Shangri-La

Write about a time when a preconceived notion or opinion (about a person, place, thing, etc.) turned out to be wrong. What did it take to change your mind?

When I was a little girl of twelve or thirteen — which, in another era, was little and innocent — I had written about exactly what I wanted my future spouse to be.

I wanted him to be brown-haired, and brown-eyed.  I wanted him to drive a Volvo.  And I wanted him to be from Darien, Connecticut.

I picked this out of nowhere, mind you.  I picked it because I’ve always, inexplicably, said certain words with long vowels, and my family used to tease me and say, Are you from Darien, Connecticut?!  So I had in my mind that this town in Connecticut was some Xanadu; some Shangri-La, where everyone used long vowels, and had shiny hair, and drove Volvos, and no one would ever make fun of me for the way I said the word pancake.

Unbeknownst to tweenage me, Darien really was a town where people had shiny hair, and drove Swedish cars, and pronounced many of their words using long vowels.

So I wrote that dream in my little notebook, and I forgot about it for many years, and went on to date redhaired Jews from the Valley, and brown-haired, blue-eyed boys from the Bay Area.

Then, when I was at Georgetown, I met Andrew, from Darien, who took a liking to me, and the rest was history.  He drove a red Volvo station wagon, and he had brown hair, and brown eyes, and a degree from Brown.  And he didn’t think the way I said pancake was anything out of the ordinary.

In fact, he never noticed.

But then one day, about five years ago as my life was falling apart and I was Freaking Out, I was in Western China, in an area called Zhongdian — which some called Shangri-La.  It was then that I realised Darien might not have been the promised land after all.  I had been married to my brown-haired, brown-eyed, Brown grad Darien boy for a few years, and I had forgotten who I was.

I had lost the “me” in becoming “we.”

I had dreamt up a place so perfect; so wonderful; so beautiful, where all of its glimmery-haired, Scandiavian-car driving inhabitants with their long-vowels and their mean ways would accept me as one of their own — but they never did.  Not when my drivers license said I lived there, or when I took the name of one of the families in town.

The thing about being The Other is that you are always going to be The Other until you realise, standing on terra firma in the real Shangri-La, you can only ever be Yourself.

And being You means that your parents got rid of the Volvo in 1986.  Being You means that you probably say things with that peculiar, long vowel sound because you were around so many adults from all over, and had so many throat infections as a kid that you probably just caught a terminal case of peculiar vowel formation.

Being You is okay — who you are; where you are.

You sure as shit do not need a Swedish car or Metro North or an Ivy League degree to get there.

2 Comments

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  1. Absolutely love this post!!! LOL: “You sure as shit do not need a Swedish car or Metro North or an Ivy League degree to get there.” TOO RIGHT.

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