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taking stock
a study in self-assessment
by michelle von euw

She always knew she would be famous. She didn't just think it - she pretty much took it for granted that she'd be the one at her tenth year high school reunion who'd need a bodyguard while all the cheerleaders and soccer players would say, "Ohmigod, I didn't know she went here!" She wasn't quite sure how she'd be so famous - Academy Award winning actress, Sports Illustrated editor, Nobel Prize winner, Senator from Massachusetts - but she knew that by the age of 25 everyone would know her name. Well, OK, maybe she didn't believe she'd be a Senator by the age of 25 - she was familiar with the Constitution, after all - but she would have at least been elected to a state office, and definitely well on her way.

Magazine writers would trace back her days to the high school corridors - they would interview her teachers, who would all say, "She was quiet, but I always knew that she'd be famous. There was just something about her." Her hometown would put up a plaque, commemorating her birthplace, and maybe even name a street after her.

She went to college still believing in her eventual fame. By that point, she realized that her acting wasn't as powerful as she thought it was; she tried out for lead roles in a lot of plays and somehow always ended up in the back of the chorus. For awhile she believed that she was an undiscovered talent; someday a Hollywood producer would spot her in the corner of the stage, and say, "I have to sign Farm Girl #6!" It didn't take her too long to realize that not too many Hollywood producers made it to Madison, Wisconsin on any sort of regular schedule, so she dropped out of Oklahoma! before opening night.

The student newspaper was always looking for writers, but the football and basketball and baseball beats were all taken by editors who'd been around since freshman year. And besides, all the sports reporters were boys. She was assigned a few tennis matches, a few volleyball games, but her stories always appeared buried in the third or fourth page of the sports section, at the bottom of the page, and usually edited to a few paragraphs. Sports Illustrated would never find her here - she'd wait until she was out of college and then begin her sports writing career.

After she graduated, she moved to Washington to work for her college adviser, who was appointed to fill a congressional seat when a local representative resigned after a brief but embarrassing scandal. She answered phone calls from constituents, wrote letters to state officials, and met with pork industry representatives. She turned 23, realizing that she had two years until her self-imposed deadline. Two years was such a long time, and she'd already made it to Washington - she could almost see the cameras outside her front door. She kept answering phones, writing letters, and giving tours of her boss's office, imagining the mornings when her picture would be on the front page of the newspapers.

That fall, her boss lost his first election to his Republican challenger. As this was a common phenomenon among Democratic office holders, there weren't too many job openings, especially for people whose main skills were the ability to use a letter opener without getting a paper cut. She was offered an unpaid internship, doing the same work she did before, but she turned it down and moved home.

She turned 25. She turned 26. Working on Capitol Hill had been boring, most of the time; she decided that she really didn't want to be a Senator from Massachusetts, or any other state. She turned 27 - too late to become an astronaut, an ingenue, the youngest writer ever to appear on Leno. She got married - not to a movie star or a best-selling author or a New York Knick - but to an employee of the phone company.

She opened the invitation to her high school reunion the morning of her 28th birthday. How could she go to this thing, and not yet be famous? Maybe know one else knew that it was her intention to be a celebrity, but she'd been planning her entrance since freshman year. How could she show up, just a plain old administrative assistant with her normal, average husband?

She went anyway. The cheerleaders and the soccer players were now moms and dads and they still didn't know who she was. But she didn't care - she couldn't remember their names, or where they went to college, or what they were doing with their lives. They passed around baby pictures, and that was the extent of her knowledge about them. Cheerleader to mommy: sounded like a pretty boring life to her.

At the end of the evening, there was talk of saving the date for their 25 year reunion. A whole fifteen years away, she thought - that's plenty of time to become famous. She was only just approaching 30 - her life was just beginning. It would be much nicer to experience fame when she was older and wiser, as a mature woman instead of a girl. Bodyguards would be much more fun at a twenty-fifth reunion, anyway.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

more about michelle von euw


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topic: writing
published: 3.7.03

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topic: writing
published: 8.10.09


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