The Dream I Never Knew I Had

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a star on Broadway. It wasn’t just a dream – it was a longing, an ache somewhere deep down in my soul. Before I was ten, I had memorized every song from Annie – The Musical and, as I got older, I committed to memory the lyrics from Hair, Fame, Cats and Phantom of the Opera. I took drama classes, joined a local children’s theater group and got as far as the Alliance Theater and the stage at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta. I loved it with a hot fiery intensity, and yet I let it go. I turned my attention to boys and BFFs, and merely dabbled my way through Show Choir in high school and Glee Club in college before letting it go completely. To this day, I still sing at the top of my lungs in the shower and in my car, and I never miss an episode of Glee or American Idol.  I have no regrets – I know now that it wasn’t the path I was meant to take.

When I was a young journalism student at the University of Georgia, I dreamed of becoming a foreign correspondent. I yearned to travel to distant shores and learn about the people who lived there. I wanted desperately to join the ranks of H.R. Knickerbocker, Edward R. Murrow, Morley Safer and Peter Arnett. I practiced my pronunciation of difficult leaders’ names and perfected a clipped speech pattern until I felt it was reminiscent of a blend between Walter Cronkite and Jane Pauley. I wrote make believe reports with a poetic flair, and performed them before my bathroom mirror with hairbrush in place of a microphone. Then two events occurred to crush my dream: 1) I registered for a Broadcast Journalism course and froze every time I stood before the camera, and 2) I watched CNN’s 24-hour reporting from the Persian Gulf War.  The mental image of Bernard Shaw, John Holliman and Peter Arnett seeking refuge under a table in their hotel room during the first bombing of Baghdad terrified me rather than set a fire in my belly to hop the next plane and join them. In truth, the only time I had ever traveled beyond America’s borders was for a high school graduation cruise to Mexico – I hardly ever left the Southeast, let alone the state of Georgia. My sense of adventure was relegated to living inside my own head (which really turned out to be a perfect situation for an unbeknown aspiring writer).  I have no regrets – that wasn’t the path I was meant to take, either.

Instead, in college, I found my feet firmly planted on another path.  I met my best friend for life, who also happened to be my future husband. He taught me to stop looking to the future, but rather to live in the moment.  The future suddenly seemed wide open – something I no longer needed to define and could not confine to any one dream. We married shortly after graduation, and built our home in Georgia. Talk eventually turned to growing our family, and I felt the excitement building – just as it had when I dreamed of standing onstage or under fire in some war torn nation. It was strange – I had been a TERRIBLE babysitter growing up. I was never really comfortable with small children, never knew what to say to them or do with them. It didn’t come naturally to me – or so I thought. What kind of mother would I be? It took ten months to become pregnant, and with each failed attempt – I found myself wanting that elusive baby all the more. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those parents who wait years for a successful pregnancy. Once I learned I was pregnant, I felt the love growing inside me right along with that sweet baby. When she arrived, everything fell into place. My first daughter was joined by a second just two years and eight months later, and I became completely fulfilled. Being a mom was a dream I never knew I had. While I would never claim to be the World’s Best Mom – I yell too much, cuss too much and occasionally brush their hair more vigorously than required – I am a far better mom than I ever would have imagined. Thanks to them, rather than looking to tomorrow and dreaming of what COULD be, I am living for TODAY and wishing it could stay this way forever.  Rather than dreaming of a happily ever after – I get to live it every day.

American Idol Saved My Life

Okay, okay – so American Idol hasn’t really ever saved my life in a conventional sense – yet!  But you have to admit, it’s a far more enticing title than the original “Why I Love American Idol”.  I have been a fan since Season One – when I voted for Kelly Clarkson, and wept along with her as she assumed her role as the first “American Idol”. I took partial ownership in her wild success – I ran out to buy her very first CD and have downloaded just about everything she’s done since then.  I love (and voted for) Carrie Underwood and David Cook, and I adore (and voted for) some of the one’s who didn’t make it all the way to the bitter end – like Elliott Yamin and Chris Daughtery.  But, it’s about so much more than a singing contest and finding the next American Idol.  The reasons I love American Idol as a whole are almost too much to list, but I will try.

As a wife and mother of two, I love the fact that – on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings – my family gathers around our big screen TV to watch dreams take flight (or crash and burn before our very eyes).  I am reminded of the stories from my grandparents of mom, dad and the kids gathering around the radio for news and entertainment each night after supper.  It’s more than the two to four hours of family-friendly entertainment per week – it’s musical theatre, human drama and comedy blended with the lesson that we should ALL reach for our dreams (even if you get smacked down in the process)rolled into one. My girls get to witness the fact that sometimes life hands you a yellow ticket, and sometimes you learn that you’re striving for the wrong dream and it’s time to change directions.  They learn about the importance of grace under pressure and why it’s never in your best interest to be a sore loser.  They see the simple beauty of a tearful thank you and grace under pressure, as opposed to the ugly nature of the sense of entitlement.  They now know that not everybody gets what they want – no matter how badly they want it.  And – the most important lesson – they learn the importance of being yourself.   Never hide behind a gimmick or a costume – let the real YOU shine through.  That said, they also see that there really are crazy people running around out there in the world, wearing capes and feather boas.

I listened from my cozy bed the other morning, as my five-year-old daughter sang “Jingle Bells” in a clear and beautiful voice before her bathroom mirror.  Christmas has passed, but it’s one of her favorite songs – no matter the time of year.  Even though I couldn’t see her face, I knew that just behind her eyes was a vision of standing before the judges, their mouths agape as they knew instinctively that they’d just found the next American Idol.  I love that she has that dream, along with the fairy princess and fashion designer dreams.  Why on Earth would I ever take that away from her?  It does get me thinking, though.  All those poor saps who can’t hold a tune, and say “People tell me I’m a mixture of Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston” – did their moms build them up on false hopes?  OR did their moms hear clean and beautiful voices, too?  Does the saying “a face only a mother could love” hold true for voices, as well? 

For me, personally, I love the excitement surrounding each season – it’s escapism at its best.  It’s apart from the daily grind of deadlines and carpools.  I know I’m not alone in that feeling.  A friend who recently moved to a small town hundreds of miles away from home, wrote to me of her adjustment to the new surroundings  “…at least the boys are happy, and American Idol is back on.”  I love picking my favorite contestants, learning about where they’ve come from, watching the transformation from ordinary citizen to superstar and debating with my girlfriends about WHO should be the next American Idol.  I love that occasional performance that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end and changes the entire direction of the contest.  After all these years of watching Idol, the judges seem like old friends I haven’t seen in a while.  I LOVE Simon Cowell and his no-nonsense approach.  He says the things we think, but are too afraid to say.  He can be cruel, but he can also be surprisingly sweet.  Who wouldn’t want to be built up by Randy Jackson (“Dude, that was the BOMB!”) or Paula Abdul (“First of all, you look AMAZING tonight!”)?  And I admit, I wish I could get the occasional hug from Ryan Seacrest when I’m having a bad day. But, still, it’s so more than that.   

I danced from age six to thirteen, and performed with a children’s theatre group in venues all over Atlanta. I knew every word to every song in the musical Annie. I’ve stood before judges during an audition and audiences during a performance.  I watched “Fame”, the movie AND the TV series, and dreamed of making it big on Broadway one day.    That dream, utterly unrealized, doesn’t shame me or weigh me down with regret.  It buoyed me all those years ago, and now – with my REAL dream playing out every day (wife, mom and writer) – it seems a fond, but distant memory.  I know American Idol does that for countless others the world over, including my little girls.  American Idol brings entertainment and hope into innumerable living rooms each week.  Hope, even the false kind, is something we desperately need during these days of economic instability, war and political infighting.  American Idol offers us all a break from the reality of our everyday lives – while we laugh, we cry, we sing along.  In a world of global warming, terrorist threats and unemployment on the rise – for a few hours each week, many of us get to celebrate the individual desire to achieve a dream.  In a way, for a few hours each week, American Idol saves ALL of our lives.

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment