It’s snowing outside, and we don’t have heat. Nearly two weeks ago, our furnace almost burned the house down. It was a terrifying thing for me, especially considering how scared I’ve always been of fire and starting fires and having them get out of control. Maybe in a past life I was burned at the stake or something.
Over the past month, I’ve cracked my tooth on pumpkin seeds, severed a portion of my thumb and almost had my house burn down. I’m currently dressed in layers, wrapped in a blanket watching it snow beyond my window and alternating between typing this and stuffing my hands under my cat’s belly to warm them back up.
It feels like it’s been a hard year (or decade). There have been a lot of medical issues in my family, I’ve had break ups that sort of broke my heart, I’ve become more isolated and I can’t write. Well, I can, but then I feel unmotivated and uninspired and even when I try to read, all I want to do is watch a movie.
It’s been so hard, and I’ve cried more than I ever have before…and yet I feel like I’m overreacting. I feel like it hasn’t been that bad and I’ve been blessed with a family who, no matter how often they’re the ones making me cry, still love me. And they’ve all survived thus far, though who knows what the remainder of this year will bring.
I can only hope, and let go.
I’m excited about the new year. I’m also scared, because over the past few years, I’ve faced failure in a way I’d never done before. In someone else’s POV, maybe I’ve had success. I’ve certainly expanded my horizons, and I’ve evolved as a person…Just not as much as I’d wanted or expected.
And writing…being an author. Well, it’s the first time I ever failed to reach my goals in my entire life. I’m the first-born overachiever of the white equivalent of a Tiger Mom, and so this has been a really painful experience for me.
I try to remember the positives. I wrote a book. I wrote a few, actually. And I think they’re decent. Pretty good, at least. I learned some graphic design, how to set up a website and how to create a newsletter. I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to. I’ve learned just a smidge about marketing, and if I wasn’t such a spectacular failure at tooting my own horn, maybe I’d have actually sold some books, too.
But, you see, that’s my problem and my fear. There have been few occasions in my life where I’ve stood tall in the spotlight. Living overseas was one of them, because I had no choice. That’s probably why so much of my heart was left in Africa, and why I continue to bore everyone around me with anecdotes of my time there. I once said I was more ‘me’ there than anywhere else.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. What makes me ‘me’? I didn’t have to fit in anyone’s box over there. They accepted my eccentricities completely because I was foreign and they thought I didn’t know better. They were tolerant of my oddities. My family and my friends are not.
They want me to be successful, but they don’t want me to outshine them. I’ve felt that strange pressure my whole life. When I do really well, they aren’t that happy. When I moderate myself to be at the top of the middle, they’re all so proud.
I’ve spent my life being what others wanted me to be, trying to live up to their expectations. I was supposed to do well in school, and I did. I was supposed to be adventurous, but I was more so than they wanted. They meant go away to college…and I meant run away to foreign lands. I was supposed to have a job and support myself and then support them in their old age. I was supposed get married and have kids and take care of the parents and grandparents just like a thousand other women on the verge of breakdowns…but I don’t do things right.
I’m not married and I’ve never had a relationship that was so serious that I would have considered such a thing. I don’t think I’m all that lovable, but that could just be the lesson my family has drilled into my head. I don’t have kids because I don’t want to fuck them up like so many other people have. Like I was, like my friends’ kids are. I don’t want to become a hypocrite like so many around me have become and I don’t want to be screamed at for taking care of others the wrong way.
But I do want to take care of them. They think I’m controlling, and I am, but they made me that way. I’ve been the caretaker since I was thirteen years old. My mother was sick, my brothers were little and my dad worked. I cooked, cleaned and watched the children. You can’t mold me into that person, then tell me I shouldn’t be that.
God help us all, but Charles Manson said one right thing in his life. “I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you…” That’s true for everyone, but it took a madman to point it out.
There’s a laundry list of Lola’s faults. I’m controlling. I’m reckless. I’m not married, I don’t have kids and I don’t believe in the right religion. I’m unprepared for the future, I can’t possibly be successful at operating a bookstore and in spite of my extremely high credit rating, I’m not trustworthy enough for my parents to co-sign a loan I, personally, have no collateral for…
But I am what they made me. I am free-thinking, dedicated to learning the truth, to living the most decent life I can and taking care of others. The negatives are just perception, the flip side of the coin, and easier for me to believe and speak of, than the positives.
In a half-joking manner, I’ve been blaming astrology for the past decade’s hardships. Saturn… or maybe Pluto. But maybe it’s just my turn to grow up. To really grow up and face the hardships of being your own person among the people who love you, but may never understand how you could have turned out so differently. Maybe it’s my turn to create m y own reflection of myself, to stop being what others expect and start living out my own truth fearlessly. Maybe that’s the artist’s place in the grand scheme of things. To see differently, think differently, to aggravate and provoke, perhaps.
Maybe 2018 will somehow be better than the past decade. Maybe this new growth into a true adulthood, as painful as it’s been, will have equipped me for whatever is coming. And it does feel like something is coming. There’s a funny frequency in the world around me. I’m brimming with ideas and I’m excited to try my hand at entrepreneurship. I look forward to creating a place the community can gather and re-meet each other.
I just have to find a way to do it on my own, in my own way because some of us are destined to carve our own path…
And that’s what I’ll be doing in the new year.