Not Fair

August 2004

When my parents ask whether I've been productive this summer, I want to say yes. I've become more confident in my face, my voice. When I write I come closer to saying what I mean. I've made new friends and kept up with old ones. I learned how to put on my own makeup and planned my birthday party and did some work on my thesis. But of course what Mom and Dad mean is, "Are you spending your time on activities that will help you get into grad school or land a steady job in the future?", and to that I am not so sure.

Now that I am almost a senior, I've been thinking more about what I want to do after graduation. I seem unfocused because my official training has been in neuroscience and I can't pinpoint what I would like to do in the arts - write or teach or act or paint, or maybe a combination of these - but I do know that I want to convey beauty and feeling, and that I am getting better at it.

Maybe because I am young and naive, I don't think I will lose. When I hear my parents' friends talk about their children who thought they had a gift and a calling in the arts but ended up in accounting because they couldn't pay the rent, I don't think I will be like that. I think somehow, I will be better, or smarter, or luckier, or whatever it takes to succeed in that world.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I am practicing for nothing. I know that I am working when I write a Free Thought or when I stand in front of the mirror trying on different looks and expressions, but what if no one else thinks so? Why do I think if I give my best, that someone has to see and be impressed? Every day there is a boy who offers his heart to a girl - for free - and she doesn't want it. Why should life in the arts be any different? Why, just because you are in love and giving the best of what you have, why if you think you are talented and beautiful is someone supposed to notice? Why if you are selling pieces of your soul should anyone want to buy?

I feel very discouraged when I think these things. I want someone to tell me that who I am moves them most of all, for them to see in me what I try to see in myself. I get tired of believing in myself. Sometimes I forget that I want to take care of my body which is my instrument. I feel so lonely, I just want to gorge on food until all the emptiness goes away.

Late last night I found myself bingeing on cookies, chips, and the Cliff bars that Alex had gotten rid of by giving to me, that didn't even taste that good. I was really frustrated. I had worked so hard to stay healthy this summer, and right when I thought I had gotten better I was still numbing the fears with the old addiction. I was so tired of making the same mistake, I didn't want and I didn't think God should want me to wake up in the morning and start all over again. Enough is enough. Dreams should be taken out of the hands of people who keep abusing theirs and placed in foster homes instead.

The last time this happened, I was surprised after a week of bingeing to catch my reflection in the mirror - the slim wrists with their coral flush, the same dark eyes and soft features that I knew were objectively lovely, that didn't look at all as if I had been poisoning myself for days on end - and I remember thinking: it isn't fair. All the women who have never talked themselves into despair, never gobbled boxes of chocolates to fill their loneliness, who don't give a hoot what anyone thinks, who are not only tenacious but strong as well... And still you feel the beauty and know that you can share it; and it's not fair, it's not right. You shouldn't have anything left to give. You should be the shell of someone who once had a gift. And yet... every morning I wake and this is still my gift and my body and my dream, and I don't understand. It's not fair.

- esther-emmanuel