“Things Like That Don’t Happen to Us”

I entered a fairly substantial contest last year, and the finalist results just came out in March. It could have meant big things for my career, for a bit of focus on my writing, and I could practically taste what winning would be like, let alone a final. And then, of course, I didn’t even final.

Perhaps what’s most telling is how I say “of course” I didn’t final. Because it could have been compared to a kind of lottery win, something magical and unexpected handed out by the universe (no, I’m not going to go into contests on the whole – they are what they are.) Anyway, the reason I guess I was disappointed but rather unsurprised was because, as my mom likes to point out, “things like that don’t happen to us.”

“Things like that don’t happen to us.”

I repeat it as I consider it. Of what it implies and applies to. Of how I have somehow internalized this, perhaps the same way my mom did from her her. It applies to anything like winning the lottery, sudden found money, apparently contest wins, and anything else which might have required some amount of good luck and unexpected good fortune. I think it comes out of a stolid, middle-class background (perhaps even lower middle class) where the philosophy is basically, anything that’s simply given to you implicitly has less value, and shouldn’t be trusted.Luck itself, perhaps, shouldn’t and can’t be trusted, and everything should be earned by your own labors. What you should do is work, work, work … then die.

Now, I’m all for hard work – and I do work hard – but the idea that “things like that don’t happen to us” started to kind of bother me. Because as I thought about it, things like getting published – or even writing a book and attempting to get published – those things don’t happen to our family either. Why? Because historically, that isn’t what we would even consider. Our family is not one of innovators, of risk takers. Indeed, my aunt and uncle have their own business, and my brother is thinking of starting one, but it’s generally frowned on. Most of us stick with the first or second job we ever had until the day we require (there’s that “work, work, work, die” philosophy in action).

I am, I think, a bit of an oddball. And I’m proud of it.

Because here’s the rub: how do we know what will happen to us? We don’t. You don’t win the lottery if you don’t win a ticket, but your family lineage likewise does not determine and limit what you can or can’t do with life. Because it’s that same lineage that has somehow produced me, and I am a writer. On the other side of the family, I have a cousin working to become a singer – and she’s talented too. Maybe our generation is the one that wants to know why things like “that” don’t happen to us. You sure? Because I think you’re wrong. And I’m going to prove it.

Anyway, there’s the end of my rant. Do your family philosophies and beliefs stop you from reaching for the stars, or push you all the higher?

And, if you’re curious, here’s my cousin, Melinda Bailey, singing “At Last” via YouTube. If only my talent was so obvious. 🙂 Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

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