Let’s be clear: I don’t care if this makes sense to you.
I was born within the academic calendar. My mom was in medical school in one state, my dad pursuing graduate work in another, and there was a slim window of places and times where it would be convenient for me to be born. I did not know that births could ever possibly be convenient.
So like my mother’s senior thesis I grew and came out in 9 months, passionately conceived and then executed through sheer force of will – I and the thesis both. Like most American kids I have since lived a life through cycles of summer and school. Cycles of obligation that I have loved for the people it returns me to.
When, abroad from a high school that didn’t care, I brushed my fingertips against the smooth surface of the looking glass and saw a better self, I found a steel core of confidence and welded it to my spine. I took the task-at-hand as my mercurial lover and I don’t think it was our crossed stars that broke my heart when I had to come home for a funeral. This was when I first met the painful paradox of defining part of your sense of self by loving others through working on the world. “Death be not proud”; when I spoke about my grandmother it was only beautiful because it was honest.
Autonomy, again, and a waltz of Falls and Summers that whisked me from coast to coast. I chose a school that was nothing but loving your task. I would not say I abandoned anything in the name of growth, but people felt abandoned none-the-less. Through separations and the unavoidable entropy of lazy love I felt myself a traitor in the name of the task-at-hand. I only recently have felt that maybe I did not show people that I loved them enough, but I don’t know what more I could have done. Maybe this is sociopathy. Maybe I should have trusted that my spine was made of bone for a reason.
Now my steel spine is rusted red. Maybe I have spent too much time by the sea. I thought I was working hard, I know my body was supposed to be enough, but they’re out of steel rebar down the street and I am worried I will yield. Coral has bones of calcium carbonate too, did you know? I could plant myself in the sea, seduce some zooxanthellae to live under my skin. Trust the waves to do just the right amount of damage. I know this is a foolish idea – acidifying oceans would eat away my bones before anyone noticed I was gone.
My grandfather died yesterday after I wrote him a letter on the other side of the world. I apologized that I would not be coming home, because I am an adventurer just like him. I am trying to be as graceful as he was through my quiet mess. I am trying to be brave. I am trying to be loyal, like him, but I do not know to what. Steel bends.
I am still in love with the task-at-hand. I was born within the academic calendar, and I am not due until 365 days have exhausted themselves with self-doubt and pure autonomy. Convenience is a cruel lie we tell to make chaos make sense. I want to meet the woman behind the looking glass. I do not know what she will say.