“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.” -Judy Blume
“Go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau
This week I thought I’d write about how my perception of the American Dream has changed. We all know the schtick; if we don’t get the money, big house, the fancy cars and all the other trappings of wealth, we’re failures. I don’t believe that any more, but, I was having trouble making sense of my jumbled thoughts. Then I saw an interview with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, which snapped my intent for this post into place.
Before I go on let me say that TCM is my favorite TV channel. I could do without almost all the rest, but not TCM. Part of the reason I love it so much is because of Robert Osborne. He’s a warm and welcoming gentleman who invites you to watch each classic movie with an open mind and see what you get out of it. He’s been the host since the very beginning when the station was launched twenty years ago. So, when I saw that he was going to be the subject of the next episode of “Private Screenings”, I was thrilled. And am I glad he agreed to be interviewed. Listening to him talk about how his love of movies was the driving force in his life, helped me get a new perspective on my own life.
I’ve always called myself a late bloomer. I’m not like my eleven year old niece who knew when she was three that she wanted to be a dancer, which she pursues with a passion. No, I wasn’t at all sure who I was or what I was passionate about, except I knew I loved stories. Like Robert, I grew up in small towns in Washington State. He was born and raised in Colfax, Washington. Like his parents, mine were working class people, but they loved movies. And we’d watch them on television, or we’d go as a family to see them on the big screen and then we’d talk about them. My parents were also readers, and we’d also talk about the books we were reading. So, I got a great education in literary analysis from my parents long before I declared theatre as my major.
One thing I was sure about, I wanted to pursue a career that was creative in some way, and so in college I got a double major in Religious Studies and Theatre and Speech. There is the element of story telling in both disciplines, and that is what attracted me to them. Of course, once out of college I had to get a job and, so, for two years I did clerical work. That is, until I couldn’t stand it any longer and quit. At that time, I decided to get my Masters degree in Theater Arts at Portland State University. Once I’d made the break from the drudgery of an office, I never looked back. From then on, I always looked for jobs that had some creative component to them, but deep in my heart I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was just afraid I didn’t have the talent to make a go of it. So, I settled and berated myself for not doing what I loved. That is until I was fifty-three years old. And that brings me back to Robert Osborne’s interview.
The thing I found interesting about Robert’s story is that he always loved movies. The job he has now wasn’t invented when he was getting his degree in journalism, but he kept his passion alive any way he could. He was at various times an actor, an entertainment journalist, a talk show movie expert, an author of a book about the Academy Awards, until at the age of sixty-one he became the host of TCM. Over the years he met all the great actors as their careers were waning and he helped my generation learn a new appreciation for them. He wasn’t at all embarrassed to tell about the lean years when he wasn’t making much money pursuing this passion for the movies. And that’s when I realized that he had been living the American Dream his entire life. His passion was movies and he never lost sight of that. In the end, keeping his focus on what he loved paid off, because for twenty years he’s been working at his dream job.
After watching his interview, I thought back over my own life. I’ve been pursuing my passion as well, that of telling stories. I’ve been an actor, stage manager, worked on costumes and sets, I’ve been a director and I’ve taught drama and English. All jobs that involve story telling. They all led up to becoming a writer. This year, I’ll be sixty-one years old and I’ll publish my first novel. I’ve got twenty or more years to enjoy telling stories in many different ways. My American Dream is coming true, and I’m very grateful for that.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014