“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” –Carl Jung
Today, we are at the halfway point.
We have reached July 1 — the median of the calendar year, the forgotten middle child, that place in the center of your back with the persistent itch you can’t ever reach, reminding you that there are some things you will never be able to achieve.
Six months have gone by since I popped champagne bottles and threw confetti above my head and watched the sparkling ball drop in Times Square from a small Chicago apartment that I’d never seen before. In my idealized pseudo-memory, this is what we did. In actuality, I don’t even remember the moment the grandfather clock of time switched over from 2012 to 2013. It wasn’t because I was tipsy. We had simply forgotten that we were celebrating something. We had moved on to eating and joking and laughing because this is what you did at midnight on a day when you could do anything.
I do remember Princess Diana dying or, at least, hearing about her death and the many controversies that surrounded it. It’s a strange event to remember — of all the moments that have happened in my life, why this seemingly meaningless one? It certainly wasn’t formative, but it did happen the year I turned five — the time when I was one of the most naive, innocent, enthusiastic, passionate people to have lived in Milford, Michigan.
It was around this time that I came home from kindergarten after maybe a month in school and told my mom, “I don’t have time to do what I want to do.” We’d attended an assembly on fire safety that day. I’d been teased as usual on the bus ride home by Tess (a more loathsome name never existed), who could not understand why I would rather read than…than what? I have no idea what she did with her spare time, but it was not what I did.
Or maybe it was. As much time as I spent reading Little Women and the Little House series, I probably spent playing with Barbies. Barbies were magical creatures. Not because of their proportions or their hair (though there was one fairly awesome one who had blue-, pink- and purple-striped hair down past her waist), but because of their potential. They had 10,000 different outfits and therefore, 10,000 different possible adventures to embark on. One day, I could be Esmeralda, living in a tent made of foreign silks and whirling around the fire with the other gypsies, while the next I could spend the day playing ’50s mom and baking cookies. Everything was fun. Everything was shiny. And anything could happen.
Princess Diana was a real-life Barbie. She had wealth beyond imagination, fame without effort and the opportunity to do anything she wanted regardless of time or place. The world watched her get married, have children and become involved with at least 100 charities as the smiling, gracious face of Wales. She literally had the world at her feet. And then she didn’t.
Her death was tragic, partly because of her age (36), partly because of her role as a public figure, partly because of the circumstances and partly because death is inherently tragic. The gossip mills churned quickly this morning as speculation swirled about whether the pregnant Kate Middleton, Diana’s would-be daughter-in-law, would give birth today, which would have given the newest member of the royal family a strange bond with his/her grandmother.
Yet Diana wasn’t Barbie. She had plenty of flaws, and conspiracy theories — about both her divorce and her death — have drifted in and out of conversation for years. She wasn’t even that inspiring; outside of her ventures into philanthropy, she was simply a woman with lucky genetics. Or maybe not so lucky, as it turns out.
Diana would have turned 52 today were she still alive. This day should have been around the halfway point in her life; instead all her possibilities were cut short. Does it matter? Yes. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not, especially because of the legacy she left behind. For example, a British newspaper called The Independent led with this graf in Diana’s obituary:
And, from Arianna Huffington on Twitter:
“I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts …. someone’s got to go out there and love the people and show it” – Princess Diana
— @ariannahuff July 1, 2013
Diana was a figurehead without substance. She was the person the public loved but didn’t know. She was sunny but humid. She was July 1.