A Marvelous Encounter

– By Samuel Moore-Sobel

I live in a fast-moving world, filling my days with near-constant activities and events. My closest friends often joke about the whirlwind of the life I live, marveling at my ability to juggle a never-ending list of engagements and commitments. 

The last few weeks have been a bit different. Undergoing surgery has a way of sidelining even the most active of life’s participants, forcing them to slow down to achieve healing. My imperfect quest to rest led to hours spent engaging in leisurely activities often eschewed at the expense of chasing productivity. This forced period of relaxation led me to discover The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which premiered Nov. 29 on Amazon. 

The show centers around Miriam “Midge” Maisel, married with two children, living in New York City. Her husband, Joel, is a successful businessman working at a plastics firm. Corporate life doesn’t seem to suit him, however. He dreams of hitting it big as a comedian, spending his nights telling jokes in comedy clubs with his supportive wife in tow. 

Who among us is unable to relate to the desire for more? Many of us spend our days at our jobs, only to spend our nights and weekends pursuing a different course. A desire to create something original to make a meaningful impact on the world around us. Dreams are often celebrated when possessed by children. We encourage young ones to pursue originality, urging them to be all they can be. A steep price tag is attached to each and every hope nursed and passion harbored, however. Once adulthood is attained, one feels the closing of a window on those very dreams borne long ago, forcing us to come to grips with the fact that we may never become what we desperately longed to one day be. 

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them” — a quote attributed to Thoreau. A feeling I once believed to be confined to the Millennial generation. Recent experience has proven otherwise. Countless interactions with men twice my age, whose massive achievements look quite impressive when listed sequentially on a resume, are haunted by the same questions. They wonder about the path not taken. The books they could have written. The companies they could have started. The dreams they left in the dust long ago, to pursue the safety offered by embarking upon a career in corporate America. 

Joel is clearly a man experiencing the feeling of “quiet desperation”. By the end of the first episode, Joel reveals he is having an affair with his secretary, leading him to ask his wife for a divorce. Devastated, she seems lost in the haze, albeit for a moment. Until suddenly, her greatest tragedy reveals an abiding passion and natural talent for comedy. She embarks on her own journey, free from the apparent muzzle placed upon her by cultural expectations unique to 1950s America.

As the series unfolds, Mrs. Maisel seemingly comes into her own. Although her development is not without some hiccups. She knows she has a talent, but a part of her seemingly wants her old life back. The future seems scary and uncertain. At one point, she gives up comedy to work as a makeup artist, despite protestations from her manager. She seems to lack self-confidence, or is scared of the implications surrounding her impending stardom. She knows once she crosses the threshold, her life will never be the same. 

I wonder if a certain fear doesn’t grip many of us as well. The fear that our dreams are too far-fetched. That the things we love will never reap the necessary salary to live the lifestyle desired. Or that certain responsibilities — such as having a family or paying a mortgage — interfere with the amount of risk we are willing to shoulder. Or even that success will bring unforeseen consequences. Do we limit ourselves before the world is ever able to see our work? 

In the end, the central character in this delightful comedy seemingly finds her way. In an effort to avoid giving away the ending (containing a bit of a twist), one gets the feeling in the episodes preceding the series finale that a star is about to be born. Perhaps that is the point. Dreams are not easy things to achieve, requiring sacrifice and persistence along the way. Relationships and social mores that get in the way are better off left behind. Only in the pursuit of such endeavors can we truly find ourselves; and even if our stars fail to rise to the level we dream, at least we can say we tried.

“Do what you love, and the money will follow,” Allison Alison, a high school teacher, used to tell me. As 2018 begins with great anticipation surrounding the potential achievement of big dreams, here’s to hoping she was right. 

Samuel Moore-Sobel is nearing completion of a memoir. Visit his website at www.holdingontohopetoday.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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