Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Having Your Shit Together

This post is coming off of a recent viewing of An Officer And A Gentleman. I don't often think to include it on a list of favorite movies, but it really does belong there. I generally like let's-go-to-boot-camp films, and anyone who knows me at all knows I'm a sucker for chick-flicks. OH yeah. Any movie with Hugh Grant or Robert Downey Jr., Drew Barrymore or Julia Roberts…I'm all over that shit! In fact, here's the perfect film: Hugh & Robert are married to Drew and Julia, and somehow their lives intersect in a way that is both hysterical and sentimental, and they spend the rest of the film figuring out that they're each married to the wrong partner. Whooo! (*swoons*) I'm in heaven.

Ahem. Anyway.

I hadn't seen Officer in a long, long time…never occurred to me to buy on DVD, but I caught a copy on VHS at a flea market this summer. I finally got around to watching it a week or so ago, and I was overjoyed to find that it stands the test of time…MY test, anyway. I came away from it this time feeling a little different, though; namely, I was astonished at how "together" Zack and Paula seem to have their shit.

'Cause, like, in the movie, they're supposed to be…what? 21? 22? Not that old. Zack has finally realized that his dad's lifestyle of getting shitfaced on a nightly basis and fucking whatever he can stick his dick into really isn't the way to go, and Paula already has what seems like a lifetime job at a paper plant. (Back when 22-year olds could GET factory jobs like that!) Zack even asks her at one point: "What…what do you do? Do you…go to school?" Paula says "No, no, I got a job. Yeah…it's a real good job!" The movie is both a romantic…not comedy per se, although there are humorous moments. Well, it's romantic, anyway, but what it really is is a coming-of-age story…primarily for Zack, but also for Paula. They spend the 13 weeks of Zack's time at Navy Flight School figuring out their entire lives, and we're left with the inescapable feeling (as Zack, sportin' his dress whites, carries Paula off the factory floor to the applause of the workers…yoikes!) that they're off to get married and spend the rest of their lives together.

And I'm thinkin': what the hell?!? Since when do 22-year olds have their shit together that well? I think back to being 22…and yeah, okay, I though I was a pret-ty. Cool. Customer. Definitely had my shit together. And I realize now (at 41) that ho-ley smokes! I was just wanderin' in the wilderness, my friends, a savage barely able to get his pants on straight, let alone use a fork and knife. Whooo. I drank too much, smoked too much, didn't work nearly hard enough, and shagged anything that expressed even the slightest interest. I had no idea what sort of career path I might choose, and ate fried hot dogs and mac-&-cheese for dinner. With Coke™.

I feel like I began - barely! - to get my shit together in my 30s. My 30s. And even then, when I look back at that decade now…I realize that I was still barely on the having-my-shit-together path. I had just begun to walk that fucker, settled in as I was with my early-20-something girlfriend and an apartment that was at least one step up from being a cave with pelts on the floor.

Which begs the question: how is it that some people really seem to have it together at a phenomenally young age (yes, okay, I understand that Zack and Paula are characters; just…work with me, here), and other people have no clue how clueless they are until 10 or 15 years later. Which led to an even more jolting thought: what if…what if I get to be 50 or 55, and I look back at my 41-year old self…and I realize that HE didn't have his shit together, even then?!? Oy, the agony!

*shrugs* Maybe that's just how it is, for most people. We think we're pretty with-it no matter what age we are, and we don't find out the truth until it's way too late to really do anything about it but hang your head and go about your day. Maybe that's the only way to survive…and maybe that points to all of life (or, living) being about "coming of age."


Blogger Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

When I was just barely 21, I had a newborn baby to take care of. I've had more jobs than most people have pairs of underwear. I've been a secretary, an auto factory worker, a stripper, a journalist/photojournalist, a writer, a phone sex operator (well, I only lasted one hour, but I still did it), a telemarketer, a tarot card reader, a fast-food worker, a daycare provider, and a waitress. I'm just now getting my degree at the age of 33 (hey, that rhymes!). And I STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I so do NOT have my shit together... and I probably never will. I'm hoping my son will learn what NOT to do by watching me.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Violence Worker said...

Hmmmm...I'm 56 with 20 years in the USAF under my belt. Married twice, and have a decent enough job that should carry me to retirement and I would be lying if I told you I finally have my shit together. Not sure if that is a destination. If it is, I may never arrive. I'm too busy enjoying the ride.


12:21 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

I'm 33 and I just started a PhD program. Do I really have to say anything else?

4:40 PM  

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