Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm Going To Tell You A Story

I'm going to tell you a story. A story that does not make me proud...yet. It's a story about a little girl with her head in the clouds.

There once was a little girl who didn't know exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. She took people's practical recommendations. Sometimes she said she wanted to be a teacher. Sometimes she would proclaim that she wanted to be a nurse. Sometimes she wanted nothing more than to be a mommy. All of these got smiles from all of the grown ups. These were the things, after all, that little girls were expected to want to be when they grew up.

On the inside, though, she didn't really think she wanted to be any of those things. She certainly didn't want to be a firefighter or anything that a boy was supposed to want to be, though. She didn't realize that the things that she secretly wanted to be were really possible. You see, the little girl grew up in the heart of the working class. She grew up in a city where people were barely encouraged to want to read or go to plays. When she realized that she really wanted to be a writer or an actress, or someone that did something amazing like travel the world she told nobody. She would have been laughed at.

She stuffed it all inside and she read. She read everything she could get her hands on. From a young age she devoured novels in one day. She took a dance class, but that wasn't practical, and she knew that nobody needed to see how much she truly loved dressing up and being on that stage for her recitals. Nobody needed to know that if she could, she would spend her life there entertaining people. If she could, she would write the stories that had people glued to their seats from start to finish.

Right around middle school she finally let it slip that she wanted to act. Oh what a mistake that was. She was told that it was a nice little dream, but she needed to learn to do something practical because there was just no way it would work out. She should learn to be a teacher or a nurse or how to work in a store for when those dreams all came crashing down on her. Eventually she shut up about her dream. It was easier to play along and pretend she had grown out of that phase.

Soon after that she was given the opportunity to learn a foreign language. She chose French. She fell in love with France. She had never been there, but she wanted to go so desperately to a place where culture was embraced that she would have given her arm to get there somehow. She threw herself into learning French. Learning the language. Learning the culture. She was in love with the idea of someday escaping to France...of course, she didn't tell anyone. For all they knew, she just really loved French. Shortly before graduation when people were all deciding what they wanted to do, she panicked. She had not been allowed to go on the school trip to France. Partially due to cost and partially because one of her parents had a stifling fear of flying and wouldn't have let her on that plane if her life depended on it. Her dream of escaping to France was slipping out of her reach. Then someone suggested she be a French teacher.

Oh. There it was again. Teacher. By this point in her life she had grown so sick of the suggestion that she become a teacher that it made her want to throw up. Of course, she said, she wanted to do just that and would continue learning about France and French in soon as she found a way to pay for college.

She went to college. She majored in French. Then she majored in French Translation. Now there was a way out of the teacher role! She worked her ass off. She worked full time, she went to school full time, and a year later, she was completely burnt out. She also realized there was a way to turn her desire to write more than just diary entries into a career. Journalism. Nobody could say she was being silly and frivolous if she wanted to be a reporter, right? Wrong.

You see the place where she grew up only had a few newspapers. There were no magazines around here. The idea that she may want to leave this area? Ridiculous. She didn't really bother to talk to many people about it after she got the, "oh, that's nice" response. That response was always coupled with the telltale double eyebrow raise that meant that her head was floating around in the clouds.

She gave up. She wasn't going to be a writer. She wasn't going to be an actress. She wasn't going to escape to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, London, or any of the other cities where she may be taken seriously. She gave up on her dreams. She fell into conformity here in rational suburban America. She now had no education, no way to afford it, and no way she worked at a store. She worked at a store where her head remained in the clouds, only privately. She wrote page after page in journals. She wrote down thousands upon thousands of ideas for stories. She continued to read with a passion.

When she was 24 she lost her job at the store. It was a place with a high turn over rate, to say the very least, and she was lucky to have been there for four and a half years, really. She was miserable. She started to consider leaving. She would go to live near her grandmother in Colorado, perhaps. Start a new completely rational career there. Then came the news that she was pregnant.

The little girl, now all grown up, was excited for the baby, but part of her mourned the official loss of her dreams. What mother could travel the world? What mother could stop everything and write a novel? What mother could suddenly do whatever she wanted to do? So, the girl conformed more. She became a nurse's aide. When people asked when she was going to start nursing school she politely responded, "Oh, sometime soon I'm sure."

This was not what she wanted. She loved the residents at the nursing home, sure. She didn't mind the physical labor. She was miserable, however. She was a single mother, and now she was bound to this place she had forever resented living in. Her child's family was here. There was no way out. She was supposed to be happy. She had her son. She loved him dearly. He was perfect. What was wrong with her? How could she explain to someone now, after all these years, that she was miserable here and had been plotting her escape for her entire life, but she just kept getting stuck. The possibility was gone now. She stopped wanting to interact with people. She started to panic. She was STUCK HERE.

She didn't tell anyone though. She kept her mouth shut. She found ways to pay the bills. She ate. She ate to feel full. She ate to fill the void that single motherhood had created in her life. She ate to ease the pain. She ate to keep everything inside of her that had been locked up for so long and was now threatening to jump out.

One day she woke up to realize that eating was no way to solve the problem. She was killing herself, not living a life here. Other people had lives here. Other people fell in love and were happy here. She could try, too, right?

I can't tell you the end of the little girl's story. I don't know it yet. All I know is that she is now nearing 29. She still feels trapped, but she loves her son. She loves living her life because of him. She's trying to claw her way back to happiness. She has no idea what will happen...but she's writing. Right now at this moment she is typing these words. Someone is going to read them. Maybe they will have been drawn into the story, even if they don't like it. Even if they don't like that the end isn't here yet. Maybe someone can relate to her story. Maybe someone else is trapped, too. Maybe it just feels good to write. Really write. From her heart.

Maybe her head is still in the clouds somewhere. Maybe she will get everything she's ever wanted. Maybe she won't. Maybe she wouldn't like it if she did. She doesn't know. Only time will tell. She is, however, very glad she finally got that off of her chest.

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