It’s not often that my life imitates art, but every now and then something so epic happens that makes me think, “Wow, that was just like a movie.” The story I’m about to tell you was one of those moments.
So far, I haven’t had any cinematic experiences such as Jake Ryan pulling up in his sports car rescuing me from a horrible birthday or Ferris Bueller taking me on the greatest ditch day of all time. Rather, I’ve had the great misfortune of living a moment straight out of Say Anything.
I’d love to tell you someone stood outside my door with a stereo above their head blaring “In Your Eyes”. In fact, I still dream of that happening to me. What did happen, however, was the famous pen incident.
Let me set up the scene for you. Teenage heartthrob Lloyd Dobler (a.k.a. John Cusack) was living the dream having nabbed Diane “brain trapped in the body of a game show hostess” Court. Things were going great until, well, they just weren’t, and when she breaks up with him she gives him a pen asking him to continue to write to her. I suppose that would be the modern day equivalent of telling someone, “send me a message me on Facebook.” Ouch.
Devastated, Lloyd calls his sister and delivers the line that would one day ring true in my own life: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.” Total rejection courtesy of office supplies. Thank you, Staples.
So one Christmas many years ago it was my personal mission to pick out THE PERFECT gift for the guy I was convinced was the love of my life. My poor mom had to endure the crowds at the mall while I put all my energy into finding something that would be the perfect token of my love and affection. Unfortunately, the key to his heart was not on sale, so I just settled for a nice shirt.
Finally it came time for the big gift exchange. I came bouncing in with a huge smile on my face thinking this would be the first gift of our many Christmases together and I could hardly wait to see his reaction. He opened the gift and at least seemed to really like it and I was pleased by his response.
Then it was my turn to open his gift to me. It was a long, small box and all I could think was, “Oh my gosh! Is this a bracelet or a necklace???” It was neither. It was in fact a fancy pen. I gave him my heart in the form of a button-up shirt and he gave me a pen. Insult to injury, not only was I not the only female recipient of said pen, he also gave me the SAME PEN (with socks) the following year. I graciously accepted the gift as well as all the bonus rejection that came with it. Yep. Life was just like the movies.
In the years that followed, I discovered a couple of things: 1.) This guy was definitely not the love of my life, and 2.) This would not be the last time I would give away my heart and receive a pen (figuratively speaking) in exchange.
However, the pen has come to represent more than just failed romantic aspirations in my life. For example, I’ve done everything I know to do to get a job (i.e. earn a degree or two, network, apply) and life keeps handing me the “we’re not going to even acknowledge you sent us a resume” pen. Sadly, I know I’m not the only graduate who has been handed this load of ink.
And after having acquired quite the collection of these ballpoint rejections, it’s become easier and easier to make room on the desk expecting more to be added to the clutter. In other words, I’ve come to anticipate disappointment rather than expecting victory in various parts of my life.
Which brings me to this morning. While I won’t go into detail about what I’m currently dealing with, let’s just say I started making room on my desk for another pen. And just as I was figuratively clearing some space, something strange happened: “In Your Eyes” came on the radio and the picture of Lloyd standing outside Diane’s window came to mind.
This image reminded me I don’t have to settle, I don’t have to accept another pen or believe that I’m only worthy to receive office supplies as the consolation prize for my hopes and dreams. The movie doesn’t end with Lloyd accepting the pen or that his dream is over; Lloyd gets creative, turns up the volume on the stereo (as well as the collar on his jacket) as a demonstration to his woman and the world that he’s not giving up on her. He doesn’t accept defeat; he uses this as an opportunity to rise to the challenge and take hold of what he believes rightfully belongs to him.
So whatever your pens are in life, it’s time to throw them away and start working on creating a new playlist in your head that drowns out the negativity. Turn on whatever “song” you need to blare at your dream to keep you hopeful, focused, and to remind you to never settle for the consolation prize.
Several years and disappointments have passed since I first got that pen. There are dreams still yet to be fulfilled and my Lloyd Dobler still hasn’t shown up at my doorstep, boom box in hands proclaiming his undying love for me – heck, even music blaring from an iPhone would work at this point – but I’m hopeful and am slowly but surely starting to believe I don’t have to settle for anything less than something that’s just like the movies.
So bring it on, Lloyd Dobler. I’m ready to board that plane to England. 3… 2… 1….