In a chapter in The Joy Diet about how to find out your "true career", Martha Beck writes that all of her clients based in NYC found themselves doing what they truly cared about the night of September 11th, 2001. Sally flushed her drugs away, workaholic Jack spent time with his family, cyclist Jimbob pedaled towards the towers in order to help people etc.
She urges us to remember 9-11, or another time of tragedy, to see what we, ourselves, care about most....
My Dramatic Story
On the evening of September 11th, 2001, I was a mere 13 years old.
I was an '8th grader' at my private all-girl's school, so life was good because we were finally allowed to wear white polo shirts instead of yellow. Yessss.
I remember now that I was friends with people who stressed me out that year- because they really loved school dances, whereas I would have rather shot myself in the foot. But I didn't, because everybody seemed to like dances, so I decided I would hold my shot, and try for one more year to see what the hell people loved about them so much. Was it the rap music I didn't know any of the words to? Was it the huddle of boys from Haverford School that were standing on the opposite side of the gym? Was it the pain in my feet that would jump-start what looks like a lifetime of footache? I don't know. And I nevvverrrr willllllll. People must have been drinking. That makes things better. I, however, was NOT.
Also, I could not use my ballet skills on the dance floor.
But anyway, life was ok, because I hadn't been forced to go to a school dance yet, because after all, it was only the very beginning of September.
I had spent that summer trying one last ditch effort to be a normal person and take tennis at the golf club where my family belonged. It turns out after years of trying, I truly hated swim team, so I had finally let that one go. But! I tried Tennis Camp! Because my so-far lifelong crush would be attending as well, and he was really awesome at tennis. He was also very skilled at bouncing the tennis ball endlessly on his racket. (He was an amazing swimmer as well but I just couldn't keep up the swim team for him anymore.)
I had liked him for years. Years and years. Our parents were very good friends but I had probably spoken 4 words to him in my life. And one of them I specifically remember, when I used the word "syrup" to describe the smell of the fog machine at a Swim Team Mixer- but I pronounced it with the wrong emphasis on the syllable- and I have never forgiven myself. Plus, extra-curricularly, my ballet lessons were really pulling me from his sphere of golf-club coolness, so I had to give tennis a legitimate try.
P.S. This guy is now 100% gay. Closeted, yes. But I am 100% sure he is gay. Which explains a lot, and set up my future life experiences quite poetically.
Me and Ballet
You also should know, that 8th grade would be the year that I petitioned for an "Independent" sport: Ballet. Meaning, I got to sit in the library with the other 3 "Independent" equestrians, while my whole class did sports, and 'we did our homework' and they talked about horses.
I really thought I loved ballet. I went to ballet school with tough girls with enviable belly-button rings who had mothers who smoked (whattt!!!???). They were all amazing dancers, and really good at tap and hip hop. But I was only mildy decent at ballet even though I "loved it".
However, that 'love' would turn into dread in just a few months when I started wearing a specially bought 32-E sized bra from the same bra manufacture that Oprah used. (Le Mystere, in case you are curious). Ballllleeettttt bodddyyyyyyyy.
Back to September 11th.
As far as the tennis is concerned, that was the last summer that I spent my summer outdoors. The rest of my school life (and life-life) would feature summers rehearsing musicals in a school cafeteria for 8 hours a day developing a nice pasty glow. Previous summer muscles would begin atrophying- and my beauty began to really become "unique".
So, this was the last year that I returned to school in September with any sort of sun-tan.
There I was, bronzed and wearing a white polo on a Tuesday morning in September. We had an emergency assembly in the "Assembly Room". Our head of middle school told us a tragedy had occurred and two planes had hit buildings in New York. Etc. I had never heard of the twin towers before, so I was just confused. I was sure it was some sort of accident.
When I finally got home in the early afternoon- I watched the news with my family (my dad was not there because he supposed to be was traveling, by plane, for business. So for a while he may have been dead, but my mother got a call eventually that he was in fact alive, stuck in an airport). But, no matter what was going on, I could not ignore that the time for my 4:30 ballet class was creeping up...
My mom said I should call to see if there were classes. Could it be? Could they be cancelled? I faced my fear of speaking on the telephone for that one evening to call the dance school. Their answering machine told me that, due to the tragedy, there would be no dance classes that afternoon.
Self- Help Book Question:
What is Your Biggest Memory from the evening of September 11th? What did you truly care about most amidst tragedy?
Answer: My biggest and near only memory from 9-11-01, was ELATION that I had no dance class.
What I truly cared about most, was sitting in my living room and eating Whole Foods Snickerdoodles.
Do I remember spending time with my family? Thinking about my passions? Caring for others?
No, if one's actions in the aftermath of tragedy point to one's true passions, mine are NO DANCE and snacks.
And to this day, honestly.... that is still pretty accurate.