My Hare-Brained Theory
I remember the moment I decided to change my life.
I was taking a sick day from my waitressing job, wrapped up in a quilt on my parents' couch. Two years out of college, I had grown disappointed at my job opportunities and even more bummed about my ability to find interesting work that might lead to a career.
In the mid 1980s, the ABC line-up of soap operas was IT on a STICK. Remember Luke & Laura on "General Hospital?" and the Phoebe Wallingford/Erica Kane wars on "All My Children?" Well, when the rich ranching Buchanan boys rolled into Llanville, Pennsylvania on "One Life to Live," things definitely perked up and got REALLY complicated. Domineering and rich patriarch Asa brought his two handsome sons: Clint & Beau. Woof!
The grande dame of "OLTL" has been -- as long as I can remember -- Victoria Lord, played exquisitely by Erica Slezak (daughter of the famous actor Walter Slezak). Ms. Slezak seems to look younger every frigging year and she has NO apparent evidence of a face lift, which is more than I can say for Barry Manilow and Lynne Cheney. YIKES!
By the time the Buchanans moseyed into town: Viki had been through a lot: molestation as a teenager, a domineering father, four marriages, two rapes, and a split personality (the bad girl part of her is named Niki) and much much more. When Clint Buchanan came to work at her family's newspaper, The Banner, they eventually fell in love and ran the paper together (that was the high speed version of the story).
Anyhoo, as I lay on the couch and watched Viki and Clint running the paper as a team, I noticed Viki was wearing the GREATEST suit. And I realized: I want a job where I wear a suit to work. I don't want to be a waitress for the rest of my life. I want to become a professional...ummm...SOMETHING. And the gravy on the potatoes would be a man like Clint Buchanan who would share my passion for the truth and integrity. Yeah, that's it...THAT's what I want!
And then I came up with my hare-brained theory about why soap operas are important in society: they offer role models for people who may never see any other kind of success in their lives. Quickly, let me clarify a couple of things: first, my parents were fine role models and second, I realize there is a lot NOT to admire on soap operas (see my earlier blog entry about minding your own beeswax, for one example).
But what "OLTL" did for me that day wasopen up my imagination to something I hadn't considered for myself even WITH a college degree: me in a job, wearing a suit, in a marriage with a responsible grown-up (very different than the hopeless alcoholic I was involved with at the time).
And trust me, I've seen enough wasted potential to know that we can use all the inspiration we can get. Each of us knows too many people with talent who chose to hole up in their home, stayed planted in front of the television, or stockpiled booze or prescription drugs to numb their lives even more. On a recent Dr. Phil episode, an entire family described how they were slowly circling the drain as both parents and children sought escape in pornography.
Is life really all that hard?
And wouldn't we be more miserable if we didn't try to squeeze a little juice out of it before we die?
Those of us who are out there trying to DO something should pat ourselves on the back for our efforts. Apparently, it's not as easy as it seems. And grab your inspiration where you can.