I was up all night watching Friends reruns.
It struck me how much my life has changed since that show first aired. I was a big fan when it first came on and when it went off the air after 10 years I couldn’t believe that TEN YEARS had gone by. Now it’s closer to 20 and I’m kinda shellshocked by that.
When the show first came out I had just gotten married and moved to a city where the only people I knew were my husband and the best man from our wedding. I was lonely and I was scared. The first episode I watched–which was the first episode of the show, natch–hooked me with the theme song. “No one told you life was gonna be this way.” It’s true. They didn’t. I remember feeling so adrift and clutching at that half-hour of tv as a sort of oasis. (Was I adrift on a desert? I guess I was so adrift I couldn’t make up my mind where I was.)
In a way that show gave me a sense of community. I realise that sounds pathetic and more than a bit loserish, but I still think it was a pretty brave thing to do, starting over in a strange city with nothing but true love and a lot of nerve. I came from a big family with a sense of humour and in a way the jokey coffee house setting made me feel–thirty minutes a week–like I was briefly back around the dinner table at home in Indiana. That refueling gave me what I needed to make it in the wider world.
I think of things like that when I wonder what kind of calling it is to be a writer. I’m from a family of teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses and farmers. Every contribution made by everyone else seems so tangible–as much as food, literacy, wellness and financial well-being are tangible. Whatever contribution my light little stories give the world never seems like a worthy endeavor to me. And then I think of all the times over the past 20 years that stories have kept me going and I hope that I have the honour of getting to be that for someone else someday.