I posted last week's Sunday Scribblings prompt right before racing out of town for a week, so I'm really really late with it, but I'm determined not to miss any! The subject was "Who I might have been" and it could be interpreted many ways, but I'll stick with just telling what made me think of the prompt in the first place.
I caught part of a program on PBS about a young Danish aviatrix who flew a teeny tiny plane from Denmark to Kabul in 2002. It was quite an amazing story. She set off on this journey because of a documentary she'd seen on TV in which school children in Afghanistan right after the fall of the Taliban were talking about what they want to be when they grow up. Well, one young girl said she wanted to be a fighter pilot. Perhaps it was the great unlikelihood of that dream coming true that prompted the aviatrix to plot her journey -- I don't know. I suspect it was the journey itself that settled into her soul, and the little girl at the other end was just sort of punctuation to the adventure. At least I hope so. Because after an incredible series of flights in her really very small plane, against all odds and without the permission of the US military, she arrived in Kabul. She met the girl and took her flying. And, well, the girl didn't really seem all that keen on being a pilot after all. Wah-wah-wah.
It wasn't the most uplifting finale to a documentary, but it was so REAL. Imagine if when you were twelve some stranger in a faraway land overheard you say what you wanted to be when you grew up, and then staged a daring journey to come and help you fulfill your dream. Well, that's awesome, but... when I was twelve I wanted to be pathologist for a while, and I'm really glad no one flew around the world to teach me how to perform an autopsy!
What does this have to do with the Sunday Scribblings prompt? It was just the Afghan girl's life that got me thinking. She had a loving and supportive family, including a father who wanted her to succeed -- she had it better than a lot of girls in Afghanistan. She wasn't being sold to an eighty-year-old mullah to be his sixth wife. But she was still a young girl in Afghanistan and as such, her options were very limited! Even if someone miraculously flew a plane into her city just to help her fulfill her dreams, would she know what to do with that? Dream-following takes practice. You can't really spring it on someone and expect them to know just what to do, to show up on time for their dream-following appointments! Some people are born with the miraculous inner resources to grab onto their opportunities, but not everyone. Not MOST people.
How about me? I'd like to think I have those inner resources, but how can I know? I've been lucky to the point of blessed. I mean, I'm not from a rich family, but a loving family who always supported my dreams. I never had to listen to any uncles telling me I would shame the family by being seen in an airplane!! I distinctly remember the point in my life when I realized how foolish it was to believe everyone should be expected to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps." I let go of my Ayn Rand-inspired teenage elitism and opened my mind a little.
When I was 17 I lived in Paris for three months and all my French friends were card-carrying members of the Communist party. Really. That was something out of the 1950's to an American teenager in the late '80s. Communism was a historical failure, right? Queuing for toilet paper and all that? But to my French friends it was the principle that people deserve a level playing field, that not all humans are born with the tenacity and strength and intelligence to fight their way out of poverty and just because someone's not a genius, do they deserve misery? Shouldn't society take care of its citizens? So simple!
I'm not saying I converted, but the arguments surely did wonders for my French -- there was a memorable weekend manning a crepe booth at "La Fete de l'Humanite," a kind of Communist carnival outside of Paris, when my language skills were put to task defending my country! (Something I wouldn't attempt in France now even in ENGLISH.)
I'll write a bit about the Children's Book Conference Jim and Alexandra and I have been at in a day or two. Cheers! Hope everyone is doing well!