I’m not a theater/movie critic, just a passionate fan of the story. I so believe we all have a story to tell, good/bad or indifferent. It is personal, belongs to us as a one-of-a-kind individual in this huge world. We are unique, as is our story.
Have you ever wondered how your story took its shape? How did I get here? Here being a place we never could have imagined possible; good/bad or indifferent. But here is where we are.
If you are a deep thinker or have lots of time on your hands, you may dwell on the place you have arrived with thoughts of the past and what twists and turns pushed you forward. Formulating the questions of the who’s that influenced you, the what experiences that helped make your choices, the where’s you have been, the when of your timing and the whys of your decisions could be a project to tackle for a lifetime. But do the answers matter? Do any of us want to spend so much time fine-tooth-combing our life? Only you can answer these questions. (It might be a fun time to read Dr. Seuss books: Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and You’re Only Old Once!)
As baby boomers, it’s not unusual for us to ponder these questions. Hopefully, the answers can put our lives in a peaceful perspective and with any luck we won’t beat ourselves up; we’ll just learn more about our unique journey.
My question is: Can we pinpoint any one experience that was the game-changer to the person we would grow into? Was there an experience, good/bad or indifferent that consciously or unconsciously, turned our future on a path we didn’t see coming because our actions and/or reactions came from that event?
Example: My parents were killed in a car accident when I was 16, I had two younger brothers and our Bubbe came to live with us and raise us. She was a typical little Russian Bubbe, cooked, cleaned and loved us with all her being. She didn’t drive, so at 16, I became the head-of-household. I did all the driving for Bubbe and our family needs, car-pooling my brothers, doctor’s appointments, helped with homework, was their biggest fan at all their games, etc. etc.
Whether I was aware or not, I made a choice that I would move into the role that was obvious to me, I had to fill. I accepted it as the will of G-d. My parents were needed in G-d’s heaven so I had to take over. Never, then or now, have I given this a second thought. It took many years to realize, though that my teenage years were taken away, I was thrown into responsibility that I gratefully took on, because, I was also in the accident, and, I lived. I was given life to care for the ones I loved the most.
Again, an awareness that took many years to understand, was after months of healing from my injuries and not going to school that when I did return, I felt like an outsider. I was removed from my friends and their age-appropriate concerns. I saw the bigger picture of life. My conversations with my peers were never the same. I was different. I felt different. My life was different. They all had two parents and I had none. I was leaving school early each day to manage family matters and could no longer walk home with my pals and engage in the day’s gossip and school assignments.
At a very young age, through a tragedy, I became a care-taker.
As a senior today, after raising my children as a single parent, and after retirement, I am still caretaking! I have worked with families to help with afterschool care for kids, schlepping them to various activities and doctor’s appointments, and for the past few years, I cook for families! Once a week I go into homes of seniors and two-working-parent-families and cook a week’s worth of healthy/fresh meals.
This is not what I got a master’s degree for but is the consequence of a major episode in my life that serendipitously pushed me down a path that helps others. I hadn’t planned on this course for my life, but this is where I have been and where I am today. Not complaining, just fascinated how one event altered who I would become.
I recently saw a fantastic piece of theater, Dear Evan Hansen: a heart-scorching story of a teenager who is overcome with loneliness and anxiety and gets caught up in a lie that grabs his emotional being like quicksand, drowning his life in hyperbole.
Sixteen-year-old high school loner, Evan Hansen, who is being raised by a single working mom who has good intentions toward him but little time to spend with him, finds himself caught up in circumstances that move like a barrel rolling down a hill. Through a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone and a lie that was never meant to be told, results in a life he never dreamed could be his. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to belong.
He realizes he can stop the growing lie but his sudden fame and heightened self-esteem among his peers takes him and his cause, to idealize a student he barely knew and recently committed suicide, to hero status. His actions allows healing for the grieving family, his rallying student body raises money for a memorial for the dead kid, who no one respected, but suddenly through Evan Hansen’s falsehoods, was transformed into a hero. Evan Hansen is now accepted as an equal. He is on the inside, part of the popular group. He justifies his fibs because he saw a greater good in the outcome, for others and selfishly, for himself.
Until his moral compass could no longer handle the deceits and he confesses the series of untruths while unburdening his shamed self.
Deeply personal and profoundly universal, Dear Evan Hansen is a groundbreaking American musical about truth, fiction and the price we’re willing to pay for the possibility to connect…
The film Bohemian Rhapsody is the story of rocker Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, who grew up in India and then England. He was rated one of the “greatest rock entertainers ever, able to reach four octaves.”
Freddie was born with four extra teeth in his upper jaw, a flaw he was embarrassed by and never happy with as it created an overbite that altered his basic good looks. But he strongly believed the additional teeth created a special sound in his already powerful voice.
His Indian parents fled Zanzibar for safety reasons due to the 1964 revolution, moving to India and then England. Freddie was remembered as a strong athlete, maintained good grades till he let music overshadow his studies, was a shy and quiet young man who grew into a flamboyant and outrageous entertainer. His father was not supportive of his music career, wanted him to pursue a degree, which Freddie completed with a diploma in graphic art and design. When he legally changed his name to Freddie Mercury, his father accused him, “Is our name not good enough?” For many years his father didn’t support his son’s musical successes, which caused family conflict. Freddie wanted an onstage persona and “Changing his name was part of him assuming a different skin,” some thought.
When asked why he chose the name “Queen” for his band, he explained that “It was a strong name and very regal.” In the ‘80s, he experimented with drugs and his sexuality. He was once asked to justify his lifestyle and replied with, “I am what I am. So what?” Freddie died at the age of 45 due to complications of AIDS.
Freddie wasn’t religious but fiercely protected and respected his parent’s deep faith and commitment to the Parsi community. He left instructions for his funeral to keep with Parsi tradition and include in his burial service the words his father never let him forget, “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” Before his death, father and son made their peace.
But this strict faith condemns homosexuality and it’s believed by changing his given name to a stage name may have been a way to distance himself from the guilt and shame associated with his sexuality.
The price we’re willing to pay for the possibility to connect.
Bohemian Rhapsody was voted one of the greatest songs of all times, Queen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. There is a 10-foot Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux, Switzerland, overlooking Lake Geneva and one above the West End’s Dominion Theater, along with countless other honors bestowed to Queen and Freddie Mercury.
Being lost or not true to our identity is not exclusive to being a teenager.
Everyone wants to fit in.
As seniors, in the autumn of our years, do we let go of the teenage angsts and reveal our true self or allow the who, the what, the where, the why and the how still hold us hostage within our personal baggage so others have a perception of us that we have created? Or are we courageous enough to strip away the façade that we have carried with us and finally look in the mirror and see our real self so others can too?
Movies and plays have a script. We are blessed to be the authors of our own story where we can write the final word.