I just finished my fourth move in two years. Unless “finished” means everything is unpacked and put away. If that’s the case, I may never finish this most recent move. Boxes on boxes fill the space that will eventually hold a sofa and coffee table. It’s like the warehouse scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Three decades–the length of time I’ve been out of my parents’ house and on my own–of accumulated living is wrapped in paper and encased in cardboard. I won’t lie, I’m tempted to grab the cat and my passport and walk away from it all. Leave this life behind and reinvent myself. I envision myself as a Woman of Mystery and Independent Means, on a never-ending, round-the-world cruise on a Cunard Line ship. Or a Woman of Mystery and Independent Means living in a luxury hotel in Paris. People would see me and wonder who I am. They’d whisper, “She’s a Countess.” “No, the CEO of that company, oh, you know the one.” “I heard she’s a spy.” No wonder I’ve been thinking about mysteries like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Mrs. Winterbourne (adapted from I Married a Dead Man) and the (unrelated) cases of Robert Hoagland and Richard Hoagland.
My question to my fellow Missdemeanors–if you had the opportunity for a do-over, if you could walk away from your current life and reinvent yourself, where would you go and who would you be?
The only time I remember thinking about walking away from my life was after my first son was born. Here’s the deal: He was colicky (I had no idea what that was at the time), and I was suffering (briefly) from post-partum depression. My husband was traveling for work and gone much of the week. I wasn’t getting sleep because the baby was awake all night, fussing. My parents lived hundreds of miles away. We were new in town so I didn’t have any close friends yet. One night as I was trying to get him back to sleep, I fantasized about packing a suitcase and just escaping everything. Fortunately, in about a week the depression lifted, and although life with a colicky baby was still hard, I didn’t want to escape. Actually, that brief emotional crisis scared me—so much so that I began praying for a grateful and peaceful heart. I’ll just add that my fussy, colicky baby is now an amazing grown man and one of the joys of my life. But I will always have a heart for new moms. I know how hard it is.
I wouldn’t choose to be anyone else because I have loved my life and the opportunities I’ve had. I’m sorry if I sound soppy, but it’s true. I’ve had the opportunity to do meaningful things and to make wonderful life-long friends. I have a wonderful extended family, and now I get to write books set in England!
In high school, I wrote and acted in a very funny parody on class night right before graduation. I had not participated previously in any drama classes or clubs. I loved the sound of laughter and applause while I poked fun at our very handsome guidance counselor. The drama teacher approached me and said she wish she knew I had acting talent and that I should seriously consider pursuing an acting major in college. But I was already signed up to go to nursing school, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. Imagine, at seventeen I thought it was too late to change my mind.
Years later, I was the speechwriter for the first female candidate for mayor in a small Connecticut city. I was thrilled listening to my words come out of her mouth, hearing clapping and hooting. She beat her male opponent in a very Republican city. I had gone back to school to get an undergraduate degree in political science, had a family, and was under thirty. Imagine, I thought it was too late to pursue an advanced degree in political marketing, so I went to law school.
So, the answer to your question is that I would either be Helen Mirren or Jen Psaki.
I’m a Jen Psaki fan. She was not there for anybody’s sh*t.
It’s a great question and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I can’t think of someone I’d rather be. I wish I were younger and healthier and taller and had a British accent. But beyond that, I feel pretty blessed to be where I am. Of course, I do live vicariously through my characters, so perhaps that helps.
Let me be clear, I took this question to mean IF I were to have another life, not did I want one. I’m very content and thoroughly enjoy doing it “my way.”
No worries, Michele. I did mean “if.” My thoughts of walking away were fleeting fantasies, indulged in to combat the tedium of the tasks at hand and the disarray in my new home. I’m content where I am. I chose to make all of these recent moves as part of a career development program that I voluntarily participated in, with an eye on my long-term path. I don’t regret my choices. I do hate packing and unpacking.
I wish I’d been more diligent and really gotten fluent in several languages. And I think I would have liked doing work with the UN – overseas refugees and aid work. But it’s not a real regret, more of a thought about other worlds I wasn’t aware of when growing up.
I couldn’t walk away from my life because it would mean walking away from the people I love. Somehow I ended up living exactly how I wanted to. I don’t have to sit in a cubicle, I don’t have to commute, and I generally can work part-time. I love what I do professionally and I got the opportunity to publish two novels!
Back in the before times, I did have extreme fantasies of changing my life because I did have to commute and hated it, and I did have jobs that weren’t ideal, and I had to work what felt like long hours that took me away from my family.
Much like Connie, I had my son in a vacuum without a support system of friends or family. My husband was working very long hours and my baby was also colicky. It’s hard not to fantasize an escape when you’re so sleep-deprived you’re hallucinating!
But generally, if I’m going to fantasize now, it’s to jump (briefly) into an alternate universe where I’m in my late teens (because, stamina) and I can travel back in time and see all the great shows/concerts I missed because I was born too late :-). Oh, and in this fantasy, my kid, who is a teen now himself, is with me, bouncing to the music along with me, and so is my husband. Because sharing is caring!
As ridiculous as it sounds, I would not change a single thing. Not to say I never screwed up aspects of my life. But every screwup led me to a new opportunity, and to something I love.
Just the other day, Jack and I were driving by a house we had put an offer on many years ago. We lost out on the house because the owner kept saying it was worth more. We made a couple of higher offers, but then dropped out of the running (I believe we were the only ones running, so you can see how naïve we were.) Housing values took a nosedive shortly after that, and the owner’s agent called us and offered to see the house for less than our opening bid, but by that time, we had moved on.
So anyway, we were driving by, and I said, “I love seeing that house because it always reminds me that the universe has a way of saving me from myself.”
So, a long story to explain my belief that you always end up exactly where you should be. Regret nothing, as long as you are honest and kind.
I would have been a portrait artist living on Bainbridge Island, famous for sensitive portrayals sought after by judges, university dons, and the like.
I love how you don’t eff around, Keenan.
I’ve given it some thought over the years.
I, the Woman of Mystery and Independent Means, will travel to Bainbridge Island to buy your paintings.
Where the door will always be open to you.
What about you? Ever tempted to run away and start over? Do you have a favorite true crime or crime fiction story about disappearance and reinvention? Share your comments here or on social media (Facebook and Twitter).