Escaping the Unintended Life - with a Little Help from Willa Cather and Harry Chapin - Born This Day
You wake up one day, and suddenly you find yourself living somebody’s else’s life. You think back to how it started and realize that the events leading from then to now have been a seamless flow of things you did not want but agreed to anyway. For expedience. For money. For an ego-driven belief that seeming to be important in the eyes of others was, in fact, important.
Then you move to California, where no one from the past can get to you. Not easily anyway. In your spare time, you start reading books and listening to music with a free and questioning mind – so different from the have-to, must-get-a-good-grade mindset of high school and college. Instead of looking for the “smart” thing, you start looking for the true thing. You come across Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and you think, My God, how beautiful.
When you read up on her – because no one is born writing like that – you find out that she used to be a journalist too. That she reached a moment when she saw there was no point continuing to write in that way because there was so little truth in it. Her realization so like the one Matisse is known for, his so-called revelation in the post office, “Facts are not the truth.” And you think, “Well if she did it, maybe I can too.” You don’t know a thing about writing. Not really. Except the inverted pyramid and how to chase facts (history on the run) and get them out before your competitors do.
And then one day, the radio, tuned to an FM station, begins to play Harry Chapin’s “Taxi,” and you are so moved you think, I wish I could do that. You can’t play the guitar, and you don’t want to learn. It’s the story you care about. You’ve lived long enough by now to know what it feels like when the love you once believed in is transformed into some other illusion. Or possibly something nearer the truth.
Hard to say, but you know now that you must make some effort to get from where you are to where you were meant to be. To extricate yourself from the unintended life before it is too late.
When you finally get yourself moving toward who you really are, what you feel in your heart you were meant to do, you are so grateful for those who left tracks for you to follow. People like Willa Cather and Harry Chapin, born this day - she in 1873; he in 1942. There were lots of others, too. But not all of them were born on December 7th. So here are a couple of clips to celebrate the day and offer a small bit of thanks to each of them.
My Antonia - Annotated eBook
Harry Chapin - Taxi, a Short Story Set to Music
Harry Chapin - A Better Place to Be
I'm a storyteller whose background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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