I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent a good and worthwhile portion of the early '90s watching the amazing television program that was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I'm not sure I can fully explain its appeal to me, but it was a show with a lot of heart that offered both laugh-out-loud entertainment and occasional heartfelt, real issue storylines (remember this?). I distinctly remember killing it with my Hilary Banks impression, doing the Carlton, and rapping my teenaged, white girl heart out about chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the biggest argument that my sister and I have ever had was about the theme song lyrics. She insisted that the line "My life got flipped, turned upside down" was "My life got twistered upside down." I know! That's not even a word! (What's the point of having your own website if not to publicly shame your totally-wrong sibling?)
So flash forward to 2005. Somehow my ex-husband and I found ourselves invited to an Oscars viewing gala in Beverly Hills. Excuse me, what? Fly to L.A. and watch the Oscars with a bunch of celebrities? Um, okay! So away we went and the big event came. We pulled up to the Beverly Hills Hotel in our fancy, um, taxi and walked the red carpet. Shockingly, the paparazzi could not care less about who I was or what I was wearing, but I'm not going to pretend that it wasn't awesome to walk those few steps past the flashing cameras (although it's possible the thought, "Screw you, Thora Birch, you're no better than me!" passed through my brain).
Lest you think this was all going to my head, however, not ten minutes into the party someone spilled an entire glass of wine down the back of my dress. I just laughed and thought, "Yep, that's about right."
The evening progressed and essentially involved a bunch of B-list celebrities (those not famous enough to be invited to attend the actual Oscars) sitting in a ballroom, inexplicably interspersed with nobodies like me, eating dinner and watching the 77th Annual Academy Awards on huge screens as it was broadcast live from just a few blocks away at the Kodak Theatre. While I find celebrity culture kind of fascinating, I'm not really someone to get particularly star-struck (they're just like you and me!), but at one point I did find myself thinking, "I'm in the same room as Jennie Garth. I'm in the same room as Kelly Taylor from Beverly Hills 90210! I'm IN Beverly Hills 90210!!!"
And then, there he was. I was navigating my way back to our table after a visit to the ladies room and I looked ahead to see that there were two possible paths I could take. One was free and clear. One was being blocked by James Avery. A.k.a. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Uncle Phil was 20 feet away from me. And, without even a single moment's hesitation, I thought, "Well clearly I'm going to go past Uncle Phil" and I proceeded accordingly, wobbling in my high heels and my wine-soaked no-name dress, winding my way through the tables until I came to a mid-conversation James Avery, offered a polite "Excuse me" as I squeezed myself past him, and continued onward into a new and improved life in which I could proudly proclaim that I touched Uncle Phil. It's possible this is now my go-to random fact about myself. It's possible that's why some men don't call me for a second date (Who needs you? I touched Uncle Phil!).
If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know that I've never met a metaphor I didn't want to bring home to meet my parents, so it should come as no surprise to you to hear me extol this experience as a metaphor for life. I've often thought back to that experience, that very moment of deciding whether I was going to take the easy path or the memorable path, and considered it a reminder to have fun and choose the path to the better story. Listen, this particular example was a no-brainer, but there are lots of times in life when we choose safety over adventure, the path of least resistance that is known to us over the path that offers a new experience. And I'd like to urge you to choose the latter, to choose the path that brings you both the heartfelt and the laugh-out-loud moments and allows you to tell a story all about how your own life got FLIPPED TURNED upside down. Simply put, when (metaphorically speaking) two paths diverge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, choose the path of most Uncle Phil. It will make all the difference.