I can’t pinpoint when I veered away from being an adolescent hell-bent on holding a PhD in comparative Russian literature by the time I was 25 to becoming a 25-year-old twice divorced single-mother who’d dropped out of both college and high-school.
Nor do I think my father could say when his dreams of becoming an architect went fallow, other than vague recollections that his parents thought the profession less than feasible. And could my mother accurately say marriage at 18 and having me at 20 were better ideas than college and a job, during years when women could readily (if not easily) make such choices?
My brother and I talk about these things not infrequently, the ways in which our dreams were derailed by forces if not out of our control then at least ones we barely understood: a lack of direction, misplaced loyalties, bad role models, running away from things instead of toward them.
I’ve long since come to terms with my bad choices, forgiven whoever I might have once blamed for the mistakes only I made. But one thing I grapple with is leaving Texas when my brother was only 14; I often think if I’d stayed a little longer, his life may have been different, more of what he wanted it to be.
Walking past Mannes College this morning on my way to see Divergent with a friend, I remembered my brother’s plans, several years ago, to move to New York to go to the college, to finally claim the life he’d always given up for reasons outside himself, a series of scenes out of It’s a Wonderful Life.
He never made it to New York or became a professional musician, and it wasn’t for a lack of want. I cried a little bit while walking past the college today. He has a beautiful life—a lovely wife, a new baby—but I know it’s not the one he should have had. It sounds like I’m resentful for what he does have, but I’m not.
I just wish I’d been there to protect him, to stand up when everyone else tried to convince him his dreams didn’t matter as much as theirs.