all my favorite (and not so favorite) characters. Back in the 70s there were at least 10 different soap operas. Surely one or two would need my creative voice to craft characters people would want to watch over soup and sandwiches at lunchtime. Check.
It was 1979 and high school was a blurry object in the rearview mirror. We were in Texas that fall so I started school at the University. Susan’s Plan 1.0 right on track. Then Dad got a job in Juneau, Alaska. I was too much of a scaredy cat to be left alone in Texas so I made the journey north to Alaska the winter of 1980. Thus Susan’s Plan 2.0 emerged. A slight veer to the left but I restarted school that fall. The summer of 1981 I looked for a temporary job. Everyone wanted to work for the State because they paid well. Thus Federal jobs were plentiful. Fresh out of high school I knew how to take a test. I scored in the high 90s on the Federal entrance exam and the Forest Service picked me up immediately. I was so excited. They placed me in Recreation. Swimming pools, tennis courts. Score! Or so I thought. I am going to let you in on secret. Recreation is not what my imagination imagined. I soon learned more about campground toilets (flush or chemical) than I ever wanted.
I admit I had fun working though. Recreation did have the interpretive program aboard the Alaska Marine Highway and I learned a lot about Southeast Alaska. My paychecks brought home over $300 every two weeks. I was rolling in dough.
Working for the government and earning money were hazardous to Susan’s Plan 2.0 and soon Susan’s Plan 3.0 took over. I carelessly quit college thinking I would work a couple of years, save money in order to see the world, then return to school to study a dead language. A couple of years became 10 and soon golden handcuffs encircled my wrists. I could either leave them in place or find the key and toss them in the trash. I remember the day I turned 30. I stood crying at the water fountain realizing there was no diploma, no Robert Redford look alike, no children, no house, no dog, no writing for a soap opera. It really was one of the most traumatic days of my life. Milestone birthdays suck.
While Susan’s Plan 3.0 died along with most of those dreams, I don’t completely regret that I opted to wear those handcuffs the rest of my career. It did let me retire at 55. I certainly can’t complain about that. I just need to figure out what’s next. That’s the troublesome part. Or maybe it’s the exciting part. Everything in perspective.
For my fortieth birthday a good friend gave me a framed photo of a rather austere looking German Castle. The letter read “. . . remember, if events overcome, you can always jump over the side of the castle some misty evening and fall thousands of feet to sweet oblivion.” “. . . Or how about you just look for fun in some secret room in the castle instead.” I’ll have option two, please.