It’s the little details I remember; the last things that people say as they are leaving. The way I feel at specific moments, whether good, bad or somehow inexplicably indifferent. I still remember at the end of the summer when I was 16. I had a crush on a close friend, and I still remember the last thing that she said when she was leaving. I still remember her talking about dreams and rumored desires. Hers to marry a rich, wealthy man, and be the mother of his children, mine to be happy and successful in whatever happened to come my way, and if I ended up being happy, then happiness was what truly mattered. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t paying any attention to my dreams, only hers. In the final moments, before she was to leave for South America as a foreign exchange student, she made me promise to write her, and she said, “tell me one thing that you will remember about me.”
I was younger then, and thought I knew everything. I thought I knew what love was, and I dreamed that one day my life and love would be perfect. I often longed to be an adult, daydreaming about how everything would be better then; I would be free to come and go as I chose, without any restriction or curfew. Now as an adult I am living a life less wonderous and dreaming of days gone by, wishing that when I was younger that someone had told me the realities and responsibilities of being an adult.
I wish that someone had talked to me about goals and dreams, and how dreams come to fruition slowly, and sometimes in the end, they were not worth the time, effort, or resources needed to achieve them. I wish that someone had told me to dream many different dreams and that it is okay to make time to reevaluate my dreams, or to modify them in order to pursue whatever makes me happy. Growing up, I wished for many things I didn’t need, and spent too much time chasing hopes and dreams of things that I realize now were unimportant; so much time was wasted, and in hindsight, I feel as if I need to somehow make up for lost time.
I miss the days when we were amused by difference, before we were judged and pigeonholed by the numerical balance of our bank accounts, the arbitrary counts of online friendships, and the number of people who reacted to and/or commented on our status updates. I miss the days before we were taught to judge others and to hate the little imperfections of our bodies, or feel ashamed of who we are. Today, we judge our self-worth against the commercialized examples of what is considered to be perfection. Maybe someday I will understand why we believe so steadfastly in the dystopian fallacy that to truly be happy we must somehow change ourselves to achieve unattainable standards to which we are told are ideal.
Recently I was waiting in line at a supermarket checkout stand, and couldn’t help but notice that the person in line behind me was a teacher of mine from grade school. She didn’t recognize me, though I knew exactly who she was. I remembered being a child so many years ago, and how she had always made a mockery of me, telling the class that I was the one who would go nowhere in life, and never amount to anything, and to stand to face the corner during class. I stood in line, occasionally glancing in her direction at first, if by some chance she recognized me, but clearly, she didn’t.
I thought maybe perhaps I should confront her and let her know that after the many years went by, she was wrong for the trauma she put me through, and that in the end, I was the one who ended up being successful, while she stayed in the same small town, lived a miserable life, and amounted to nothing. But what would I get? Would I get revenge? To learn by mistake that her abuse, can’t be undone, instead be avenged? Those who tried to keep me down caused me to instead be revered while at the same time, kept them from achieving anything at all themselves.
If someone were to ask me to paint a picture of my life, to offer a snapshot of the way things are, I would likely speak in words similar to lyrics from a Simon And Garfunkel song, though nobody ever asks, and therefore few people realize the paradox I am living in where I cannot leave, though I know I cannot stay. My only option is to constantly travel in pursuit of my own passion for places where I don’t know where I am. I often feel an overwhelming desire to be known and to know others, though sometimes I feel as if I would be willing travel a thousand miles just to find some place where nobody knows me.
The header image was created using Canva. The image of me playing hopscotch in New York City was taken by my father.