Life at 26: “A Work in Progress”

Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 08:50 AM

Celeste Headlee at 23 Celeste Headlee at 23

Mark Zuckerberg gets a feature film made about his life and he's not happy with it. I'm not surprised. Apart from his incredible success with Facebook, I'm sure the guy is dealing with all the same issues that most people in their 20s do — conflicting ideas about identity and morality, struggles for true independence, bad dating experiences. Clearly, he's not worried about bounced checks, credit card debt or student loan payments, but I imagine that the rest is the same.

And that's the problem with a movie made about your life at 26: Hopefully, the best is yet to come. You're still at the age when people will say, "You'll understand when you're older," and you're young enough to still get irritated by it. You're old enough to worry about the deficit, foreign oil, and the plight of the Tibetans, but still young enough to care about MTV and the difference between Coors and Budweiser.

At 26, I was heading back to school to get a master's degree after working for two years in Seattle as a some-time actor and full-time dispatcher. I had met the man I thought I would marry but he would be the father of my son and never my husband. In fact, I didn't think I ever wanted to have children. I hated all country music and Kafka. My best friends were the people I went to high school and undergraduate school. I was just emerging from my cocoon — testing my wings, making bad decisions and trying not to deal with the consequences, imagining myself as the kind of person I admired and then trying to be the person I imagined.

14 years later, I still can't read Kafka but there's some country music I enjoy. Some of those best friends are still with me, while my immediate family is not, and I'm the mother of two kids that I adore and couldn't live without. And perhaps the best indicator that I was a mess in my 20s: I am now married to a man that I probably wouldn't have dated at 26, and we are a perfect match. If that's not evidence that I was unfinished in my mid-20s, I don't know what is.

So I sympathize with Mark Zuckerberg. Does being a billionaire mean we all get to sit through a two-hour feature film and pass judgment on his decisions? Listen, the guy is an adult and he was an adult when the events from this film occurred. As such, he's morally responsible for anything he did, and certainly legally liable if any of it was illegal. But the guy was 20 when he founded Facebook. I think we can excuse the awkwardness and assume that he will be a different man at 46 than he is now.

The 20s are the decade of change for most people. Not the best time to make a movie unless you're planning many sequels. Ironically, my biopic at 26 would likely have the same title as it would now: "A Work in Progress."


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