Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sunday Scribblings -- very late!!

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!

13 comments:

Kim G. said...

What an interesting post to hear the background on the prompt. I love the concept that not everyone is born knowing exactly how to follow their dreams, even when given the chance to realize them. In a way, it's very freeing to know that the struggle doesn't go away even if the "silver spoon" of your dream is handed to you. You must still decide whether to pursue it. Hmmm . . . makes me think of the part of "Bird by Bird" where Anne Lamott talks about how most writers just want to be published, they don't really want to write and how those writers who are published, will tell you, being published doesn't take away the doubt, the frustration and the real WORK of writing. Sometimes the work must be finding the right dream.

Kristy said...

Although I have lots to take away from this post, I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of silliness at thinking:

"Some chap in the dark corners of the CIA has tagged Laini's blog, and thus, Lani, as someone to keep tabs on. Communist!"

;-)

Kristy

deirdre said...

Last night, at dinner with Richard's family, I found myself defending the compassionate voice that tells me to give a dollar to the one pan-handler I can't pass by. I couldn't seem to explain that it's not about what they might do with the dollar, it's about not ignoring the inner voice of compassion and therefore cutting off a part of yourself. I think it's sad that our society has become so disdainful of people who are not as gifted or strong or focused as another. And, I have to say, the other voice in my head talks clearly about personal responsibility and independence. Life would certainly be less complicated if I could come down on one side of the fence or the other.

Amber said...

oooh, Laini. This --"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." -- was so profound.

I admit, I am a bit of a pull yourself up, kind of girl. You knew that. BUT, you are right about this. You are. It makes me think of the kids I worked with before... I really came to understand that my real job was just show them what was even POSSIBLE. Because some people live in a different reality. And not all of them were the kind of people who had that "spark" you speak of. But the ones who did-- What AMAZING kids.

But, it begs the question in my mind, that maybe it is just the reality of life, that some people don't thrive. Sad, yes. Cold, maybe. But it might just be reality. Maybe they are here to test the rest of us, and our love and humanity...

Great job, like always.

:)

Alexandra S said...

That was such an interesting post Lucy. I would love to know what this pilot thinks of the whole experience now and the impact it might have on this young Afgani girl that someone would do such a thing for her even if she didn't want to be a pilot afterall. Was she like "Thanks but no thanks!" and waved her away, or was she blown away that this unknown stranger suddenly flew into her life? I hope she was at least invited in for dinner before flying back!

megg said...

Wow - there was a lot in that post. I feel like that sometimes & you articulated it so completely. Sometimes I feel like I am so close to my dreams but I can't figure out why I am not galloping towards them with my arms out. I think you hit it. I think I'm not sure what I would do when I caught up with them. It's really something I need to think about.

P.S. I am really glad you are back!! xoox

la vie en rose said...

this was such a great post lani--filled with all kinds of goodies.

Colorsonmymind said...

Very fun read

Deb R said...

That was really a wonderful, thought-provoking post, Laini!

paris parfait said...

Your post provides much food for thought! The Communists no longer wield much power in France - it's the socialists who are popular at the momennt - but I admire you being able to hold your own in political arguments! As for the aviatrix, very inspiring story. Am glad you had a great time at the conference (I just read Alexandra's post) and look forward to reading more about your experience.

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Anonymous said...

Laini, you are such an inspiration to me, and to so many others. I am eager to hear more about the Children's Book Conference! Thanks so much for all your encouragement and inspirations! Bonnie

Anonymous said...

I just posted my comment, and it wouldn't let me leave my identity :-( bonnie at www.yakattack.typepad.com