Every now and then I wonder what would have happened had I pursued my original career plan. The year was 1989, shoulder pads were huge (double pun!), and many of my Saturday nights were spent having sleepovers with my best friend Lins and watching pro wrestling, also known as WWF (now WWE) until the wee hours. My career plan was (drumroll..) to be a pro wrestling manager. For those of you who have seen WWF, my role model was Miss Elizabeth, who at the time was the manager for Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. Perhaps it was the glory, slightly odd fame and presumable fortune. It may have been the drama and endless story arcs, some of which didn’t even make sense at the time and even with the context. But for whatever reason, that’s what I wanted to do. Then life went on, elementary school finished, high school came and went, and being a pro wrestling manager dropped off the radar.
Other dreams and ideas came and took the place of my Miss Elizabeth master plan. In the back of my mind, I always wondered what would happen if I took one of those whims and followed it. And then, at 29, I did. The culmination of a long story that I won’t go into is that I found myself in Singapore, floating in a swimming pool at 3am surrounded by peacocks, having fled my hotel room for cooler air in the hopes of tamping down my migraine. In the still (minus the peacock squawking, that is) and the serenity, I realized that I couldn’t just be someone’s girlfriend. And I decided that for my own self respect and future, I needed to complete a goal for me. Which led me down a list of goals I had made over the years.
Did I still want to be a pro wrestling manager? Not really. Too odd. And too much instability. And far too many teenage boys (which in the late twenties is vastly unappealing, as opposed to the allure it holds in the early teens). But I had always wanted to get a Master’s degree. In something random, that I wanted to learn about, regardless of whether or not it actually served any viable purpose. I had some unfinished business in the UK, and their MAs can be done in a year, rather than two as it is here, which meant I could take an educational leave from work. I arrived home on a Monday, by Tuesday had chosen my top three schools, by Wednesday had applied, by Friday had badgered three of my work references into writing letters for me. Two and a half months later, I found myself on a plane to Manchester, enroute to the University of Liverpool, where I began the first semester of my Master’s degree in Science Fiction.
Somehow, in the midst of this, I started dating my husband long distance – we knew each other from the university we worked at and started talking just as I left. Our first date was him flying to the UK to meet me for reading week. We managed long distance for nine months, with numerous trips back and forthing, and then spent six weeks schlepping through Eastern Europe as ‘research’ for my thesis. A large section of my dissertation was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, thus making Transylvania a very loose definition of ‘practical’.
The story ends somewhat prosaically – by 30 I finished my thesis, we got engaged, married, and five years later, are happy and all is well. Was it practical to run off to Europe and study sci fi? No…but it was the right thing to do, and all of my instincts screamed ‘do it!’. And this time, I listened to that whim. And little me, the one who had plans to manage 300 pound steroided superstars, is proud.