My niece stayed over at my house last night. She’s 19 and just finished her first year at university. It was a tough year and her courses weren’t what she expected. She’s not sure whether to continue on the same path or take a detour.
I remember having to make a similar decision at her age, but I’m not sure if my “when I was a student” stories were much help to her. I tried, however.
With that discussion preoccupying me, I walked to the bus stop, then decided that bus would take too long, so I walked around the corner to my Plan B route. Then I saw the other one coming, so I ran for dear life back to the first stop. Out of breath, I got on behind a high school senior in a plaid skirt and navy cardigan carrying an elaborate 3D construction.
She sat in front of me and carefully placed the enormous thing on her lap, with her friend standing guard protecting it from getting jostled by the rush hour crowd.
It looked like a homemade doll house, complete with a red brick pattern on the outside walls and a black pitched roof. Three storeys high, it was open on one side, revealing handmade tables and chairs and even pink pillows on the beds. The whole thing sat on a 2′ x 2′ platform of cardboard topped with long wedges of green florist’s foam “planted” with real cuttings from shrubs.
It was really something. I wanted to let her know what a great job she had done on it but I hesitated. The old me would have been too self-conscious and shy to think about blurting out something to a stranger, even a compliment. But I guess this good deed thing has helped me with that.
I plucked up my courage and quietly asked what her project was called.
“We had to do a box sculpture,” she said with a shrug. “It’s dumb.”
“No, it looks amazing!” I said. And it did. “What is it about?”
She patiently explained that it represented the path people take to try to get to their dream house or dream life and pointed out how the greenery surrounding the house was a maze with intricate twists and turns and a few dead ends (hmm, sounds familiar, I thought).
“It’s, like, symbolic,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“That’s very cool. I’m sure you’ll get an A.”
She laughed and shook her head as if to say that would never happen. I went back to reading my newspaper, and the two friends compared notes on which stores had the best prom dresses.
I’m not sure if the girl cared that I took an interest in her creation, but the creativity and hard work she’d lavished on it made me smile — as did the realization that I wouldn’t have even seen it if I’d taken my Plan B bus. The twists and turns of life … Plan A or Plan B … heavy stuff, man … I’d give it an A+….
P.S. I am somehow reminded of this song, Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” … “we’re captive on carousel of life.” Enjoy!