I love the White House Black Market store. For those unfamiliar, the WHBM is a clothing store for women that prides itself on selling clothing that comes in only two different colors: black or white. Black: the ever-popular color that looks great on everyone, and White: which, let’s be honest, only looks good on women under 30.
The clothing at the WHBM always fits well. Their clothes are made well, and are generally fashionable. Recently I wandered in to my local White House Black Market and was met with a shocking discovery. The WHBM now sells clothes that are yellow. And coral. And even some things that are blue.
I stumbled out of the store in a state of confusion. I went home, climbed into bed, and lay there numb, staring at the ceiling. How could this be? What is wrong with the world? And why was this bothering me so much?
For many months now, I have wondered about what I want to do next with my life. No matter how hard I try to stop it, my kids are getting older. 2/3 of them are teenagers. One of them is a sixty year old in a seven year old’s body.
It’s been three years since I stopped practicing law. Sadly, Arizona hasn’t changed in that time. Sheriff Joe still rules, and the laws still make no sense. I have known for awhile that I wanted to go back into the working world, if for no other reason than to stop staring at the dog hair that covers every part of my house. But I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to work.
To prepare for my journey back into the land of the “employed outside the home,” I took out my old college and law school transcripts. Looking at these pages was hilarious but also fascinating. I changed majors several times-from communications to business and even, for a very short stint- theatre. (This major was quickly changed after a disastrous audition for a college production of “Speed The Plow.”) At the beginning: my grades looked like a roller coaster: I did terrible in any classes that dealt with science, geography or math. I aced any class that had a title like: “Writing America On Film,” “Introduction of Popular Culture,” and, my favorite: “Jewish-American Literature.”
Halfway through college, I started taking teaching classes. My GPA began to rise, and ultimately, I graduated with honors with a degree in teaching, with a minor in English. And then, for some reason, I didn’t start teaching. Instead, I went to law school. My law school transcripts were pretty pathetic-I graduated at what I assume was the very bottom of the class. The only class that got an A in was one entitled: “Mass Media Law.” (You can imagine my grades in such classes as: “Secured Transactions” and my all-time favorite class: “Taxation.”)
As I reviewed all of my classes and grades, it hit me: if ever a person wants to remember what they are truly passionate about, they need only look at their transcripts from school. When we are young, we are not shy about what we are passionate about. I watch my kids proudly declaring what they want to be when they grow up, and are not shy in telling the world what they love to do. It is only when we graduate into adulthood that we pretend these things don’t exist.
I recently told a friend that the two most difficult time periods in our lives happen in our mid-20s and our mid 40s. Around age 24, schooling ends. Everyone throws out questions and demands immediate answers of you: What are you going to do? Who will you be? What will you be? Where will you live? When you hit age 44, you come to the realization that no one is asking anymore. It is at this point that you start asking yourself these same questions.
In our 20s, we fake a lot of things to try to please those around us. (My apologies to those I dated during that time period for admitting this publicly.) In our 40s, we no longer feel the need to pretend.
As I explained all of this to my young friend, it hit me: we spend the first half of our lives trying to tell the world who we are going to be. We spend the second half of our lives telling the world who we really are.
And with that knowledge, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Starting this fall, I will be teaching 4th grade at a local charter school. And, I will continue to write. And, I will continue running my non-profit for children and theatre. I am passionate about all of it. I don’t really want to choose just one. They are all equally important to me.
This is who I always was: a writer, teacher, and lover of all things art and popular culture. There’s a lawyer in me too: one that loves to argue and loves to win. But ultimately, I know now that that’s not what really brings me the most joy. Being a lawyer sounded good. Being a teacher feels good.
I know now why the WHBM change bothered me so much. It’s not because they stopped selling only black and white. Instead, it made me realize that not everything is black or white. If they are able to break out and show their colors in between, then why can’t I?