As the great God Britney once said, “Mama, I’m in love with a criminal,” which I think she meant as “Mama, why are you a criminal?” At least, that’s my interpretation of the song, because really, who wants to sing about their criminal mother? (answer: shockingly few, unless you call the poet Eminem to the stage).
Note to Eminem: I’m the real Slim Shady and I’m standing the fuck up.
Now, my mother isn’t the type of criminal mastermind that could pull off a bank heist or steal back a priceless piece of lost Nazi art – the woman is still baffled by caller ID and call waiting. She has an email address, I think, but I’m not sure she knows what it is or how to access all the important forwards my father sends her, which, now that I think on it, is probably a blessing of sorts.
No, she’s a far more nefarious sort.
I say that because she’s got terrible arthritis and looks like, well, a grandmother, and who thinks Grandma is about to commit illegal activities? Honestly, it’s the most perfect cover I’ve seen.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was dining from the infectious disease menu, my mother helped me run some errands because, well, I could hardly walk and I felt pretty pathetic at the very thought of using one of those motorized carts to get me through the store without having people lob things in my direction because I’m not technically disabled. I’m telling you Pranksters, after busting my foot while pregnant, I have a whole new sympathy for people with disabilities. People treat you so bizarrely when you have your foot in Das Boot – like that must mean that you probably can’t hear properly. I don’t know HOW many clerks screamed very slowly at me while I purchased my People Magazines and edamame.
Alas, I digress.
A few days ago, my mother braved seeing her daughter, Typhoid Becky, and swung over for a visit to bring me some Jello, which, it turns out, there IS always room for. We were chatting about this and that, nothing nefarious (unless you count my hideous Christmas tree, which you probably should as a crime against humanity) until she laid it out for me.
“They really need to put better lighting on your apartment complex,” she dropped on me.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I don’t know how many times people have driven to the other entrance to the other side of my complex.”
“I did that the other day!” She exclaimed.
I just nodded and giggled, figuring it was akin to her using the GPS on her car – baffling, yet somehow she managed to make it meow when it hits certain streets. See? NEFARIOUS.
Then the bomb dropped.
“I found the apartment I thought was yours and walked into it,” she told me, laughing a bit.
My jaw dropped.
“You did WHAT?” I asked her, aghast that she’d walked into my neighbors home.
“Yeah, it was all decorated weirdly like yours and everything! It was only when I noticed the shoes were too small for you that I realized I had the wrong place.”
“MOM!” I scolded. “What did this person DO?”
“No one was home,” she claimed, almost… proudly.
My jaw hung open, collecting flies.
“You’re damn lucky no one called the police,” I finally replied.
“I’m an old lady,” she said. “I’d beat them with my cane.”
“You don’t have a cane, Ma,” I pointed out.
“Yeah,” she replied. “But I could improvise.”
When my head smacked the desk, no one was surprised.
So I read somewhere on the Internet (and we ALL know that the Internet doesn’t lie) that the end of the world is coming, which reminds me of the OTHER time the world was supposed to end and WHOOPS! everyone woke up the next day all, wait, I thought I was supposed to be all raptured and shit. AND MOTHERFUCKER, I HAVEN’T PAID MY BILLS BECAUSE I THOUGHT I’D BE DRIVING A BUS WITH JESUS TODAY.
Since I’m not subscribed to Hysterical Hysteria Quarterly, I decided that it was time for me to do a little digging about this whole “world ending” stuff. I mean, why scoop cat poo if I’m going to be raptured or eaten by a gigantic alien or something? I started at the most logical place I could think on: the weather. I mean, if they can predict that next Sunday will be warm with a chance of dry air, they should be able to see that THERE IS NO WEATHER AFTER WE ALL DIE BY MASSIVE MAYAN ZOMBIE ATTACK.
Okay, so I can expect it to be partly cloudy with a chance of nosebleeds. At least someone is FINALLY thinking about the fish. Well, that was yesterday’s weather. What’s coming up? THAT’S THE QUESTION.
And frankly, I want to be the one who names storms. Draco? C’mon, we can do better than that. How ’bout, “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES winter storm?” Far more hysterical sounding. I appreciate that.
Okay, let’s get on with the ten day forecast. I bet that’ll tell me whether or not I should pay my cell phone bill.
Okay, that’s just disappointing. I need to fix this.
Wow, that’s so much better. I think the monsters really add something to this weather chart.
Now I’m feeling scared!
But really, I didn’t get the info I was looking for. It was time to turn to alternate sources. Like the gossip blogs.
Okay, now I not only feel out of touch, but any of that awesome fear-mongering is totally gone. Shits. Time to turn to The Twitter – certainly THEY know something I don’t about this end of days and shit.
James Franco? Is he part of this “end of days” shit? I think not. Then again, I can’t recall a single movie he was in, so there’s that.
The Twitter, you failed me. That’s shameful, considering you’re my only source of news out there.
Shit, even my archenemy Pinterest, where I go when I want to feel bad about myself, has nothing beyond some adorable ways to turn random household shit into a particle ring.
Well, the Internet has been absolutely no help in my search for the answer to this burning question: will I need to buy more cat food?
I’ve spent the better part of 10 years trying to figure out what I’ve wanted to do next. Skydiving? Climbing some obscure mountain? Going into space? All things I’d considered before deciding that I’d stay home with my wee germ factories and write; two events that I’d not foreseen coming. I knew this wasn’t going to be one of those THIS IS MY DREEEAMMM kind of things for me.
Initially, I wrote because I had no one to talk to and with a husband who (then) considered a sixty hour work week to be “a slow week,” which meant I was pretty lonesome. Kids, especially challenging tots like my Alex, who demanded that I hold him every second of his first year of life, don’t exactly allow you the freedom to go out and make! new! friends! nearly the same way you can when they’re older.
When I discovered that I did, in fact, like to write more than clinical research studies, I finally felt like I’d found that missing piece; I’d discovered what comes next, which was both intensely liberating and oddly arousing. Writing, though, especially on Teh Internetz, I knew was going to be something that lacked staying power, and while I love what I do more than I love butter, I’ve known for a long time that I had to find something more; something that truly completed me (and not in the stupid fucking Jerry What’s His Name movie).
For many moons, I thought it would be a book – I had agents, a proposal, and a wealth of unpublished essays I’d easily compile into a book (and have) – until the great crash of Aught Eight happened and the publishing industry became more shaky about publishing new authors than a Chihuahua at the vet.
I’d toyed with the idea of self-publishing for upwards of five seconds before dismissing it as something I’d never be proud of. I mean, sure, I could beg my Pranksters to help me promote my book, but honestly self-promotion like that makes my vagina hurt – and not in a “climbing ropes in gym class” way. Self-publishing is a good fit for some, I know this, but not me.
So I dropped the idea of finishing the book like a hot potato and founded Band Back Together instead. That, too, I knew wasn’t a forever thing for me. Sure, the site will always be there, but I knew then that I wanted, well, more from my life.
Since I’ve moved out, I’ve been struck both by an incredible case of The Lurgy and some pretty heavy shit to go through. Having to reinvent your whole life at 32 isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, no matter how necessary it may be (and it is). As I’ve sat on the couch, watching endless episodes of shitballs television, trying to work up the motivation to do things like “pee” or “brush my teeth,” I’ve been dipping my toes into the murky depths of my mind, trying, once again, to figure out what happens next.
As someone smarter than me once said, “if you don’t like the end of this chapter, it’s not the end.”
And it’s not.
Rather than dwell on the past, thinking on all of the ways I suck at life, the decision I’d been waiting for smacked me upside the head in the middle of a Law and Order: Don’t You Dare Bitch About Your Life.
It was time to go back to school.
Whaaaaa? I can hear you all asking the computer, wondering if the meds aren’t working properly AGAIN.
Let’s step into the wayback machine, Pranksters.
Many, many years ago, I lived in this very same apartment complex with my then-boyfriend as an act of both teenage rebellion and an inability to see what came next. I’d like to paint you a rosy picture of those days, but that’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Lost doesn’t begin to describe how I felt and try as I did, I couldn’t see a way out. I was working at the time, at a diner known for making things like “Macaroni Cheeseburgers” and milkshakes, getting miserably low tips because the cooks “hadn’t done the hashbrowns right” or other such nonsense. I took less than zero pride in my job or, to be fair, my life.
My then-boyfriend once remarked snarkily – after I’d fallen the eleventy-niner time that week in the ice cream cooler at work and was making love to a heating pad – “Wow, I make just as much as you do and I get to sit at a desk all day!” He laughed, meanly, and had my back not been on fire, I’d have popped out his eyeballs with an iced tea spoon. Instead, I sighed, waiting, once again, to see what came next.
He’s what came next.
I discovered I was pregnant shortly after Christmas of 2000 at the not-so-scandalous age of twenty, moved home, and popped his enormous melon out of my poor girly bits. The path then was clear: fuck becoming a doctor and get a degree that allowed me to make more than 10 bucks an hour going through fecal samples (I was halfway toward my BS in Biology/Chemistry). I took another waitressing job, this time, one that I loved, and met Dave halfway through nursing school. We married shortly after I graduated and Ben turned four.
Okay, I said to myself, this is what comes next…
…until that old itch started back up again – I couldn’t stay at home with my kids without going insane, I loved to write, but it’s nearly impossible to make a living doing so and, quite frankly, it was time to figure out what I wanted to happen with my life now. I could sit and wallow, feeling sorry for myself, immensely sad about the way everything ended, or I could make a change and do something for me. Something that made me proud of myself. Something that would open doors where windows had been firmly bolted.
It was time to dust a dream I’d so carefully packed into a box 10 years prior and make it happen. It was up to me this time and I was going to do what I had to do to move on with my life.
It’s time to get my PhD in one of the hard sciences – micro, virology, immunology, forensics, genetics. I don’t know which one I’ll go for. Not yet. But I will.
It’s time – really time – to start over. Only this time, it’s going to be for me.
And for the first time in as long as I can remember, I can hardly wait to see what happens next.