“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” – BEAUTIFUL BOY (DARLING BOY), song text by John Lennon
August 9, 2019
Week two of my new beginning in blogging… of sorts.
Actually, I wrote my first “Blog” over 17 years ago after my son Maximilian was born: “Mama & Co.”
I had given birth to Max, my first child, just two weeks after graduating from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs with a Master’s Degree in International Media & Communication and a regional focus on the European Union.
I hadn’t expected to be pregnant during the final year of my graduate studies at an Ivy League university in the heart of the Big Apple. In fact, I could hardly believe that I was accepted into an “Ivy League” at all – not that didn’t have the grades or experience to back it up, but rather that EVERYONE questioned my credentials and ability to get in (except my father, who always told his daughter she could do anything).
But get in I did and I studied my little heart out to prove my worthiness. Still, as singer/musician/song writer/activist John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
On September 11th, 2001, I was one of the many in New York when the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists via hijacked planes and the tragic experience shaped me, as it did so many alive then, forever.
Prior to 9/11, I was busy with both grad studies and acting lessons (Columbia by day, T. Schreiber Studios by night), “burning my own candle at both ends,” as my father would say – and I had just returned from a summer in Berlin, where I completed a four-month internship in film development and international co-productions at acclaimed German auteur director Wim Wender’s film company, Road Movies GmbH.
Excited to be back in New York and push forward with my studies, looking forward to the job search season before me in the coming winter and spring when I aspired to land a plum position at a top film studio in Lost Angeles, I had no idea that my future, like many New Yorkers after the 9/11 tragedy would be much different.
Unlike many unfortunate victims who perished senselessly in the heinous, terrorist act, I was alive.
Sitting in my empty apartment in Hamburg now, the memories flood the space and leave me breathless. I literally forget to breathe when reflecting back on those times. I’m actually crying as I write this, the emotions washing over me… gratitude, loss, anger, fear, sadness… awe.
Life is a wonder. I marvel at my circumstances. And like Oprah says, “What I know for sure…” is that God had different plans for me back then.
My husband’s birthday is, coincidentally, September 14th and like many transplanted New Yorkers, I wanted to stage his birthday at the World Trade Center. No kidding. I had it all planned out meticulously several weeks in advance:
I was going to meet up with him at the end of the work day, blindfold him and take him in the elevator to the very top visitors’ deck and then, “Ta-da!!!” He would take off the blindfold and find me before him with a birthday cupcake and the most incredible panoramic views of Manhattan behind me.
It was a romantic gesture to compete with the schmalziest Nora Ephron movie.
Instead, on September 14th, I found myself heading down to volunteer at the triages of Ground Zero, desperate to be of assistance in any way. All New Yorkers – young and old— where bonded together by this singular fate and we all wanted to pitch in to rebuild our city in whatever way we could.
Thus, instead of celebrating his birthday on the top of the tallest skyscraper in New York, Niko and I ended up cherishing the day somberly at home in Bayside, Queens, grateful for the life he and I still had to appreciate.
It wasn’t until about two weeks later that I awoke one morning, not feeling so well. I won’t go into all the symptoms, but suffice it to say that one visit to the doctor and a blood test later, my universe shifted again.
“What are your daily activities since the attack? How are you taking care of yourself?” the doctor asked after performing my check-up. I told her about my volunteer work at Ground Zero.
“I wouldn’t go down there anymore,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it wouldn’t be good for your baby – You’re pregnant.”
One Google search on the “health effects of Ground Zero,” and we now know how unsafe and toxic the atmospheric dust surrounding Ground Zero was in the days, weeks and months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Countless firefighters, police officers, civic servants, volunteers and citizens living near that area, who breathed in the air laced with a poisonous mixture of plane fuselage and building asbestos, are literally dying of cancer still today.
So, now, with hindsight, I see that was blessed to be pregnant in more ways than one.
And though, as I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t the “best career strategy” to be in your last trimester of pregnancy at the same time that you’re finishing your final semester of graduate school – considering the circumstances, I felt more than adequately blessed.
In fact, Niko and I named our first born son “Maximilian Amadeus” to commemorate our gratitude.
Fast forward several months after graduating in May of 2002 (I was as big as a house, but still determined to wear high heels at graduation!), the birth of Max (two weeks after graduation!) and a bout of post-graduation-post-partum-post-9/11 depression, I decided to keep myself busy during the long, lonely days of solitude and… yes, loneliness… with my newborn by challenging myself to start a daily blog about my experiences, sharing anything and everything about the shifting life for a once-sharp professional twenty-something turned dazed and confused novice mom.
I kept it up for a whole year – my goal – through thick and thin, sleepless nights, caffeine-fueled days and milk-stained t-shirts. Writing my own blog made me feel as if I had at least some semblance of a professional life and connection to the creative me -- and was a literal Booby Prize for not getting that sought-after job at a big Hollywood studio in L.A.
I told myself that, at the very least, the writing would be a wonderful gift to my son one day. But perhaps, just perhaps, I could turn them into a book. (Or maybe, just maybe, a movie?)
Well, seventeen years later, and I still have those pages. All 365 or more of them. I haven’t turned them into a book as of yet and there is no movie in the works (hmmmmm?!) but I do plan to give them as a special gift to Max when he graduates from high school.
Before Maximilian Amadeus embarks on his adult life, I want him to remember how he came to be and why "life happening while you make other plans" is oftentimes the very best of things.
5/22/2020 07:23:11 pm
Well, that is absolutely right! I can relate so much on the thought because I have a lot of plans in life and I did not notice that I've been missing the main point of living. It is alright to plan for other stuff, especially if we know that it's the stuff that can make us happy. but we should also be spontaneous and welcoming to things we didn't plan to have and yet they are are coming. This makes me happy because I know that it was not just me who experienced this! I feel a bit of guilt when I felt that!
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An actress, director, producer and writer, Heidi welcomes you to her Blog. Learn about her latest endeavors and garner a glimpse into her recent accomplishments, both professional and personal.