Friday, April 4, 2008

The Game of Life

This week the conversation around the lunch table at work focused on board games that we liked to play when we were younger. A unanimous favorite was Life. I know that the appeal for me as a little girl, besides the really cool spinning wheel, was the chance to dream about the possibilities that the future held for me. My satisfaction with the game boiled down to two things:

  • Get a really great job (I never took the route that didn't include a college education)

  • Have lots of children (As my friend April pointed out, the best game she ever played was the one where she needed a second car because she ran out of space for all the blue and pink plastic pegs she won)

Likewise, those two things represent probably the oldest dreams I've had for my life, even though when I was eight years old the details surrounding those two things were definitely fuzzy. My childhood was filled with more counter examples than role models. There were no illustrious careers or college educations among my parents. They all worked jobs, and the women in my family were clear that it was no picnic when they had to work to bring in extra money. In terms of children, there was just me and my sister - a disappointment that could never be made up for with the imaginary brothers and sisters I created for myself. So, I, like many unhappy children, decided that I would be different and I set off to do that with few guides beyond the game of Life, television, and juvenile fiction.

The lunch conversation brought something into sharp focus for me. On a basic level, I have managed to accomplish my childhood dreams. I could say I have done so in ways I never quite imagined, but then, I didn't have a very solid plan in the first place. Much of the dissatisfaction I feel now happens when I obsess on the details: my love/hate relationship with full time employment that pulls energy away from parenting and my creative endeavors, the fact that two of our kids can't live with us all the time, or the projects that I start and never finish. The truth remains, though, that I have a life that is at core really good, and that if I get frustrated enough with something, I have tremendous freedom to change things. This is the beauty of living by a rough outline.

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