Home > Art, Life, Politics, Would I Lie? > Saving Private Ryan, The 40-Year-Old Virgin…

Saving Private Ryan, The 40-Year-Old Virgin…

lie1Yes, I meant to write the title that way, blasphemous girl that I am! This was actually inspired by schizophrenically clicking back and forth between those two movies on TV one night. Talk about mind-altering….

(Forgive me if my metaphors seem inappropriately mixed in this post. The content is intended simply for ironic illustration and not professional promotion. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain!)

Once upon a time I wanted to join the army. After completing my first unfulfilling year as a music major at college, I passed the audition to play in the band at Ft. Devens, MA. I even took off 30 pounds to meet the weight requirement, but when I got to the physical and mentioned the knee pain that bothered me recurrently, they said thanks, but no thanks. Apparently, my honesty got me barred from the service and as a female recruit during peace time, there was no room for anomaly of any kind. A male college friend was inducted at 40 pounds over the weight limit and they allowed him to drop it during basic training. Thinking back, I don’t envy him that. Neither do I envy those who signed up anyway despite their reservations when, for the first time in US military history, under Ronald Reagan, they were asked “Are you a homosexual or have you ever had any homosexual experience?” The only acceptable answer was an emphatic, “NO SIR!” (sorry, but you know me…I just had to get that dig in there!)

So I had to take another route. I’d always imagined myself serving my country just as my father had in WWII, and now I needed to figure out a different path. I’m a bit of a wandering soul, rarely able to light on anything for very long, and I thought that the army would help me find the sense of discipline I so lacked. Oh sure, I could play my trumpet for hours and hours, taming my tendency to otherwise waste time in a less constructive fashion, but it was always a cover-up for not knowing what else to do with myself. It earned me a scholarship to college but when I got there and figured out what its real meaning had been in my life, I realized it had little to do with a passion for teaching kids how to toot horns or bang drums.

Out in the real world, I floundered around for a while, living out of my car for a time and working at jobs like overnight cashier at a gas station for $3.00 an hour. I did what I could to keep my big fat brain from exploding out of my head in frustration but it only exacerbated the sense that I had no idea where I was headed.

For the next 20 years, I followed this pattern of starts and stops, always changing direction when the next step forward was required. I might have made a great front-line player in football, just moving laterally, or slowly back and forth with the rest of the line, but in my mind I’m the one who should be making the great breakout plays, the hero in the endzone! More often though, I’m the right tackle who once in a blue moon picks up a fumble and then realizes, “Crap! What do I do now????”

Recently, the superintendent of schools in Hillsborough County, FL, saw some work we did at an elementary school in Tampa and because they plan to do a lot more of these projects at various schools in the district, she wanted us to apply to be on their preferred-vendor list as a minority-run (woman-owned) business. Despite the fact that I have painted more than 20 murals all over the country, in order to bid on (and get paid for) mural painting jobs in the school system, we have to become a legitimate, licensed business. WHY DOES THAT SEEM LIKE THE MT. EVEREST OF IDEAS TO ME???? Perhaps it’s because then I’d have to officially declare my intention to continue moving forward, and maybe that’s what always stops me. I’m like the 45-year-old vocational virgin who just can’t get up the courage to get over that first hump …. so to speak!


The Tree of Opportunity along the Pathway to Success -- I can paint it but can I climb it?

In the backseat of my car is a notebook where I write down thoughts and draw pictures as they come to me and as I was flipping through it the other day I found a page I’d written several years ago that said, “I don’t know if I’m a good leader… All I know is, I’m a lousy follower.” Gee, I guess I’ve reached this juncture before….I probably never would’ve gotten anywhere in the army.

So, Private Ellen, is it time to promote yourself through the ranks of your life by surrendering your professional virginity?

Stay tuned…..

P.S. We learned that the school where we had done the previous mural work as a volunteer job went from an “F” rating to a “B” last year, missing the “A” by only one student. I can’t see myself teaching little kids directly, but it sure would be cool to have an influence on their success…. read more about that project here but be warned: it contains my usual personal diatribe!

Categories: Art, Life, Politics, Would I Lie?
  1. Mel
    August 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I think you should go for it! The murals that were done at my elementary school when I was there are things that stick with me to this day. My kids are at that school now and I love going back and seeing the murals… I remember when they were done and by whom. Art is (as I’m sure you know) something that you remember for the rest of your life. Seeing a painting/drawing, etc. and remembering how it made you feel.

  2. CherylZ
    August 11, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    This is your chance….just like Francie, an opportunity to really do it. Why not? 45 is as good a time as any and you know the talent is there…and, if you can make a difference, make it!

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