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2003-08-27 @ 10:17 p.m.
I coulda been a contender

I am a rich person trapped in a poor person's body. Honest to God. Nobody knows it but me. The people at the food stamp office don't know. The people at the red light who look over at me in my rusted out Chevy Corsica surely don't know. My shrink to whom I owe over $5000 definitely doesn't know it.

I grew up rich. Not when I was real little. But from about age 10 on, we had money. My Dad was an airline pilot and after we moved to California, and he got his first decent paying airline job, we started to live the good life.

Of course, as a kid you don't realize you're living the good life. Maybe your parents start buying you more things when you ask for them, but other than that, you don't realize it. But we did.

We lived in a series of nice houses. One overlooking a country club golf course. One was featured in Sunset Magazine.

We had a cabin at Lake Tahoe. Didn't everybody? We went on vacations to Disneyland and flew to the East Coast regularly to visit family. Didn't everybody? I went to a private Catholic school and took piano lessons and received private tutoring because I sucked at math. Didn't everybody? Nice clothes. Credit cards. Overnights in Carmel. A car at 16. Didn't everybody have that?? I thought they did.

I know better now. I was recently corresponding with my childhood friend's mother. My childhood friend no longer talks to me because I made the horrible mistake of telling her she was lucky. Why? Because she's happily married with two beautiful children, a nice, handsome husband, and a beautiful home. Everything I want.

But what's funny is, when we were kids, according to her mother's letters to me now, I had everything she wanted. A nice home, a cabin at Tahoe, vacations, music lessons. It was sort of like Freaky Friday in reverse. I shared my good fortune as a kid. I had my friend over to our house frequently. We brought her on trips when she could come (she worked at her parent's store as a kid. That's not my fault though). We spent many an hour singing and playing the piano. She had a passion for horses and I would join her at the stables even though it wasn't my cup of tea. If she had said, gee you're lucky to have a cabin at Tahoe, when we were kids, I would have said, yeah, Its cool, isn't it?

But evidently, I said she was lucky one too many times and she got angry. Really angry. She never told this to me personally even though we were best friends since age 11 and I was the Maid of Honor at her wedding. Her mother told me that she felt that she had worked hard for her life and that luck had nothing to do with it.

I disagree. I think luck has everything to do with it.

If we were putting percentages on things I would say Hard work is responsible for maybe 30% of a happy life and Luck 70%. And I'm only using myself as an example. And maybe thats because I'm not as ruthless as some people.

I used to work really hard to be a success when I was young. I had a lot of energy in my 20's. Worked hard at my various jobs. Came in early. Stayed late. Brought stuff home.

My one downfall was in the ass kissing department. I could never do it. Sorry. So, consequently, I never succeeded. But it didn't mean I didn't work hard. Had I got the right job (LUCK), the right opportunities (LUCK), the right venue at which ass kissing was not required to be a success (LUCK NOT REQUIRED), I coulda been a contender.

My friend's success was due to hard work AND luck. She was a very hard worker. A top salesperson at a newspaper. Tough cookie. But it could have gone either way in her personal life. And that was the part I was jealous of.

Her first fiance was a jerk. And he was somebody that she could have conceivably ended up with. When they broke up he became a stalker. He would follow her at night in his car and he would be parked at her job early in the morning and he would leave creepy notes on her car. He finally faded into the woodwork and she met her husband to be, who was not only cute but incredibly nice and supportive. So they married. Had two incredibly beautiful and photogenic children. Sorry, but I think there was some luck involved there. She didn't have to meet the dream husband. She could have had children with elephant man disease. Her house could have had termites and dry rot. But none of this has happened. She has had an idyllic 18 or 19 year marriage and I think she is now either a council member or mayor of her small town.

And me? Well, I suffer from mental illness. I live in an apartment covered in mold. I go to food pantries. My car is heaving its last breaths. My father married a Filipino mail order bride who ripped him off financially and hid him in the Philippines after he got Alzheimer's Disease and cheated me out of my inheritance. I'm in love with a married man. How much of this has to do with luck or hard work? I don't really know.

Mental illness has nothing to do with hard work. I can't work so I can't get a new car or afford food. Simple as that. My Dad marrying a Filipino whore? Hmm. Not sure what category that falls under. OK, I do know. Totally bad luck.

Me loving a married man. That doesn't even qualify for anything in this discussion. I should have told his future yuppie wife there was a sale down at William Sonoma and made off with Married Guy when she was wasn't looking.

So now I just hang out with my therapist, my support groups, the Married Guy (when he's not tending to his very, very busy life -- the one which doesn't include me). It's not very satisfying. But you would be surprised at what hard work it is.

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