At dinner last night with a number of F+W Mediennes et Mediassieurs, I spied one of my favorite people in the group and began to flap my hands and wave my arms at her. I looked like I was having some kind of episode, but I wanted to get Aly’s attention so that she would come sit by me. I was not having lunch at a junior high cafeteria, I realize, but I never get to see this girl for more than five minutes at a time and I wanted to visit with her. This was my chance.
Aly works with the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo (an arm of F+W) and I’m certain her title has the word “coordinator” or “manager” in it, but I think of Aly as a producer. Because producers make things go. Producers solve small problems before they become big problems. Producers are the people you never want to get sideways with because they will save your hienie. (Aly’s saved mine a few times.) Whether they are producing a film, a stage show, or a quilt extravaganza, no good production ever happened without someone like Aly involved. It’s also worth noting that she is a kind of protege of Marlene.
So I asked Aly, “How’s life?” and she had lots of interesting and intelligent things to share, of course. Aly is twenty-five. If you remember anything about being twenty-five, you will recall that it is not an easy age to be. Whether you’re settling down or just gearing up to not, the world is big and choices seem to have either Godzilla-level impact or be so inconsequential to the rest of humanity that you feel like a bat in an echo chamber full of bats. Drunk bats. Drunk bats in an echo chamber with Facebook. Drunk bats in an echo chamber with Facebook and the latest iPhone. It’s hard, is what I’m saying.
“Mary,” Aly said over cheesecake, “If you could give your twenty-five-year-old self advice, what would you tell her?”
This is why Aly is going to be just fine. That’s a great question. I thought it about it for a moment because I took the question very seriously, but I knew the answer right away.
“I would trust myself more,” I said. “I made a lot of decisions at twenty-five that were based on a fundamental belief that pretty much everyone but me knew what was good for me. I thought I had to listen to them. I thought I had to fix myself. But I’m not broken. I’m not a failed human who has to use life as one, long fixer-upper. My instincts are good. I’m smart. There’s no one on the planet just like me, so hang the blueprints. Be original.”
Aly nodded, and I think she was satisfied with that. But I forgot to tell her something really important, a sidenote to the sentiment above:
“The marvelous thing about accepting your own originality is that you get to avoid the pain of living other people’s perceptions of how you should be. This is beautiful. But you still have a lot of work cut out for you, because you have to defend yourself your entire life. You’ll have to defend your path, your way, your schtick, your ‘thing’ the whole time. People like blueprints. A lot. You don’t use one, you get freedom — but it ain’t free.”
Aly, the picture up top is a figurine of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon’s first wife. I put “quarter life” (as in “quarter-life crisis”) into WikiCommons and I got all these pictures of historical figurines by one George S. Stuart. You see, the artist makes “quarter life-size” sculptures. Get it? I thought this one was a good one for you. Josephine was a badass.