I opened my mailbox this afternoon and immediately felt the sense of complete and utter failure wash over me.
Just in case you were wondering, I usually don't have this type of guttural reaction to fetching the mail. Most days, I actually like sifting through the pile of letters, catalogs, and yes, even bills, my postman dumps in my box. Paying a bill makes me feel like a responsible adult; receiving a paycheck makes me feel like I've accomplished an important task; thumbing through the latest Pottery Barn catalog makes me feel connected to pop culture and style, even if my tightfisted ways won't let me indulge myself with a $50 lemonade pitcher or a $100 throw.
But six days a year, I can reliably predict that my mailbox will send me into the depths of depression, forcing me to question not only my career path, but who I am at my very core, the very fiber that makes me me.
"You've got to look for the date," my grandfather reminded me as we sorted through the loose change in my piggy bank.
I was five years old, and to me, the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters spread out on the floor in front of me amounted to a pirate's ransom, representing a lifetime of stooping down to the ground to pick up every dirty, forgotten coin I could get my equally dirty little hands on.
It was 1987, and while I loved to find the shiny, newly-minted coins imprinted with the same year, what I was really looking for were 1982 pennies. I loved that the penny was different from all the other coins; I preferred its tawny color to the lustrous gleam of the silver. And since I was born in 1982, the pennies minted in my birth year were the perfect fit for a precocious child who didn't quite fit in with the other kids in her neighborhood.