grief hope life

Like Punky Brewster

This is me on the first day of kindergarten, around age 6. Don’t let this innocent face fool you; at times I was too stubborn for my own good, and even now I still am.

I’ve always been a bit, shall we say, independent.

When I was around 6 years old, my parents threatened to leave me someplace because I refused to get in the car or some other nonsense. When they packed up, buckled in, and drove away, I sat on a curb, folded my arms and decided I was going to make it on my own – just like Punky Brewster, whose parents left her at a grocery store. Punky Brewster was my favorite television show at the time and was possibly one of the reasons I played “orphans” instead of “house” with my cousins until I was at least 12. Characters like Punky Brewster and Anne-Marie from the cartoon movie “All Dogs go to Heaven,” were my inspirations. Who wants to pretend to be a mom or dad when you can pretend to be a kid on your own, who knows how to make it on the streets, and who lives in boxcars and abandoned buildings? We could pretend to be kids who never had to hear the words no.

As I sat there on the curb that day telling myself I’d figure life out like Punky Brewster, my parents drove about one block away, far enough that I couldn’t see them, but close enough that they could see me. They were surprised I didn’t cry when pretty much every other 6-year-old in the world would have run after the car sobbing her eyes out. After they realized I wouldn’t chase them, they pulled back up and MADE me get in the car where I continued to cause a ruckus until they literally turned the car around. By the time we got home, I was carsick and threw up all over the driveway. What a rotten child I was at times.

But the point is, I was independent from the start, and while I’m sure it’s given my family their share of headaches, there are good things about this too. Good things like the day I called my folks at age 19 and told them I was going to China to teach English – No. Matter. What. Following that conversation, I worked really hard to make the adventure happen. I wanted to pay for it on my own, so I got two unclassy summer jobs at Walmart and Maverik, clocked 12-16 hour days sometimes and worked a couple 20-day stretches. It was one of the summers I am most proud of. I saved most of that money, slept very little, hung out with friends as much as possible, then boarded a plane to Shanghai and lived in a small town five hours south for four glorious months.

It was during that stretch of my life where one of my mottos was, “you can do anything you want if you plan for it.” If I could make it to China working two cashier jobs, then I could go anywhere, right? Do anything? Fulfill every dream? I really thought so. Oh, to be 19 again.

Fast forward 13 years to last night when I had a huge moment of self-doubt that has been lingering for a while now but maybe hasn’t been put into words so plainly. Travis and I were talking about the adult stuff – budgets and house work mostly. After we’d gone over the to-do lists, I asked him what he wanted his life too look like? What did he imagine? And then he asked me. It’s hard for me to put exactly what I want into words, so I told him I want simplicity, and to be more grateful. But a lot of the other stuff, like what my dream job is, I just don’t know.

For a while now, I have felt like a failed business owner, a failed writer, a failed dreamer. And I started to cry, saying I’ve been asked what my career goals are and I have no idea. For now, I want a job. I want to be very good at a job. But being good at a job doesn’t necessarily equal passion. I said between tears that I used to have passion and it didn’t work out. I worked for a small paper, moved, and bounced around from three jobs in five years. I started writing a book six years ago and never finished. I opened a small business two years ago and haven’t broken even. I used to run marathons and make bucket lists and check things off. Now that old bucket list collects digital dust on this blog that survives solely because this space means too much to me to delete – not because I write often. I can’t seem to get organized enough to do any of the things I used to call dreams – such as my business, and book, running, and creating a home that feels quaint, and quiet, and warm.

Today those thoughts stayed with me. I walked from my car to my office nearly in tears, and started to cry at my desk before I was thankfully interrupted by a coworker who wanted me to sign a get well card for someone whose problems are more immediate than mine.

But I think maybe this could be a turning point, too. Because this morning, before the walk from my car to my office, I woke up and ran through my neighborhood with my dog and the moon and a small glimmer of hope that today is a new day and those dreams and passions are still somewhere inside me. Buried perhaps, but somewhere nonetheless. And after that run, and the almost cry, I signed up for a half marathon. Because although I don’t think my dreams and passions need to stay the same, I think I’ll repeat old ones until I find the new.

And maybe that is exciting. And maybe I’ll fail again. Maybe I’ll fail again 1,000 times like many of us with passion do. Maybe that 19-year-old isn’t wiser than my 32-year-old self; maybe that 19-year-old just hadn’t failed yet. And maybe there is a part of me that still believes I can make big things happen No. Matter. What. Even if that means some of my plans take longer than expected, or don’t happen at all. Maybe that 6-year-old inside me is still sure enough that I’ll figure out life … just like Punky Brewster.

-Written July 10, 2017

2 replies on “Like Punky Brewster”

P.S. I want to hear more childhood Manette stories. “What a rotten child I was.” Hahaha 🙂

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