“Who do you wanna be?”
I think that was the missing link all along.
I knew who I was until I turned seven. Then I stopped knowing. All of a sudden nothing was certain except rejection. I had to learn to scratch my name into the fabric of this world and I couldn’t because I hated the sound of my name on their lips and mine. Like it was a skin I outgrew.
When you don’t have a name it’s hard to know who you are, let alone who you’re going to be.
I know that I fell in love with people so easily, just not in the ways we think of as falling in love. I wanted so much from my friendships than the girls I befriended could/would? give. This was never a problem with my cousin Julia who loved me unconditionally (and I love you, my Julia, I will never stop regretting that I didn’t find some way to stay in touch, you are my Rei). This was not even a problem with Lindsay in Texas who, for two years, was like my other half. I wonder what she might have been looking for in me?
And when I for-real fell in love, like romantically, I fell just as hard, just as tragically wrongly solidly down. At their feet. Willing to forgive too much. I have been loyal to a fault. I had to learn how to dial it back for my own good. But it took me twenty-one years, from the autumn we set foot here to the autumn I left him. Twenty-one years for the lesson to really sink in. Ann at MCC taught me the beginnings of it. Did she teach me a little too well? It’s been three and a half years, more or less, since I let another human as close as I let him.
I can’t speak in absolutes. Not every affair sucked me that far in. Or maybe my heart had to be engaged in several places at once in order for me to function. I stole a guy from my rival only to turn around and find him wanting. He dumped me but I pushed him to it and I’m not sorry. Also, with Grey, I figured out pretty damn quick that he wasn’t good for me. I only wavered once, mostly because I was lonely and sick. The boy who couldn’t promise me security: I would have been happy with him if I could see a future for myself. The chemistry died anyway.
Right now I’m not entirely okay with the SCA. With parts of it. But I am glad it taught me how to find my feet. Remember those, M? Size-five appendages, five toes apiece? Caught in bindings that didn’t leave me irrevocably deformed. All I had to do was cut them free and myself in the process.
I finished the degree my parents and my school said I had to get. Then I turned around and said “I pick now” and I’m getting a degree that will yield real job prospects. A Master’s would have taken just as long but I’d have hated it. I’m good at essays; it doesn’t mean I want to write them without cold, hard cash compensation. All I could see down that road were more hoops to jump through and no notion of whether I even could. Down this one there’s a vision of myself in five years’ time. Down this one I am earning a steady wage, enough to support me and maybe my parents.
Sometimes I still beat my fists against invisible walls: how come nobody gave me this option when I was young? Or that option? By now I could have been a paralegal. Hell, I could’ve been a nurse-midwife. Why didn’t anyone push me into anything truly practical?
Why was it more of a shame to go to MCC than to wait until the last minute to grab the brass ring at Alfred? At MCC I would have met Heather, Elizabeth, and Tony. Maria. I would have learned to want my life instead of throwing it away. I was destined to meet DeGraff more or less; he’s the only one I’m still in any kind of contact with from Alfred. And I wouldn’t have gotten hurt.
Why do schools do this to us?
Well, I won’t do it to any child I’m given.
“Who do you wanna be?”
The person I’m finally getting to be.