Saturday, June 25, 2011

Growing Up Late

I watched the classic movie ‘The Way We Were’ last night. It was not the movie I expected. I had thought it would be a run of the mill romance but in fact ended with the couple leaving each other. The last scene was the couple meeting again after many years apart although the meeting did not result in reuniting. The movie is billed as an adult romance where love stories don’t always end happily ever after. In fact, the husband essentially left his wife and abandoned his newborn child. Meeting many years later they recalled their fun times as well as the realization that reconciliation is impossible. I agree it was a mature movie which did not play the way most movies of this genre do. It also had a historical back drop of university scenes during the Spanish Civil War, red-scare in Hollywood, World War II plus rich scenes in New York and Los Angeles. It was an enjoyable movie.

The movie had an undercurrent of civil rights battles with the heroine passionately against the Red Scare in Hollywood and protested in Washington to get their rights heard. The topics remain relevant today. Robert Redford is known for his political awareness especially with his film ‘All The President’s Men’ – another political movie that I enjoyed. I am revisiting his old classic movies having reserved the following in the library: ‘The Candidate’ and ‘Jeremiah Johnson.’ I also reserved his biography. I think he is one of the few artists who will make a lasting mark on cinema with his Sundance Film Festival. He is also an accomplished actor and director although not in the caliber of the truly greats. Nevertheless, he does make interesting and relevant movies that are consistent though modest hits. Despite his stardom, he does not have a messy personal life unlike other people in his profession.

In the movie, the Redford character attended a class on creative writing. The professor singled out his work and he eventually became a novelist and screenwriter in Hollywood after serving with the Navy in World War II. The course he attended is probably for a degree in English or literature which would have been interesting if it was a degree I pursued in college. Instead I preferred an esoteric discipline like economics thinking that I would be technocrat working in a high level government office or in a bank. It may have been better if I had pursued my passion in writing instead of business. Now I am attending creative writing courses in the hope of being a novelist, working as a computer analyst while keeping modest financial investments in the hope of striking rich.  I guess my degree led me to computers while keeping me aware of economics and finance so that I could benefit with that knowledge by investing in the stock market.

As I approach middle age, I still have a passion for writing although with no novel in sight. I had just realized one does not become a writer by just blogging or reading widely or writing journals. It is increasing one’s skills in creative fiction writing – precisely the lessons that the Redford character had in college. Is it too late? I guess the reasonable target is to strive for a second career as one has already undertaken one. It was a circuitous journey where I find myself facing the same writing challenges I had while in grade school when I contributed a short story to the school paper. One should have persisted despite the risk of not earning enough. What tangled lives we live as one would say. The Toastmaster experience is another aspect that could have served my youth well instead of discovering late. I guess this is more a cognitive exercise to keep one fit as one ages in mind and body. But one cannot help but feel that one is chasing a dream that was lost in one’s youth.

Perhaps it is the circumstances that require it – with constant change and travel, with the free time that has come with this phase in life, with the opportunities at present plus the abundance of creative writing courses have brought about a chance to reclaim lost chances. Life happens when you are planning something else.  Perhaps one has achieved a certain experience – did that, done that but found the experience wanting. There is a question of ‘what if’ – what if things were different which the movie ‘The Way We Were’ seems to allude to.  Of lost chances and different roads taken that one looks back in time. Watching the Redford movies brings me back when I enjoyed some sort of innocence. I hope to borrow his film ‘Three Days of the Condor’ which I first watched in Camp John Hay as a teenager. I watch it with my parents and brothers in Baguio City inside the military base that gave me my first glimpse of American life.

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