Naturally, being both irretrievably middle-aged and a former member of the dead-tree media, I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for online, and god knows where my book that contains the column is. But as I began a new year today, I thought a lot about Ellen Goodman.
In her first book, many moons ago, she had an essay called "At The Age At Which Mozart Was Dead Already." (That would be 35, btw. She had just passed a birthday herself when the column was written.)
It began with a marvelous anecdote that has always stuck with me, about a conversation with her uncle during a quiet moment at his 40th wedding anniversary party. She asked him how the hell he'd stuck it out for 40 years. He said that every morning, he woke up, looked in the mirror, and said to himself "Fred? You're no bargain."
It went on from there to talk about how she was writing obituaries in Detroit when her college friends (one of whom is Carrie Rickey, the real-life basis for the "Sex and the City" Carrie) were having their first novels published; how somehow she never managed to live up to what she thought she should have achieved at any given point. Then one day she ran into a friend on the street, someone who appeared to have finally achieved peace with himself. When she asked how, he said that he turned 30 and realized he was too old to be a wunderkind, and that instead of comparing himself to Wolfie inking in the G-clefs at age 4, and realizing he would never be Shakespeare, he decided to just be what he was.
Last line: "I'd rather be alive than be Mozart."
Let me just say that this resonates tremendously with me, and you can ask for a reason if you want it.
Some days I feel every inch my age. I hate the physical breakdown that accompanies it. But I've grown rather fond of the wisdom. And all in all -- I'd rather be alive than be Mozart.
Now playing: Frank Sinatra - Young at Heart