• Rachel Galant

Stay Gold

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

Your investment: Should you read this blog post, let me thank you in advance for allowing me to share the next 7-ish minutes of this lifetime.

This is a bit of an odd post for me. This blog du jour is titled and based on what could be rightfully considered a movie quote. Girls don't really live and die by movie quotes like guys do. I've heard guys tend to have less words per day than girls. I don't think that's true. I just think that about halfway into the day, guys just default into this weird place where they will randomly and without warning break off into lines from A Few Good Men, Wall Street or any number of John Hughes films. I feel like there needs to be a spoof on this (SNL, are you listening?) sort of like "The Man Cold".

Anyway, before I get to the somewhat deeper message that lies within, let me come clean about something. As a young girl it wasn't asking much of me to watch a film that for an hour and a half, splashed the likes of Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon and Tom Cruise across the screen. Dreamy, hot, tasty. There, I said it. We didn't know it for sure back then but in hindsight it was like watching melted chocolate swirling around just waiting to become a Hershey's bar. The way this is going, it could very well be its own blog post. But back to my point.

In a great moment from a great film, Johnny (played by Ralph Macchio, who as I learned later at an impromptu business dinner, is not only a really nice and funny guy, but also simply does not age) tells Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) to "stay gold". It's an iconic phrase, perhaps owed to its seamless blend of simplicity, specificity, power and purpose. It was a directive to capture, cherish and protect the state of innocence and possibility gifted unequivocally to children everywhere. However it was that these words found themselves carved into the history of pop culture, it was on this day, a confluence of unrelated events led me to think about this line from The Outsiders.

The simpler of the two paths which brought me to this intersection was that my kids and I were discussing classic films like Stand by Me, The Breakfast Club and The Outsiders (while I don't think it's debatable in general, these were at the very least, classics for my generation). What I loved so much about those films, which I shared as I discussed with my kids, was that the characters were so rich with independence, curiosity and the need to stand up for their place in the world even though they hadn't quite figured things out. These were fun thoughts bringing about nostalgic and spirited conversation. 

The other road from which I had just traveled was vastly different. It was filled with hairpin turns, unpaved sections, potholes and traversed some very unpredictable weather. I was in a place in time where I found myself being told by others who I was, why I was who I was, and even more jarring, who I was going to become. If you've ever had this happen to you, where other people begin to define you, you'll immediately empathize with what I was going through. It's this somewhat out of body experience, where you question things that moments earlier you knew to be true. 

I have to admit, for a brief moment I was lost. I retreated to spending time with the only ones who really understood me, who really knew me - my bed and pillows. My sheets would protect me. My comforter would live up to its name. Let them sling their verbal arrows. I was safe here in waves of cottony armor, carved by unseen craftsmen who understood at times like these, when enemies were at the gates, the untold virtue of a high thread count. 

Hours passed, stitching themselves together into days. I was wandering on a road with no beginning, no end, and mile markers provided by Netflix (Offred, you became a kindred spirit).  I would run into people - friends, family - who would ask about my journey. I would stare blankly, showing them photos from my past - somehow purporting them as postcards of sorts. I would smile and make conversation. I would engage to the best of my then limited ability. Then I would disengage. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Engage. Disengage. Heating pad on. Heating pad off.  

As the universe works, starts and stops, lefts and rights, backwards and forwards, are motions, movements and directions often random and indistinguishable from one another. So it should come as no surprise that at one very unspectacular moment, all at once nothing changed while everything changed. I came upon a sign with an arrow. Below the arrow was something written. From a distance I couldn't quite make it out. But as I crept closer, the words became clear: "STAY GOLD". True it wasn't a real sign, as signs go. This sign was in the form of a photo. It was a photo that just happened to be open on my phone, a postcard left behind by one of those happenstance meetings with a friend. 

The photo was of me. It was a picture taken on a beautiful day, not all that long ago, when I was out for a walk. I wasn't going anywhere planned. It wasn't a walk laden with an exercise related goals. The kids were busy. I was busy with self-imposed busy work. A friend convinced me to go for a walk with "no agenda, other than to come let your senses play outside for a while". With some mild arm-twisting, I tossed on some comfies and I was ready to go. I also used this as an excuse to wear one of those large brimmed hats that when I buy them, I think I envision myself in either a 1920's era beach photo-op, or that it will finally be my first time as a spectator at a polo match (for the record, neither has yet to occur).

So there I was. On a walk to somewhere, anywhere, nowhere. There is something about going somewhere while going nowhere that is overwhelmingly empowering in a strange sort of way. I was like a kid, free to go, stop, look around, take deeper breaths, and try to figure out how I would actually describe this big, beautiful sky of impossible blueness to someone who wasn't fortunate enough to see it. Then at about fifteen minutes into my meandering of my local universe, I came upon a bed of flowers. Extraordinarily pink, pink flowers. I experienced two idioms all at once. I literally stopped in my tracks and had my breath taken away. In the moments to come, several of my senses were fighting to be first in line to play. I stared long enough to notice I had an uncontrollably large smile that crept across my face. I don't know if there is a true or singular pink but if there is, on this day, I found it. It could have been my imagination but I could swear that as I reached down to get a closer look, each of the hundreds of the flowers all huddled in together as if they were getting ready for a flower-selfie ("pick me, touch me" they all seemed to say). Each reached up to be the first to tickle my palm.

 All of this came rushing back to me in this instant. From wherever I was the moment before, I was now here. I was present. I saw in this, what had for a recent while eluded me. I saw the me I was on that day. I remembered the childlike sense of exploration. There was a genuine pleasure in smiling at strangers in passing. Yet on that day I found the most surprising part of my walk in the most surprising of places.

As I headed back home, the cobblestone steps guiding me to my front door, I was invigorated, inspired, refreshed and all at once feeling no different than I had when I stepped outside just a few hours earlier. How was that possible? I just had this genuinely enchanting, sensory-tingling, zen-like excursion, that didn't change me at all? Again, how? Why not? If I was going to put myself out there, do the whole big hat thing, flirt with flowers, shouldn't I have found something life-changing? I felt like I deserved it or something. Once again, the universe playing hide and seek with my world, it deployed slight-of-hand to show me the answer was not just right in front of me. As I reached for the door knob, the answer was quite literally about to be in the palm of my hand (idiom #3 for those of you keeping score). 

Inside my front door, I am and have been so many things, from mom, daughter, sister, wife, friend, and more. Outside my front door, I was a leader, a student, a CEO, and more. On either side of the door though, in all of my roles, I was the same wide-eyed, open-minded, passionate, driven, inquisitive girl who was fascinated by life, and loved to love, for as long as I can remember. The innocence and goodness of that young girl, was right there, still. Yes, I had somehow through it all, managed to stay gold. I wanted to share. I wanted to give. I wanted to have deep, rich, meaningful relationships. I wanted my children to feel and to experience all that and more.

I found myself looking in the mirror, and I liked who was staring back at me. For any of my faults, blemishes or missteps, this was me, defined long ago, at a time and in a place that is mine. The definition of me, was me. 

I thought I was back. As it turns out though, I never left.

Those who knew me, knew me well and for all time to come.

Those who didn't, never would. 

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© 2019 by Rachel Galant