My keenest pains are when I realize there’s something wrong with me, that I am way behind my peers (when people I know marry, have kids, get good jobs, etc). Growing up, I kept getting told I was far more mature than my peers but then I kept having experiences that told me I was far behind.
Due to my carelessness, I took Sophomore Composition class as a Junior in high school. It was mortifying.
At age 19, I had an open mic to the world, anchoring news on the weekend for KAHI radio. Then I dropped out of community college in the fall of 1986 to work in landscaping. I remember going around that September day in 1986 and dropping my classes and running into this girl I knew from the previous semester and she had lost weight and looked amazing in a mini-skirt and when I told her what I was doing, she said, “You were the last person I thought would drop out of school.” That hurt.
I remember driving up to Chico and landscaping around apartment complexes for students and they were partying and the girls were hot and I was covered in dirt, and the weather had turned cold, and I was miserable and Chico State was the number one party school in the world according to Playboy magazine. Landscaping was fun in the summer (except that I earned $4.50 an hour while these other kids my age earned $20 an hour as gophers, and I didn’t get how they pulled that off, why couldn’t I glide through life like the cool kids, connecting and making smart decisions and having a good time and getting laid and paid?) but it sucked in the winter and I quickly headed back to school full-time. I got myself together, transferred to UCLA from Sierra Community College with nearly an A average, but came down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in February of 1988. On the good side, at UCLA that 1988-1989 school year, I could talk to world-class scholars such as Russell Roberts, an Orthodox Jew and economist. I felt like I was part of something grand. I listened to Dennis Prager on KABC radio on weekends and finally got some much needed clarity on life and religion. I learned that UCLA was considered a top ten university when you considered graduate school. I could be in an elevator there and hear an African say with downcast eyes that he only knew five languages. The UCLA football team was ranked number one in the nation for a couple of weeks. I felt important. I saw them thrash Nebraska at the Rose Bowl. Their quarterback, Troy Aikman, looked like me. He was selected number one in the NFL draft by my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys. I read the Daily Bruin and felt a keen pang that my illness prevented me from contributing. This was to be the campus where I finally established myself, caught up with the slick and rich and popular and successful.
My girl friends read this one particular columnist in the Daily Bruin who wrote about feelings and running over a cat. They were crazy about him. I didn’t get it. He didn’t appeal to my linear way of thinking. I thought I was better than him, I just had to get well to prove myself. It was a keen pain. I wish I remembered his name. Did he become a writer?
Now my life is fine except for when I have to confront myself, such as on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, and then the picture I see in the mirror makes me feel uncomfortable. The movie Greenberg hit a little close to home.
On occasion, I walk around the UCLA campus and wonder about what should’ve been, could’ve been. I run into the cool kids at parties and wonder how they glide through life, connecting and making smart decisions, and getting laid and paid.
How many awards do you have to win until you feel like a winner? How many covers do you need? How many TV appearances?