I met Suzy when we were sixteen years old. I lived with her, her mom, and her sister off and on for about a year. Her mom was a painter and instead of a garage out back, she had an art studio. Suzy and I were great pals for several years. She met the love of her life early and had a couple of kids before I settled into my own years of domestic bliss.
Right after I moved into the first house I ever owned, still a deliriously happy newlywed, Suzy called to tell me she had found her life’s calling. She was going to be a dancer. A ballerina. She was 22 years old and had three little ones, and out of my mouth popped “But you’re too old! You have to start young.”
It seems ludicrous now to say that 22 is “old” but for dance, that’s the brutal truth. Suzy replied “How can you say that? This is my dream!” She was hurt and offended by my impulsive, insensitive remark, and she didn’t mind saying so. I admired that about her even in that moment. Suzy was never one to take any abuse, while I usually allowed people to say mean things to me all the time without the wits to form a response.
We never spoke after that conversation (no suprise) but I still think about her and wonder if she ended up studying dance, if she was able to in some way realize her dream, even though being a mom of three little ones seemed to me to be a job and a half all by itself. I wondered then and I wonder now, where would she find time to make her dreams come true?
I also wonder how I would have felt if somewhere along the way someone had told me I was too old to pursue my own dreams. My ex came close to it, saying bitterly when I was maybe 25, “Grow up, Cindy. You’ll never be Erica Jong.” And he was right. I never will be. And I’m okay with that. Just being a writer is good enough for me, and I hope that somewhere Suzy is dancing, if only for herself.