Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A few weeks ago the Washington Post ran a feature on president-elect Barack Obama’s director of speechwriting. The 27-year-old has been fueling up on Red Bull and double espresso shots as he spends his days and nights alternating between a wooden chair at Starbucks and his one-bedroom condo furnished with only a blow-up mattress while composing drafts of the inaugural address that his boss will deliver to three million people on the National Mall in 17 days.
After reading the piece I had a moment of clarity: Being a speechwriter for a politician (preferably the presidential-winning kind) is my life’s calling. Sure, I don’t drink caffeine (save for the occasional chai latte or Diet Coke) and although I’m adept at waiting until the last minute to complete assignments, I’ve long since graduated from all-nighters (particularly since I have trouble staying awake past 10 p.m.).
I just know that crafting the life-changing words uttered by someone revered by an entire nation (or a state or city) is what I was born to do. My dad has long bragged that I’m one of the all-time great bullshit artists. (He means it in the best possible way. I think.) Plus, I’ve been putting the creative professionals at Hallmark to shame ever since nursery school when I drew a Mother’s Day card with Snoopy speaking a meaningful haiku in a little cartoon bubble.
But while mentally plotting how to apply for my new dream job, the sound of my daughter waking up from her mid-morning nap snapped me back to reality. I’m guessing there’s at least one reason why this 27-year-old single guy was hired by Obama besides his ability to string together a decent sentence. His job description probably isn’t conducive to supervising the tummy time of an almost-5-month-old and soothing her when she’s startled by the volume of her father’s sneezes.
At nearly the precise moment that I found my calling, I had to let it go straight to voicemail. It’s not as if I feel like I’m making a sacrifice by being a mom, though ” I wanted this baby more than anything. Taking a high fastball in the cheek to advance a runner to first base is a sacrifice. Not drinking wine for nine months while pregnant is a sacrifice (I can give anything up for nine months but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it). I’m just not sure I ever thought before about how becoming a mom would hamper my ability to chase a professional dream.
A colleague was presented with a potential job opportunity in China for the first part of August last year. However, she was reluctant to leave her boyfriend and uproot her life for a few weeks. I told her she was nuts and said if she passed then I would jump at the chance to explore the Far East on someone else’s dime. Then I was reminded that I was eight and a half months pregnant and that maybe traveling to a remote Chinese province where anesthesia was as foreign as my passport wasn’t the most prudent scenario for welcoming my firstborn.
Not long ago both Oprah Winfrey and Tina Fey asked me to come work for them ” in Chicago and New York, respectively ” within minutes of each other. The problem was that both jobs required I uproot my entire life, thereby ruining, among other things, my near-perfect work/childcare situation. So it was with a terribly heavy heart that I declined two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities simultaneously. (I also discovered it can get strangely complicated to accept job offers made in a dream after falling asleep watching the “30 Rock” episode guest starring Oprah. But still.)
When Caroline Kennedy threw her overly inexperienced hat in the ring to replace Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from New York, I decided that ” what the hell ” I should vie for that senate seat, too. (This despite the fact that not having lived in New York for more than five years might confuse the whole residency requirement thing. Again, but still.) But then I thought that my husband’s enthusiasm for being the sole patrolman on overnight pacifier duty while I commuted to Washington to vote on Capitol Hill and fly to New York to visit my constituents would probably wane well before my two-year term expired.
Yet, as much as there’s still so much out there I know I’d enjoy doing, what makes me the most sad is not any sort of loss of professional freedom, but thinking about how long it took in my life before I knew the sound of my daughter’s laughter and the warm feeling of her wrapping her entire tiny hand around my pinky and plopping her head onto my chest while burrowing herself as deep into my neck as she can manage.
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