She’s a Brick House

This week I finally watched Randy Pausch’s last lecture on YouTube. I was particularly impressed with his message about brick walls. According to Pausch, brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. It’s about dedication, tenacity, and gumption.

I lived in a brick house until I was nine years old. We had a perfectly normal door but getting out was not that simple. Even when we moved, and even when, as a young adult, I lugged my junk from address to address, I struggled to escape that white brick house. When I was eleven, some boys at school told me that I was a brick house. I wasn’t sure what that meant, and thought it was an odd thing to call a girl. Looking back, it seems a fitting description considering all the brick walls that surrounded me.

Many people aspire to live in brick houses. It’s a buyer’s market. Having one can provide a great sense of security. The bigger, the better, right? Why would anyone want more? Get two gas fireplaces, a six-burner Wolff Range, and a dual shower. Once you add the three car garage and a fancy mailbox, you’re set for life. Well, fact is, a lot of us want much more than that and what it stands for. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong to want more when what you have seems perfectly okay for most people? One of the characters in my novel, Aberrations, asks, “Is it bad to want more than what you have?”

Is it?

No, not when what you have is fine and dandy based the standards of others and not your own. I long for the freedom to explore and create the kind of life I want, not the one you think I should have. It sounds so simple, so why is it so hard sometimes? The desires of others often become the brick walls we get trapped behind. At times, everything seems fine. We’ve got front doors and windows, garages and back doors. But inside, we sit alone and stare at the wall, knowing there’s something more.

Those are the times we can assess our dedication. We can decide just how badly we want the more we crave. Can we make tough decisions and changes? Can we find a way to bust through the walls that have kept us so comfortable? It may take some creativity and yes, it may hurt. A rib or a heart may break in the process, but how else can we move beyond the cute cookie cutter landscape that’s really just a green screen behind us. I don’t want to live in front of a green screen no matter how lovely the picture. I’m not sure I know how to live without it yet but I won’t give up.

This week, I was reminded of some of the gigantic brick walls I broke through as a young adult. There were a couple of particularly thick ones that nearly killed me. It’s so easy, as the years fly by, to forget our past triumphs. It gets easier and easier to accept the new walls popping up around us. Sometimes as we start down the other side of the so called hill, we start hanging pictures and painting the bricks all kinds of interesting colors rather than making the effort to smash them down.

Well, I don’t believe there’s a hill and that I’m over it. I say bring on the bricks! I’m stronger now. Why should I settle when I still want more? This weekend I went the Manayunk Brewery in Philly to celebrate my 42nd birthday. While I noticed quite a few folks from my general decade, I seemed to be surrounded by people who were born in the 80’s. They all gleamed with promise so bright it could bring a blinding tear to the eye. Most of the women had tans and super straight hair. My husband noticed that a lot of the young guys had buzz cuts. As we were leaving, I said, “Hey, I’ll only be 21 for a few more minutes.” He said, “Now wouldn’t that be nice?” I looked at him and aged twenty years, realizing my Freudian slip.

I don’t long to be 21 again to recapture my youthful body; I’m not too shabby. I long for an extra 20 years because I want more time without the green screen. I guess getting older just means I’ll have to break out the heavy artillery. Those boys were right back in 1977; I am a brick house. I’m finding a place for each brick I’ve knocked down along the way. I’m building my own castle. Once I’m done, we’ll have a party. I’ll send you an invitation.

Watch for it in fancy mailboxes everywhere.

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